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Sweethearts of Rhythm Hardcover – October 29, 2009

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Frequently Bought Together

Sweethearts of Rhythm + Fortune's Bones: The Manumission Requiem (Coretta Scott King Author Honor Books) + The Homeplace: Poems
Price for all three: $45.17

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Dial; First Edition edition (October 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803731876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803731875
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 10.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,119,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 4 Up—Nelson's syncopated poetry jives perfectly with Pinkney's layered watercolors in this look at the famous all-girl African-American swing band that toured the U.S., breaking attendance records, from 1937 to 1946. Nelson speaks in the voices of the band's instruments, reminiscing about their glory days from the shelves of a New Orleans pawnshop, recalling the excitement of the road and the difficulties of Jim Crow. Her poetry evokes the rich wail of swing music with varied meters, rhyme schemes, and free verse, calling up memories of the Dust Bowl, World War II, rationing, segregation, and music that momentarily lifted its listeners above hardship. Pinkney employs graphite, color pencil, watercolor, and collage in lusciously hued illustrations depicting night clubs, dancers, Victory Gardens, marching soldiers, and musicians in a vibrant volume that will be just as useful in high school history and English classrooms as for upper elementary general reading, not to mention music and art at any level. A chronology of the Sweethearts' history enhances the poetry.—Joyce Adams Burner, National Archives at Kansas City, MO END


"Nelson brings her signature poetic treatment of history to this outstanding collaboration...The book...is a stellar integration of art and text." --Kirkus

"Nelson's syncopated poetry jives perfectly with Pinkney's layered watercolors...a vibrant volume." --School Library Journal

"[A] book with rich rewards." --Horn Book

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Yana V. Rodgers on November 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The late 1930s saw the formation of a swing-music band comprised of female students attending the Piney Woods Country Life School in Mississippi for low-income and orphaned African American students. Originally founded to raise money for the school, this big band had such talent and attracted so much attention that it toured all over the country and played to record-breaking crowds in such notable venues as the Howard Theatre, the Apollo Theatre, and the Savoy Ballroom.

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm stood out for their ability to be taken seriously as musicians in the male-dominated world of jazz. The departure of many male musicians to serve in World War II helped this all-female band gain a foothold in the American music scene, but they continued to tour and record songs even after the war ended. The Sweethearts also stood out for their courage to defy the Southern Jim Crow laws and play as a racially-integrated band, which meant avoiding arrest by having the white members of the band wear wigs and dark makeup.

Rather than report these interesting events as a detailed narrative, Marilyn Nelson has chosen to communicate the band's story as a set of rhythmic poems written in the voices of the instruments. Jerry Pinkney has added further to the richness of the book with collages of different shapes of textured papers, music sheets, maps, and flowers superimposed on his dynamic sketches. The meticulous research that both Nelson and Pinkney conducted shines through clearly to make this volume a uniquely expressive work of historical fiction.
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Format: Hardcover
A tenor sax rested on its stand and a trombone quietly lay in its case in a pawnshop. The door to the shop was closed and the instruments began to talk of their "glory years on the road with an all-girl band." They all began to swing and sway in remembrance of a time and a band long since forgotten by most. Decades earlier there was a time when men had gone off to war and jazz musicians were needed. The Piney Woods Country Life School, in Piney Woods Mississippi was founded by Laurence Jones in 1909. Eighteen years later he gathered together some of the girls from the school to form a jazz band.

They were predominantly African American, but there were others. There was a "Chinese Saxophonist, a Hawaiian trumpeter, and a Mexican clarinetist." They represented the world as so became known as the "International Sweethearts of Rhythm." They soon began touring, but later broke from the school. They weren't being "paid a fair wage." They knew how to swing and entrance an audience. They were some of the best musicians the states had to offer. They were hot!

It Don't Mean A Thing
Pauline Braddy On Drums

On some tunes, she'd lash may bass home like a jockey;
On some all she did was high-hat rickle the beat,
Always greacefully making the transitions,
Watching the music and the dancers' feet.
The jitterbug was one way people forgot
The rapidly spreading prairie fires of war.
Man, the house would bounce when her licks were hot!
We gave those people what they were dancing for. (Marilyn Nelson)

Before I read the book, I read the author and illustrator notes in the back of the book. Both were stunning and you won't hear any spoilers here.
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peter Zehren on July 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After awakening to the artwork of Jerry Pinkney at the Norman Rockwell Museum, I found this book a wonderful combination of music, poetry and paintings. His whimsical way of catching moments is sheer magic.
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By Edward Romero on February 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This isn't a bad book really. It's just not what I expected. I was looking for history and this is poetry. The illustrations are cool.
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