Children's Literature - Karen LeggettThis biography with its poster-like photos and punk-friendly typeface will appeal to young readers who might be more interested in turning up the music than opening up a book. In this well-written saga of the now-famous rock band, we learn that bandleader Billy Joe Armstrong recorded his first song as the five-year old son of a jazz musician. Billy Joe and two friends named their teenage band Green Day (there is a Sesame Street connection here), played at Woodstock 2 in 1994, and won Grammies, MTV, and Billboard awards by 2005. There is frequent mention of personal relationships--the toll on marriages and the periodic tension among band members who travel together for months at a time--but there is a great family portrait of Billy Joe with his spiked hair and tattoos, his wife and two sons. The book tries to show the hard work required to get to the top in the music industry, but some of the details of real life are missing. During an early trip to Europe, "they still weren't making any real money, but they were having a blast and improving their skills every day." And who or what was paying for all that? We can only imagine. As a whole, however, the book can almost become a template for students learning to write nonfiction in an interesting way about an appealing topic. The "Gateway" biography series covers such diverse people as Alberto Gonzales and Dick Cheney, Harriet Tubman and Helen Keller, Mother Teresa and Mae Jemison. Each book includes a good index, bibliography and time line.
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