Review of The Story of the Saxophone

The Story of the Saxophone The Story of the Saxophone
by Lesa Cline-Ransome; illus. by James E. Ransome
Primary    Holiday    40 pp.
2/23    9780823437023    $19.99
e-book ed.  9780823442225    $10.99

Perhaps no instrument is more associated with jazz than the saxophone. And no city more tied to both than New Orleans. But the history of the saxophone (originally saxophon), engagingly told here, begins across the Atlantic in the small Belgian town of Dinant, where the musician and inventor Adolphe Sax (1814–1894) was born into an instrument-making family. Sax’s life provides the frame for the early parts of the story as he travels to France to bolster the instrument’s popularity. After catching on in military bands across Europe, the saxophone traveled with the French army to Mexico and eventually made its way to New Orleans just in time for the dawn of the invention of jazz. Ransome’s illustrations shine with careful detail, effortlessly cuing readers into changes in time and locale. One particularly memorable spread shows a black cat and three long, ominous human shadows containing text describing Sax’s death with the wordless page opposite featuring a young Black child playing the saxophone—and one can almost hear the funeral dirge coming out of its bell.

From the January/February 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Eric Carpenter
Eric Carpenter
Eric Carpenter is the school librarian at Fred A. Toomer Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia.

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