Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra


Another stunning picture book biography of a prominent twentieth-century African-American in the arts, from the creative team behind Alvin Ailey.

A brief recounting of the career of this jazz musician and composer who, along with his orchestra, created music that was beyond category.

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Another stunning picture book biography of a prominent twentieth-century African-American in the arts, from the creative team behind Alvin Ailey.

A brief recounting of the career of this jazz musician and composer who, along with his orchestra, created music that was beyond category.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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 - 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 - 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 - 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
Kirkus Reviews
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786814206
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 1/28/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 198,253
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.12 (d)

Meet 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.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2012

    Highly reacommended

    A great read I would recommend it for anyone interested in Duke Ellington.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2008

    A reviewer

    A swingin' book for a swingin' musician.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2001

    Duke Ellington shares his magic

    English 385.004 8 February 2001 Critical Reflection #1 Pinkney, Andrea Davis. Duke Ellington. New York: Hyperion Books For Children, 1998. Edward Kennedy Ellington preferred that people call him ¿Duke¿; people did and the name stuck. His parents, Daisy and J.E, signed him up for piano lessons when he was just a young boy. At first the lessons didn¿t impress Duke, and he stopped taking them. He didn¿t like the slow, boring symphony music; he liked jazzy, upbeat music. Duke didn¿t touch a piano again until one day when he heard that pianos could play the music that he liked to listen to. After he heard the music he could possibly compose on the piano, his parents couldn¿t drag him away from playing the ¿ivory eighty eights.¿ The illustrations in this book reflect the themes of the story. This vibrant-colored narrative was published in 1998, and won the Caldecott award for it¿s outstanding rich, soulful art and well developed, fun stories. All of the pages in this book are filled with bright colors that make it a joy to read. Duke¿s belief in and dedication to African American artistic expression and historic struggles are very clear throughout this story. Duke loved all the attention, and the people loved giving it to him, they could relate to his music. When he found people through his music who shared his love for jazz he reached out to them with his wonderful tunes. Brian and Andrea Davis Pinkney, a husband and wife team, created this masterpiece of wonderful illustrations and a truly heart-warming story. With each turn of the page, the reader absorbs bright, colorful pictures that almost make the words jump off the page. Pinkney paints a young black boy playing the piano with swirls of musical notes dancing around his head. The reader can almost see how involved Duke is becoming with his new-found love of the piano. Throughout the story, Duke made vast improvements in his piano skills. He played in clubs all around Washington, D.C. and soon people knew and asked for him by name. The reader can [almost] feel Duke¿s excitement when he finally plays in ¿Harlem¿s swankiest hangout,¿ the Cotton Club. The sign for the Cotton Club lights up the pages as [it shows the outside of the club] as people approach the door to go in and dance. As the story progresses, Pinkney mentions Duke¿s ¿main man,¿ Billy Strayhorn, who helps Duke put lyrics to his music. The image of the two men working together at a great grand piano sets the musical mood. Since this picture is smaller than most of the other pictures in the book, the readers get a more quiet, calm feeling. The reader can tell that the two men are hard at work because the picture concentrates on their collaboration. Together Duke and Billy composed many songs; among them is a song called ¿Take the ¿A¿ Train¿ that became a best seller when it came out. One of the most colorful and bright pictures in the story comes when the narrator tells about the song that Duke composed to celebrate the history of African American people. The song, ¿Black, Brown and Beige¿ was ¿a suite that rocked the bosom and lifted the soul.¿ It sang of the honor, glory and successes of the black community ¿from the days of slavery to years of civil rights struggle.¿ Even though the history of African Americans is arduous, the colors in this picture book remind the reader that the song represents triumph, not defeat. The colors in the picture shoot out of the instruments of the orchestra, causing a collision of color, fun and excitement.

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