Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison
Melba had always loved the sounds of music: blues, jazz and gospel. Even when she slept notes and rhythms were in her dreams. When she signed up for music class at school, Melba picked out a long horn that was almost as big as she was. Melba practiced and practiced, teaching herself to play. Soon she was on the radio at age 8, playing a solo. When Melba was in sixth grade, she moved from Kansas City to Los Angeles where she became a star player in the high school band. When she was 17, she was invited to go on tour with a jazz band. She played with some of the greats, but she was one of the only women on tour and racism in the South was harrowing. Melba decided to quit, but her fans would not let her. All of the top jazz acts in the 1950s wanted her to play with them. So Melba came back, went on more tours, and her music conquered the world.
This picture book biography of Melba Doretta Liston shows how music virtuosos are born. Her connection with music from such a young age, her determination to learn to play her selected instrument, and her immense talent make for a story that is even better than fiction. Melba faced many obstacles on the way to her career but overcame them all. She survived the Great Depression, found her musical voice early and then professionally. She also had the challenges of sexism and racism to overcome on her way to greatness. This is all clearly shown on the page and really tells the story of a woman made of music and steel (or brass).
Morrison’s art beautifully captures the life of Liston on the page. His paintings are done in rich colors, filled with angles of elbows, horns and music, they leap on the page. They evoke the time period and the sense of music and jazz.
Put on some Dizzy Gillespie with Melba Liston playing in the band and share this triumphant picture book with music and band classes. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Lee & Low Books and Edelweiss.
Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:
7 books that will get young boys reading http://huff.to/1w5m7na
BBC News – Dumfries plans for Scottish children’s literature centre submitted http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-29602032 …
Diverse voices: the 50 best culturally diverse books | Children’s books http://buff.ly/1EP0xcp
How Canadian Jon Klassen became one of the most sought-after children’s book illustrators in the world – http://buff.ly/1C7lifa
Interview: Oliver Jeffers, Author Of ‘Once Upon An Alphabet’ : NPR http://buff.ly/1scGcaq
Molly Idle Talks with Roger – The Horn Book http://buff.ly/1sMqIf5
Nursery rhymes from all over the world – a gallery to share with children | The Guardian http://buff.ly/Zqq7Ue
On Creativity and Culture: Yuyi Morales – First Book Blog – http://buff.ly/1w4HkgY
Sita Brahmachari: the importance of diverse names in children’s books | Children’s books http://buff.ly/1CrGhcP
Where are all the disabled characters in children’s books? | Children’s books http://buff.ly/1CrFyZ8
Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time? http://buff.ly/1w1xSef
It’s Official: Kobo is Getting Out of Tablets – The Digital Reader http://buff.ly/1yikjvk
Collections Are for Collisions | American Libraries Magazine http://buff.ly/1z7qTGe
Public Libraries Add Social Workers and Social Programs http://buff.ly/1s9I57C
Edward Snowden’s Privacy Tips: “Get Rid Of Dropbox,” Avoid Facebook And Google | TechCrunch http://buff.ly/1s9FZoj
The Maze Runner’s James Dashner: Movies are my first love. And that’s how I write | Guardian http://buff.ly/1C1fy6K
MORTAL INSTRUMENTS, The TV Series – EarlyWord: http://buff.ly/1z7qYtJ
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
Rose loves homonyms. She spends her days looking for new ones to add to her list, and then once she gets home adding them or rewriting the entire list if she runs out of space. Her dog Rain has a name that has two homonyms: reign and rein, which is why she picked it. Her father also gave her Rain on a rainy night. He found Rain wandering around after he left the bar one night. Rain is one of the best things in Rose’s life, since her father spends most evenings drinking at the bar and Rose spends them alone. Luckily, she also has her uncle in her life. He takes her to school, helps her find new homonyms, and protects her when necessary from her father when he loses patience with Rose. Then a fierce storm hits their town and Rose’s father lets Rain out into the storm and she disappears. Rose’s father refuses to explain why he let Rain out in a storm and also refuses to help Rose find her dog. It is up to Rose to find Rain so she devises her own plan and calls on her uncle for help. But when she finds Rain, she also discovers that Rain has other owners and Rose has to make a heartbreaking choice about right and wrong and love.
Martin captures a truly dysfunctional family on the page here. Rose’s father is brutal, cruel and a constant threat in her life. At the same time, the book glimmers with hope all of the time. Rose herself is not one to dwell on the shortcomings of her life, preferring to immerse herself in her words, her dog and her time with her uncle. Martin manages to balance both the forces of love and fear in this book, providing hope for children living with parents like this but also not offering a saccharine take on what is happening.
Rose is an amazing character. She talks about having Asperger’s syndrome and OCD. She is the only child in her class with a full-time aide and it is clear from her behaviors in class that she needs help. Yet again Martin balances this. She shows how Rose attempts to reach out to her classmates and then how Rain helps make that possible and how Rose manages to use her own disability as a bridge to help others cope in times of loss. It’s a beautiful and important piece of the story.
A dark book in many ways, this book shines with strong writing, a heroic young female protagonist and always hope. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Feiwel and Friends.