Review of Double Bass Blues

Double Bass Blues
by Andrea J. Loney; illus. by Rudy Gutierrez
Primary    Knopf    32 pp.    g
10/19    978-1-5247-1852-7    $17.99
Library ed.  978-1-5247-1853-4    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5247-1854-1    $10.99

Told entirely through dialogue and sound effects, the story follows double-bass player Nic as he performs an “epic solo” at band practice at school, then heads out toward the city on foot (many of his fellow suburban students are picked up in SUVs). On his journey Nic encounters such obstacles as rain (“plunk, plunk, plunk”), a threatening dog (“grrrrrrrr!”), taunting passersby (pointing at his instrument: “It’s bigger than him!”), and a broken elevator (“Oh, man!”). Finally, he arrives at his destination—not home, as readers might expect, but the Sunset Ballroom, where he is warmly welcomed by his grandfather. Careful readers will spot the “Nicodemus Grant & Band” sign that tells us Nic’s grandfather is himself a musician. At book’s end, the boy reprises his double-bass solo with his grandfather’s band: “Hey, Granddaddy Nic! Listen to this!” The vibrant, dynamic illustrations fairly hum with energy—curved lines swoop and jagged lines angle across the pages, adding movement here; tension there. Musical notes and clapping hands appear throughout, reinforcing just how much sound the story contains. A book about a lot of things—music, and determination, and straddling worlds, and the celebration of Black boyhood and family—that nevertheless feels cohesive and effortless.

From the September/October 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.
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