From School Library Journal
Grade 3-5–Concise but thorough, this picture book discusses the evolution of a distinctive American music style through a chronicle of its biggest stars. After a lively introduction to the history of Country & Western music from its beginnings in 19th-century folk songs to the present, the author highlights 20th-century artists from the Grand Ole Opry, honky-tonks, western swing, and rock and roll. Each artist or group receives a full-page treatment opposite an illustration. The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Roy Acuff, Gene Autry, Ernest Tubb, and Bill Monroe are all featured for their performances or their introduction of unique sounds: guitar leads, hillbilly yodels, Hollywood films, electric guitar, and the string-band blues and gospel mix of the Kentucky Bluegrass sound. Bob Wills and his country swing music, Kitty Wells's empathy for women's issues, Hank Williams's pop chart hits, Patsy Cline's Nashville Sound with small orchestras and background singers, Buck Owens's Bakersfield Sound of rockin' Country & Western, the solo sounds of Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, and Johnny Cash all receive individual entries that define their talents, personal history, and professional accomplishments. Colorful, stylized, folk art of the performers and/or their instruments is included.–Mary Elam, Forman Elementary School, Plano, TX
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Gr. 4-6. Similar in format and design to the George-Warren and Levine's Shake, Rattle & Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll (2001), this picture book offers short biographies of seminal figures in country and western music history. A one-page introduction summarizes the roots, development, and influence of the music before celebrating its artists in a series of double-page spreads. A typical entry presents the life and career of a singer or instrumentalist on one page opposite a portrait of that artist showcased in an antique wooden frame. Levine's folk-art paintings, created with flat colors and occasional use of pattern, are quite distinctive; one memorable portrait shows Gene Autry grinning, face forward, while his horse, Champion, shown in profile with a toothy grin, eyes the viewer. The naive art suits the subject even better than it did in the earlier book. Carolyn Phelan
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