Saturday, July 2, 2011

Duke Ellington: the Piano Prince and His Orchestra (Picture Book 3/6)

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra
Andrea Pinkney, author
Brian Pinkney, illustrator
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH (December 12, 2006)
Coretta Scott King Book Award, Honor Book, 1999.
Randolph Caldecott Medal, Honor Book, 1999.
Category: Picture Biography.
Style: Expressionist
Media: Mixed: scratch-board renderings with luma dyes, gouache, and oil paint. 

5/5 stars

Duke Ellington: the Piano Prince and His Orchestra is a brief biography of Duke Ellington, the great jazz pianist and orchestra leader. It only mentions the happy, good events in Ellington's life and seems intended to spark an interest in jazz music in general, and Ellington in particular.

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.  It would be most effectively used as a read-aloud book to celebrate famous African Americans or to introduce jazz.

No comments:

Post a Comment