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Honky-Tonk Heroes and Hillbilly Angels: The Pioneers of Country and Western Music Hardcover – May 10, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 5
  • Lexile Measure: 1210L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (May 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618191003
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618191000
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.1 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #596,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Anne B. Levy on June 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I realize there's been some stink about publishers adding extra bells and whistles like CDs, but this book could surely have used it. Some of these quirky country folk just beg to be heard.

In this collection of 14 all-too-brief bios of Country and Western crooners, we meet the pluckers, twangers, pickers, warblers and yodelers who wove not one but several uniquely American sounds out of strands of gospel, folk music and even hobo ballads. They were roustabouts and hucksters, floosies and boozers who managed to turn their hard luck into hard-driving tunes -- if it didn't kill them first.

There's the familiar Man in Black -- Johnny Cash -- whose "Boy Named Sue" was written by Shel Silverstein, or "Blue Yodeler" Jimmie Rodgers and others who swapped out monikers and band names as often as they changed 10-gallon hats. There's the tragic Hank Williams, who died at age 30, and the campy Buck Owens of "Hee Haw" fame, as well as such household names as Loretta Lynn and Gene Autry.

Now, don't you wish you could hear at least a few samples? The closest I have is the soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou? with its covers of the Carter Family's "Keep on the Sunny Side" and Rodgers "In the Jailhouse Now," among others.

Not only don't we get to hear them, but the prose is too encyclopedia-sounding, too bare bones official when what we want is more juicy stuff. We get teased with a line here or there about this one's tempestuous marriage or that one's fatal TB, and way too many mentions of back-up bands that broke up and bit players who left or faded into obscurity.

Even so, how could you not love these rags-to-rhinestones tales of true American originals.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By LonestarReader VINE VOICE on July 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I was a fan of Warren and Levine's first collaboration, Shake, Rattle & Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll so I was ever so pleased to see them take up this music. Holly George Warren certainly has the bona fides to write about the subject.

A book like this reminds me of how much fun a school librarian can have with lesson plans. I can imagine using this to teach "Biography" and sharing these musicians' music along with their stories. Kids today sing "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" but have they ever heard of Gene Autry? Shouldn't they experience the musical virtuosity of Bill Monroe?

Warren has a one page biography on each artist with important dates and milestones from their life and career. She begins the book, appropriately, at the beginning, with a profile on the Carter family.

Laura Levine has painted a full page portrait of each musician with their name worked into the art work. Each member of the Carter family is designated along with "The First Family of Country Music." Bill Monroe is titled "The Father of Bluegrass" and Loretta Lynn's "The Coal Miner's Daughter" appears in the smoke plume coming from a small cabin. Each painting is featured in a period frame so you feel as if you are looking at a grouping of family pictures.

All the greats are included: Patsy Cline, Roy Acuff, Kitty Wells, Ernest Tubbs, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Tammy Wynette and more.

I think it would be so much fun during Rodeo time here in the Lone Star State, to turn on some Western (we call it Texas) Swing and share the story of Bob Wills.
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