From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3?Chocolate adds to her list of books on African and African-American themes with a fictional memoir drawn from her own family history. "My grandfather," begins her narrative, "played piano for the silent movies." He played on Broadway for the Follies and sang and danced in vaudeville. When marriage and family ended his days on the road and silent movies turned into talkies, he became a piano tuner. His greatest joy in his last years was to play the old upright piano bought by his daughter from the theater he once filled with music. Bright red theater curtains on the endpapers set the stage for the series of well-designed, realistic, double-spread paintings in acrylic with pencil cross-hatching, which bring the past to life. Warm, vibrant earth tones enliven the text. But central to the story, and the key to its enjoyment by young readers today, is the narrator's memories of a beloved grandfather, a warm family, and a black community happily entertained by early films and ragtime music.?Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Ages 5^-8. In this first-person picture book, an African American girl tells the story of her grandfather, who played piano in a silent movie theater, a Broadway theater, a medicine show, and vaudeville. After marrying a vaudeville dancer, he played in movie theaters again until the talkies came along, then tuned pianos for a living. Years later, the piano man's granddaughter loves to turn on a television western with the volume low and listen to him play piano "and hammer out his memories of the old silent picture shows." Velasquez's artwork sweeps the somewhat adult story along, and his subtle characterization of faces gives warmth and individuality to the main characters and often to figures in crowd scenes as well. The jacket art shows the piano man with a disconcertingly modern-looking daughter (confusingly, the narrator's mother), but most of the pictures nicely reflect the various periods of his life. Students assigned to interview their grandparents for family history will find this an appealing starting point. Carolyn Phelan