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Django: World's Greatest Jazz Guitarist

Overview

Born into a travelling gypsy family, young Django Reinhardt taught himself guitar at an early age. He was soon acclaimed as the "Gypsy Genius" and "Prodigy Boy," but one day his world changed completely when a fire claimed the use of his fretting hand. Folks said Django would never play again, but with passion and perserverance he was soon setting the world's concert stages ablaze.

Bonnie Christensen's gorgeous oil paintings and jazzy, ...

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Overview

Born into a travelling gypsy family, young Django Reinhardt taught himself guitar at an early age. He was soon acclaimed as the "Gypsy Genius" and "Prodigy Boy," but one day his world changed completely when a fire claimed the use of his fretting hand. Folks said Django would never play again, but with passion and perserverance he was soon setting the world's concert stages ablaze.

Bonnie Christensen's gorgeous oil paintings and jazzy, syncopated text perfectly depict the man and his music.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Richly expressive paint and ink illustrations portray the hard-earned successes of Django Reinhardt, whose childhood was spent traveling with his impoverished gypsy family, where music was a constant and illuminating presence: “Music... sighing/ weeping singing/ laughing breathing/ reeling spinning.” Christensen’s soft, rhythmic prose echoes her evocative images as Django explores the music scene of 1920s Paris, before suffering serious burns on his hands and leg when his wagon catches fire. Despite his injuries, Reinhardt teaches himself to play again, his career “just beginning/ Bright and brilliant stages waiting.” A sensuous tribute to an illustrious musician. Ages 5–9. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
On single and double pages, Christensen delineates in terse poetic prose the early life of "the world's greatest jazz guitarist." Music and dancing are all around Django, born in 1910, as he grows up in a gypsy encampment. He moves to Paris while still young, playing music on street corners and in dance halls. The jazz there influences his music. In 1928 he is invited to join "the king of Europe's jazz bands." Instead, he retreats to the gypsy encampment. There he is terribly burned in a fire; it is feared that he may never use his hands again. After many dreary months, Django finally finds a way to play again, "to float his music to the stars." Double-page oil paintings, while naturalistic, tend to emphasize much of the intense emotion as Django evolves as a musician. There is a lushness to Christensen's color choices, reinforcing the jazz atmosphere of the time and place. Her depiction of the burning gypsy wagon is particularly effective both as an event and perhaps also a metaphor for his future. Along with notes on Django's life after the fire and on the Roma people, a section on additional facts, a bibliography, and a discography are included. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—Christensen uses impressionistic oil paintings and lyrical text to introduce readers to Reinhardt in this appreciative tribute. Her subject's youth was marked by poverty; a spread depicts the Gypsy encampment where he was born, the gaily painted caravans in eerie contrast to their icy bleak surroundings. With a natural agility (he caught trout by hand), Reinhardt taught himself to play guitar and found escape. While still a boy, he began to make a living playing music on the streets of Paris and in jazz clubs; he was on the brink of success when a tragic fire left his hand so badly burned that doctors predicted he would never play again. In stark colors, Christensen conveys the hopelessness of the musician's situation, trapped in his iron-railed hospital bed. He refused to give up, though, and the next page finds him rapt, guitar clasped to his chest, eyes closed in the effort of drawing forth music again. Christensen completes the tale of the guitarist's success with an author's note, a brief paragraph on the Roma people, and a bibliography/discography. She includes enough detail to give perspective, but it is her lush paintings that so effectively give life to the man's effervescent charm and determined courage. This inspiring account of an individual overcoming tragedy and adversity should find a wide audience.—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
Kirkus Reviews
The brilliant jazz guitarist's life from birth in a Roma camp to stardom on a floodlit Paris stage,is sketched in free verse and vibrant oils. Occasionally ranging into trochaic tetrameter (think "Hiawatha") and arguably over-reliant on gerunds for punch, the author reduces biographical details to an essence that sometimes jars. "Still a boy he's playing dance halls. / Fingers flying down the fretboard. / Writing waltzes, making records, / Putting money on the table." The narrative finds its dramatic core in the fire that rages through Django's wagon, badly burning his hands. His long recuperation is depicted against grays that gradually brighten as he heals and adapts to playing without the use of two fingers on his left hand. Christensen excels as a colorist: The blue-violet light of a jazz club is offset by ochre horns and a pianist's green-gold sheath dress. Faces throughout seem curiously devoid of emotional depth; roughly sketched features result in sad or wry or neutral miens that contribute an air of detachment that color alone fails to redeem. Meritorious but ultimately disappointing. (author's notes, bibliography, discography) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)
From the Publisher
“Christensen supports the inspirational story with rich, vibrant paintings that capture the texture and tone of the landscapes in Django’s life: burnt oranges and various shades of brown bring the Gypsy campfires to vivid life, while bright blues shimmering under the sharp yellows of stage footlights depict the electricity of the guitarist in performance.” —Starred, Booklist

Christensen completes the tale of the guitarist’s success with an author’s note, a brief paragraph on the Roma people, and a bibliography/discography. She includes enough detail to give perspective, but it is her lush paintings that so effectively give life to the man’s effervescent charm and determined courage.” —Starred, School Library Journal

“A sensuous tribute to an illustrious musician.”—Publishers Weekly

"Christensen casts her narration in thrumming free verse….Loosely sketched line drawing is densely filled with jewel-toned hues, and the…scenes of Roma and Parisian life will tickly young viewers’ imaginations. This rags-to-riches true story should have broad appeal beyond budding jazz enthusiasists…” — BCCB

“Christensen offers a lyrical, lovely picture book biography of the early life of jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of his birth on Jan. 23, 1910. It’s a fascinating story…. Christensen’s lush oil paintings and rhythmic text conjure up the magic of the amazing story of Django.” — The Buffalo News

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596436961
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2011
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 488,841
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.90 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

BONNIE CHRISTENSEN is the author/illustrator of WOODY GUTHRIE: POET OF THE PEOPLE among many other books. She lives in Wilson, North Carolina and was born on the same day as Django — different years of course.

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