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Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra Paperback – December 12, 2006
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About the Author
Andrea Davis Pinkney has written several acclaimed picture books, works of non fiction, and novels. Her titles for middle-grade readers include Solo Girl, Raven in a Dove House, Silent Thunder, and Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, a Coretta Scott King Honor winner. She is also the author of the picture books Alvin Ailey; Duke Ellington (a Caldecott Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Honor Book); and Ella Fitzgerald, each illustrated by her husband and frequent collaborator, Brian Pinkney. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY.
Brian Pinkney (www.brianpinkney.net) is the illustrator of many acclaimed books for children, including the Caldecott Honor Books Duke Ellington and The Faithful Friend, and the Coretta Scott King Award winner In the Time of the Drums.
Top customer reviews
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First I'd like to point out what a fine-looking couple the author and illustrator are! You know you're blessed when your soulmate's calling in life coincides with your own. That is just so darn precious.
This children's book comes not only with funky artwork, but the language is also set to its own beat. You learn cool new metaphors like "spicier than a pot of jambalaya!" or slang terms like "swankiest." You and your child(ren) can have fun together enjoying the colorful movement of the pages while learning about Duke Ellington's musical legacy during a time of racism. Andrea Davis Pinkney does a masterful job of creating equal movement with her words throughout the book.
Interestingly enough, the pictures are done by the scratchboard painting technique. Scratchboard painting is created by using a white board that is covered with black ink and taking a nib (a very sharp tool) to scratch wavy ink that creates an image. Once the image is designed, the scratched part is painted over with oil paints, Luma dyes, and acrylic paints. Voila! A beautiful masterpiece that is unique, colorful, and pleasing to the young eye.
I loved the velvety rhythm and movement between the words and illustrations. This is a very unique book that can be used as an educational tool for both musical and African-American history. I would suggest playing some of Duke Ellington's music along with this book to enhance the learning experience. I look forward to discovering more books by these two!
Mrs. Pinkey writes in vernacular, dropping the"-ing", talking directly to the reader and using slang from the jazz era. This gives the book a quick rhythm, a jazzy feel, and makes it a joy to read aloud. Her metaphors for the music are colorful and descriptive, at times poetic.
Mr. Pinkney uses bright colors and bold lines to express the feeling of music being played. The colors add to the jazzy, joyful rhythm of the words. The texture from the scratch-board technique gives depth to the illustrations. The bold, curving lines propel the eye around the page, following the drawn music. Overall, the art gives the impression of movement, vitality and most of all, of music.
The intended audience is preschool age up to around age 8. This is too dense of a book, both in amount of words and amount of story covered, to be appropriate for a typical four year old. On the other hand, it is such a lively book to read out loud, it might hold a preschooler's attention despite a disinterest in and lack of understanding about the subject. For the school age child, I don't think it would be an appropriate read-alone book, for the reason mentioned above but also because many of the slang words will need an explanation.
In this tale we meet Duke from his baseball playing days in Washington, D.C. Children everywhere will sympathize when Duke decides that learning to play the piano is a waste of his time and that he'd much rather be out and about with his friends. Fast forward a couple years and an older pool shooting Duke hears the sweet sounds of ragtime for the very first time. Suddenly the piano doesn't sound so lame, and Duke teaches himself the rudiments of it immediately. Over time, his particular style and talents get him jobs in clubs and cabarets and at last he forms his own band. From here on in the book's a whirlwind series of visits to places like the Cotton Club (which I think illustrator Brian Pinkney probably failed to base after the real club itself) and, at long last, New York's Carnegie Hall in 1943. A matter-of-fact bio at the back as well as a complete bibliography of sources (well done there) round out this lively encapsulation of a life.
Kids are often assigned biographies in school, and "Duke Ellington" has the advantage of being both interesting and filled to the brim with sources and facts. The story is as lively as Ms. Pinkney could make it, often going into deep descriptions of individual players' talents in the Duke's band. The art is lovely as well. Using luma dyes, gouache, and oil paint and then rendering it in a scratchboard style, there's a real throbbing beauty to some of these paintings. In a final picture Duke conducts his band in a purple suit and the notes of the players curl out as almost iridescent swirls and waves. Altogether lovely.
In many ways, the book's going to be a bore to those kinds who've never heard a jazz note in their lives and don't understand the importance. If at all possible, try finding a copy of that incredibly amazing film "Cabin In the Sky" and showing it to the kids and THEN give them this book. The movie's worth checking out and Duke (with his orchestra) is wonderful in it.
Though this is perhaps not my favorite jazz picture book out there (I've still some very fond feelings for "Charlie Parker Played Be Bop") it's still quite a wonder and worth checking out. A necessary addition to any well-rounded children's biography section of their local library.
Most recent customer reviews
by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Brian Pinkney (Illustrator)
Duke Ellington: the Piano Prince and his orchestra by Snadrea...Read more