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Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane's Musical Journey Hardcover – October 23, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4-6-A well-conceived marriage of art and text breathes life and passion into this picture biography. Swirling strokes of vibrant colors give the book an almost cinematic quality, animating Coltrane's passionate journey from a joyous, nurturing early childhood with a loving extended family to the despair of losing too many loved ones in a short time. The music that had always been a part of the family's life and a strong involvement in the church sustained him as he struggled to find his way. As he grew older, his musical talent developed and led him to a career that became legendary, performing with greats like Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. But the demons of loss and despair always haunted him. While a traveling professional musician, he began drinking, and when things became overwhelming, he succumbed to drugs. He looked for guidance in philosophy and world religions. Eventually, through intense determination inspired by the help of his second wife, Alice Coltrane, herself a musician, he managed to leave drugs behind. Coltrane's musical accomplishments and short career proved intensely significant in the history and development of jazz and bebop. Though technically a two-dimensional format, this unique selection has a kinetic and animate quality that envelops readers and honors the vibrancy of Coltrane's place in music. An afterword, author's note, and artist's note augment the book's perspective. A list of varied resources, both print, audio, and a website, offer additional opportunities for further examination.-Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

That the titans of modern jazz—Parker, Monk, Coltrane, and others—have become the recurring subjects of children’s picture books remains a curious phenomenon, one that perhaps says more about the tastes of the books’ creators than it does about the musical leanings of today’s young people. Still, the complex harmonies and unconventional melodies of modern jazz have certainly given wing to the imaginations of illustrators. That’s the case in this account of John Coltrane’s evolution as a musician. The Pura Belpré Honor–winning Gutierrez (Papá and Me, 2008) uses acrylic paintings and mixed media to layer bright, vibrant colors across swirling, flowing lines that effectively mirror Coltrane’s legendary “sheets of sound.” Wisely, Golio lets the pictures carry the melody while his text supplies the backbeat, moving quickly from Coltrane’s childhood in a churchgoing family awash in music, through his musical coming-of-age in Philadelphia (nodding at the attendant drug and alcohol problems), and on to his triumphant spiritual and musical breakthroughs in such records as A Love Supreme. Afterwords provide more detail on Coltrane’s life and discuss musicians and drug use. As an impressionistic introduction to a jazz giant, this should whet appetites to learn and hear more. Grades 4-7. --Bill Ott
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 990L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books; First Edition edition (October 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547239947
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547239941
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.4 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #539,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gary Golio is the NY Times-bestselling author of "JIMI: Sounds Like A Rainbow - A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix" (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), "When Bob Met Woody - The Story of the Young Bob Dylan" (Little, Brown), "Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane's Musical Journey" (Clarion/HMH) and "Bird & Diz" (Candlewick), an exciting fold-out picture book about the creators and creation of Bebop jazz. His forthcoming books include "Strange Fruit - Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song" (Lerner/Carolrhoda, Fall '16), and "Carlos Santana - Sound of the Heart, Song of the World" (Henry Holt, 2016 ).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chris Barton on October 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Gary Golio's text and Rudy Gutierrez's paintings and mixed-media pieces for SPIRIT SEEKER are colorful, powerful, evocative and frank. Their book pulses with just the sort of inspiration and insight you would want to see in an exploration of how saxophonist John Coltrane came to create his inspired, insightful art.
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By LoneStar on March 27, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Coltrane's life is lovingly portrayed in this "children's" book by Gary Golio. His story is a poignant and relevant study of the life of musical genius, socio-economic injustice, substance abuse and great love, all told in a poetic, flowing language suitable to all ages. The illustrations by Rudy Gutierrez are pure perfection - especially for art lovers. The images and colors swirl through the pages with the same intensity that the sound of a well composed jazz composition swirls through the air. A must-have for every coffee table collection and children's library.
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By Jasmine Love on January 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is brilliant writing, art, movement, music in book form. I have never been so engaged. One does not have to be a child to love this book. This should sit on the coffee table of everyone's house - especially those who love jazz.
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Format: Hardcover
Is there any complicated hero with a past so full of darkness that their life cannot be recounted to children? This is the conundrum of any author who takes it upon his or herself to tell the stories of people who didn't grow up happy, live lightly, and die laughing in their beds. The most interesting stories are sometimes the ones about folks who look into the eye of the devil and walk away the wiser. Trouble is, it can be hard to figure out whether or not theirs is a story kids need to know. They might love the life of Charlie Chaplin, but do you bring up his penchant for the very young ladies? Bob Marley did great things in his life . . . and consumed great amounts of drugs. Do you talk to kids about him? In the end, it all comes down to the skill of the biographer. The person who sits down and turns a great man or woman into a 32-48 page subject, appropriate for kids too young to watch PG-13 films on their own. To do it adequately is admirable. To do it brilliantly, as it's done in "Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane's Musical Journey" is worthy of higher praise.

He led as perfect a childhood as any African-American kid in the late 1930s could hope for. A loving family, two grandfather preachers, a great musician for a dad, the works. But all that came before the deaths. First his grandfather, then his father, then his grandmother too. Things grew dark for John, but an opportunity to learn the saxophone for free arose. It became John's new religion, and the void inside him was easily filled by drugs and alcohol. He was brilliant at the instrument but was his own worst enemy when his addictions held sway. Golio tells the tale of how one young man bucked his fate and went on to become a leader in more ways than one.
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Format: Hardcover
Gary Golio's SPIRIT SEEKER is the latest and the most succesful of his musical biographies. Previously having written about Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, Golio now dives into the life of jazz legend John Coltrane. It is not only a biography, but a journey along the paths that John Coltrane took, never turning a blind eye to his addictions and his demons, but also celebrating his truth and talent as he searched for the spirit that would enable him to find and express his passion for not just jazz, but for all forms of music.
Working hand in hand with Golio's words is the art of Rudy Gutierrez. Rarely, if ever, have I seen the illustrations of a children's book seem to move across the page, leading the reader on, both words and pictures animating the story, back and forth, a perfect picture book duet.
This is a masterful accomplishment for both author and illustrator.
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