Our family loves all kinds of music, and we are exploring two instruments in particular these days: the clarinet and the violin. That’s thanks to two musicians in the family: Molly loves her clarinet, and Jacob is quite the violin player!
Literature for children and adolescents abounds in fine picture books for young musicians and their families. This month, we are delighted to highlight. . .
Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson: Taking the Stage as the First Black -and-White Jazz Band in History by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome
Get ready for a picture book infused with the spirit of jazz, in both the lyrical text and the compelling illustrations. Growing up in the Roaring Twenties, Benny and Teddy both loved and were inspired by music. While a young Benny Goodman was growing up on the West Side of Chicago, Teddy Wilson was in Alabama, listening to Fats Waller. Their stories are told on alternating pages until their lives merge when they meet in New York City. Benny’s clarinet is blowing “all sweet / all dance / all white.” Teddy’s piano playing is “all hot / all rhythm / all black.” Though they played and recorded together, they were not allowed to play onstage together as a black-and-white band. When they added Gene Krupa on drums, they became the Benny Goodman Trio–but at first, left Teddy at home when they performed. In Chicago, in 1936, they became the first integrated jazz band–and an immediate hit. The endpapers tell more of a detailed history–one that will be fascinating to young musicians.
Recommended companions: the audio/CD video version and Benny Goodman: 16 Most Requested Songs
The Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Duan Petricic
Young Dylan wants to listen to the beautiful music he hears being played by a street musician as his mother hurries him through the train station. The music swells and fills the air and Dylan tugs at his mother’s hand as he is drawn to the sounds. Not just his mother, but the other adults in the station are oblivious to the miracle of the music. Later that evening, he hears strains of the same music coming from the radio and he exclaims, “That’s the man in the station! ” Together, he and his mother listen to the story of Joshua Bell, one of the finest musicians in the world, playing his Stradivarius violin–yet few people listened for even a moment. In Joshua Bell’s Postscript, he tells his story of that event–and relates that among those who tried to listen were several children, whose parents dragged them away, hurrying to their destinations. The tale is well-told, and the illustrations are perfect. I especially love the swirls of sound that surround young Dylan, both at home and at the station. Even the jagged lines that represent the discordant sounds of the subway are captured. A stunning story of the importance of listening–and the power and magic of music.
Recommended companions: To download “Ava Maria” and “Estrellita,” two of the songs Joshua Bell performed in the subway, go to: http://www.itunes.com/voiceoftheviolin
and for a great audio cd: Joshua Bell’s Four Seasons by Vivaldi