From School Library Journal
Grade 2-5-The year is 1898, and Maggie McCrary has recently moved from Ireland to New Orleans, where her father hopes to one day buy land. To this end, he spends his days walking the streets with his pushcart. He befriends a young Negro boy who yearns for the old cornet on the barrow. The kindhearted man, sensing a kindred spirit and true musician, gives the child the instrument. Meanwhile, Mam stays home, sewing piecework to make ends meet. When the baby gets yellow fever, Maggie is determined to help out, even though her father disapproves of her working. At first, she rolls cigars after school for 50 cents a week. Then, Nathan tells her of a job as a scribe for Daddy Clements, an old man who tells her stories about being taken from Africa to America, fighting in the Civil War, and his people's fight for freedom. Maggie listens and learns, but also teaches him that her people had similar struggles. Rich with experience, accomplishment, independence, and two dollars, the solemn girl finally claps and dances to Nathan's cornet and his band of ragtime musicians. Burke's realistic paintings are dark with a muted palette, capturing the period as well as the characters' sentiments. This handsome picture book reveals the plight of immigrants at the turn of the century while paying tribute to the city where jazz was born.-Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools
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K-Gr. 3. Celebrating New Orleans' rich mix of musical traditions rooted in its cosmopolitan history, this handsome picture book, set in 1898, focuses on Maggie, an Irish immigrant child, who makes friends with Nathan, an African American child in her neighborhood. At first they don't trust one another, behavior learned from hostile adults, but Maggie's Da gives Nathan a battered cornet, and Nathan finds Maggie a job writing down the experiences of elderly Daddy Clements, who talks about suffering under slavery, gaining freedom, and fighting in the Civil War. Maggie's first-person narrative comes to life in realistic pictures; perhaps the best one is the joyful spread showing Nathan playing ragtime with grown-ups in the Storyville community. With New Orleans so much in the news, this book will draw children to the city's vibrant history and music. Link it to Thomas Yzerski's Together in Pinecone Patch
(1989), another immigrant story, or suggest Eric Kimmel's A Horn for Louis
(2005) for children who want more about jazz. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved