Sweet Music in Harlem

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Overview

C. J. needs to act fast. A photographer from Highnote magazine is on his way to photograph Uncle Click, a well-known jazz musician, but Uncle Click's signature hat is missing. Now it's up to C. J. to hunt down the hat in time for the photo shoot. Little does C. J. know that his whirlwind search through Harlem sets in motion the making of a magical moment of friendship and music.

Illustrated with exuberance by fine artist Frank Morrison, Sweet Music in Harlem is an action-packed ...

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Overview

C. J. needs to act fast. A photographer from Highnote magazine is on his way to photograph Uncle Click, a well-known jazz musician, but Uncle Click's signature hat is missing. Now it's up to C. J. to hunt down the hat in time for the photo shoot. Little does C. J. know that his whirlwind search through Harlem sets in motion the making of a magical moment of friendship and music.

Illustrated with exuberance by fine artist Frank Morrison, Sweet Music in Harlem is an action-packed romp inspired by an historic photograph from Harlem's jazz heyday. Readers everywhere will rejoice in the power of music to bring people together in wonderful, fun-filled ways.

C.J., who aspires to be as great a jazz musician as his uncle, searches for Uncle Click's hat in preparation for an important photograph and inadvertently gathers some of the greatest musicians of 1950s Harlem to join in on the picture.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Inspired by Art Kane's famous 1958 photograph of nearly 60 celebrated jazz musicians gathered in front of a brownstone in Harlem, first-time author Taylor relates the story of young C.J., who is trying to find his musician uncle's hat in time for a photo shoot for a jazz magazine. He finds his uncle's watch at the barber shop, his handkerchief at the restaurant and his bow tie at a nightclub. All the people C.J. has encountered in his search have come to join his uncle in the photo by the time the photographer arrives. They were "some of the greatest musicians and singers in Harlem. It was like seeing the sun, the moon, and the stars all shining at once." That evening his uncle gives C.J. an early birthday present of a new clarinet, and the two discover the hat tucked into the gift box; C.J.'s "own sweet music [rings] out clear and strong." In a confident debut, Morrison nearly channels Ernie Barnes, working in velvety, contrasting colors to depict characters with thin, elongated limbs and expressive faces. The arms and legs twist at right angles, and even the desks, cabinets, drapery and wooden floors seem to be full of energy. A full-page author's note reproduces the historical photograph and names all 57 musicians, among them whites as well as blacks; oddly, Morrison's painting shows only black artists assembled before the camera. Readers are bound to notice and puzzle at the change. Ages 4-8. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Inspired by a photo of jazz musicians posing in front of a brownstone in Harlem in 1958, this story is of a boy named C. J. who longs to be a jazz musician. He lives with his uncle who is well known in jazz circles as a virtuoso on trumpet. C. J. plays the clarinet and is practicing all the time so that one day he might be as good as his uncle. Highnote magazine is sending a photographer around for a photo of Uncle Click, but he can't find the hat he wants to wear in the picture. Off C. J. runs to some of his uncle's favorite haunts to see if he can find the errant hat. The hat never turns up, but other things that Click has lost pop up along the way. When the news spreads about a photographer coming from Highnote magazine, everyone ends up traipsing over to Uncle's so they can be in the picture, too. This book is a wonderful snapshot of a community of artists and friends who support one another as they pursue their dreams. Somehow the reader knows that C. J. may very well achieve his goals due to those around him who encourage him in aspiring to them. Taylor's prose is purposefully repetitive, yet never boring as C. J. goes from place to place looking for the hat. The warmth of the story is beautifully portrayed in Morrison's paintings. This is a wonderful multicultural story for parents and teachers to share with children of all races. 2004, Lee and Low Books, Ages 1 to 5.
—Joan Kindig, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-When a famous-but forgetful-Harlem jazz musician finds out he's having his picture taken for a magazine, he sends his nephew on a wild chase through the neighborhood looking for his hat. C. J. hurries from the barbershop to the diner to the jazz club, but at each location he finds, instead of Uncle Click's beret, some other article that the man has left behind. The boy also returns with a crowd of people who are all anxious to be in the picture, too. When the photographer arrives, he finds a colorful group of jazz greats assembled on the brownstone steps. That night, Uncle Click presents C. J. with an early birthday present, a brand new clarinet that puts a sparkle in the aspiring young musician's eye, with the missing hat inside the box. This dazzling tale is filled with energy, rhythm, and style from its attention-grabbing cover to its satisfying ending. An author's note explains that an actual photograph of 57 jazz musicians taken in 1958 inspired the story; the photo is reproduced and all of the artists in it are identified. The acrylic illustrations make the text come alive. Elongated figures stretch, stride, and dance along pages filled with colorful scenes of Harlem. The characters' passion for jazz is echoed on their expressive faces and in their graceful postures, and Uncle Click's affection for his nephew shines through. A wonderful ode to the power of music and of family love.-Jane Marino, Bronxville Public Library, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
When "Chick blows his trumpet the wallpaper curls," but he is some kind of forgetful. Nephew and aspiring clarinetist C.J. takes it upon himself to track down his uncle's errant hat in time for his appointment with the photographer from Highnote magazine, and as he stops in at Chick's hangouts, the news about the photographer spreads. C.J. arrives home downcast and without the hat, but trailing in his wake are a crowd "of the greatest musicians and singers in Harlem. It was like seeing the sun, the moon, and the stars all shining at once." While they are inspired by the great Art Kane photograph, Harlem 1958, picture-book newcomers Taylor and Morrison do not seek to tell its story; rather, they riff on the possibilities, turning the focus from the already-famous to the child who hopes to be someday. The text adopts a jazzy inflection, with dialogue that's hipper than hip, but it's the illustrations that really zing. Bright acrylics abandon realism to emphasize rhythm, elongated forms moving sinuously against backgrounds that curve, slant, and boogie-woogie-but almost never stay still. Nearly pitch-perfect. (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584301653
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/28/2004
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 7 years
  • Lexile: AD800L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 10.60 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2007

    most awesome book ever

    I have read this book for a long time and it has been a awesome ending every time.this book diserves 5 trillion stars. the pictures are funny too .the way the illistrator sketched it was awesome. this book is great!

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