According to PW's starred review, "The husband-and-wife team captures the spirit of an individual, an era and a musical style." Ages 5-9. (Jan.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Duke Ellington was born at the turn of the century (1899) in Washington, D.C. He learned to play the piano at an early age, but it wasn't to his liking. But the day he heard someone playing ragtime on the piano, his interest was captured and he had to learn. Then he started creating his own music and as they say, the rest was history. "Duke" as he was called, was popular and soon his band was asked to play at the prestigious Cotton Club in Harlem. His music was broadcast on radio and his band became an orchestra. His career spanned most of the 20th century, and even twenty-four years after his death his songs and music are still loved and played. The scratchboard illustrations by Brian Pinkney are alive with the swirling movements of Duke Ellington's music and the musicians who starred in his orchestra. A great introduction and brief look at the life of an African-American musical genius.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
As a small boy, Duke hated taking piano lessons. Then he heard the "soul-rousing romp" of ragtime. Later he entertained with his "fine-as-pie good looks and flashy threads." His compositions were "smoother than a hairdo sleeked with pomade." While Andrea fills the telling of his life with rhythmic lilting dialect and writing studded with era idioms, Brian keeps time with his scratchboard illustrations full of the kind of movement Duke inspired. There are also lots of facts about Duke's famous songs, the members of his band, and an amazing rendering of what the music sounds like. Another splendid picture book biography by the Pinkneys.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
"Mood Indigo," "Creole Love Call," "Sophisticated Lady," "Take the A Train" are just a few of the many songs composed by Duke Ellington, one of the great names in the history of jazz. This is a loving tribute to him. The author's text is so rhythmical that it could be set to music. About the band's music, she writes: "Hot-buttered bop, with lots of sassy-cool tones...while they [the dancers] were cuttin' the rug, Duke slid his honey-colored fingertips across the ivory eighty-eights." Read it aloud so children hear the sassy, cool, gutbucket words of the jazz world. The illustrator's scratchboard paintings dance off the page in riots of color.
School Library Journal
A royal introduction to the piano prince. Told in a swingy conversational tone and highlighting the musician's childhood, early ragtime days, and stellar rise to popularity, playing at the Cotton Club and, later, Carnegie Hall, this is a jazzy treat. It is rare to find text that describes music so well. Phrases such as "sassy ride on his cymbal," "musical stream," and "purple dash of brass" carry the auditory experiences of the Duke's music right off the page. Young readers will find more than just a few facts here. They will learn what Duke Ellington did for the jazz world, how his music was played, and the legacy he left behind. Brian Pinkney's distinctive scratchboard, gouache and oil paintings are a harmonious complement to Andrea Pinkney's text. Bright, wild colors on soft neon backgrounds are beautifully balanced with black-and-white highlights. It is the blending of words, symbols, and pictures that bring this subject to life. A page of biographical information and impressive source notes conclude the presentation. This book swings. Don't miss it. Beth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY
Addressing readers directly, "You ever heard of the jazz-playin' man, the man with he cats who could swing with his band?", the Pinkneys embark on a cool and vibrant tour of Duke Ellington's musical career, from the pool hall ragtime that "set Duke's fingers to wiggling," to his 1943 Carnegie Hall concert, also giving some of the soloists that played with him, and songwriter Billy Strayhorn, a chance to step forward. Translated into color and visual forms, music floats and swirls through the scratchboard scenes, curling out of an antique radio, setting dancers to "cuttin' the rug" at the elegant Cotton Club and, of course, trailing behind an "A" train. This loving tribute temptingly evokes the sound and spirit of a jazz pioneer.