From School Library Journal
Gr 4-8–Before he was famous, little Jimmy Hendrix tuned into a world colored with the sounds of the city outside the Seattle boarding house where he lived with his father. As a boy he strove to reproduce those sounds on his one-string ukulele, and eventually on a secondhand guitar. Golio's lyrical text sings with delicious description, and Steptoe's wildly colored mixed-media illustrations show the hues of the boy's imagination, with Hendrix always standing out from his surroundings. The story itself focuses on the musician's rise to fame, with a supplementary note and a bibliography providing more detailed background information. His tragic death is dealt with in a separate author's note, accompanied by a list of resources about substance abuse. A fascinating "Illustrator's Note" illuminates the process behind the intriguing artwork and underscores the book's theme of exploring the creative process. This book is likely to fascinate older children and reluctant readers who might be familiar with Hendrix's music, and could easily be tied into art and music curricula.Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, MD
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Although Jimi Hendrix’s music typically sits in the wheelhouse of teenagers discovering their countercultural streak, this picture book deigns to introduce the revolutionary musician to younger readers. By no means a straight bio, it describes his formative early life with lines like “A truck engine backfired, pounding like a bass drum, as a neighbor’s rake played snare against the sidewalk. . . . The sounds of life were calling out, and Jimmy Hendrix wanted to answer them.” It is, however, a convincing portrait of a boy who was electrified by music and heard the world very differently from anyone else; his single-minded drive to “paint with sound” in his own fashion will inspire young artists of all stripes. Steptoe’s chaotic, textured artwork screeches in feedback wails on the page, filled with impressions in lieu of representations. Hendrix’s struggle with drugs is addressed in an afterword, but as pure virtuoso, guitar heroes don’t get any bigger, and readers with hands itching for frets will be entranced. Grades 3-5. --Ian Chipman