Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, "King of the Keys," was born on April 29, 1899, in Washington, D.C. "He was a smooth-talkin', slick-steppin', piano-playin' kid," writes master wordsmith Andrea Pinkney in the rhythmic, fluid, swinging prose of this excellent biography for early readers. It was ragtime music that first "set Duke's fingers to wiggling." He got back to work and taught himself to "press on the pearlies." Soon 19-year-old Duke was playing compositions "smoother than a hairdo sleeked with pomade" at parties, pool halls, country clubs, and cabarets. Skipping from D.C. to 1920s Harlem, "the place where jazz music ruled," Duke and his small band called the Washingtonians began performing in New York City clubs, including the Cotton Club, where Duke Ellington and his Orchestra was officially born. By 1943, Duke Ellington--writer of more than 1000 compositions, including ballet and film scores, orchestral suites, musicals, and choral works--had made it all the way to Carnegie Hall.
We applaud this talented husband-and-wife team--award-winning illustrator Brian Pinkney and writer Andrea Pinkney--for making music fly in this fantastic tribute to a jazz legend. Andrea does an extraordinary job of translating music into words, with blues "deeper than the deep blue sea" and "hot-buttered bob, with lots of sassy-cool tones," while her husband visually interprets the movement of music as spirals, waves, and swirls of color, prepared as scratchboard renderings with luma dyes, gouache, and oil paint. Andrea writes, "Toby let loose on his sleek brass sax, curling his notes like a kite tail in the wind. A musical loop-de-loop, with a serious twist," while Brian paints those curling notes, the loop-de-loops, and the kite sailing up to the New York City skyline. Young readers will enjoy the rhythm and beauty of the story itself, and may even be inspired to give Raffi a rest and swing with the Duke! (Great read-aloud, ages 4 to 8) --Karin Snelson, Amazon.com Kids editor
From School Library Journal
Grade 1-5AA royal introduction to the piano prince. Told in a swingy conversational tone and highlighting the musician's childhood, early ragtime days, and stellar rise to popularity, playing at the Cotton Club and, later, Carnegie Hall, this is a jazzy treat. It is rare to find text that describes music so well. Phrases such as "sassy ride on his cymbal," "musical stream," and "purple dash of brass" carry the auditory experiences of the Duke's music right off the page. Young readers will find more than just a few facts here. They will learn what Duke Ellington did for the jazz world, how his music was played, and the legacy he left behind. Brian Pinkney's distinctive scratchboard, gouache and oil paintings are a harmonious complement to Andrea Pinkney's text. Bright, wild colors on soft neon backgrounds are beautifully balanced with black-and-white highlights. It is the blending of words, symbols, and pictures that bring this subject to life. A page of biographical information and impressive source notes conclude the presentation. This book swings. Don't miss it.ABeth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY
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