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The Jazz Kid
     

The Jazz Kid

by James Lincoln Collier
 

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Paulie Horvath is never going to be a good student like his brother, John, never going to follow his hardworking father into the plumbing trade, never going to ease his mother's mind by passing tests or cleaning up his room. But once he hears jazz by accident from the basement of a speakeasy, he knows exactly what he will do: learn that music and make it his life.

Overview

Paulie Horvath is never going to be a good student like his brother, John, never going to follow his hardworking father into the plumbing trade, never going to ease his mother's mind by passing tests or cleaning up his room. But once he hears jazz by accident from the basement of a speakeasy, he knows exactly what he will do: learn that music and make it his life. Jazz is all around in 1920s gangland Chicago, but not so easy for a twelve-year-old to find, especially when his father disapproves of it. Paulie has to lie, beg, and steal just to get time for lessons, time to practice, time to slip across town to see stars like King Oliver and Louis Armstrong. Lies last only so long until they are found out, and a confrontation is coming. Will he choose home and family or sleazy dives with that wonderful music?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Newbery Honor author Collier ( My Brother Sam Is Dead ) deftly recreates the spirit of 1920s Chicago and the thriving world of jazz and its stars, including King Oliver and Louis Armstrong, in this story of a 12-year-old obsessed with making music. Much to his parents' dismay, Paulie Horvath has little interest either in school or in the family plumbing business; he wants only to play his cornet and listen to what his father calls ``nigger music.'' When he gets held back a grade in school, his beloved cornet is taken from him by his irate father. Paulie then runs away and becomes part of the jazz scene, working in a club and playing whenever he can. While Collier's knowledge and love of the subject are apparent, readers may have trouble relating to the esoteric nature of jazz and to the more technical aspects of playing it. More problematic are a weak plot device involving a gangster mistakenly believing that Paulie is a spy, and the too-neat ending that detracts from what is otherwise a powerful story. Ages 10-14. (May)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-It is 1923 and Paulie Horvath, 13, wants to play the cornet more than anything. When he hears a jazz group practice, he's hooked. The music sweetly draws him in and won't let go. His schoolwork is ignored, and every spare minute is spent in secret practice sessions with a professional musician who befriends him. When the boy fails every subject, his disapproving father takes the precious horn away. Paulie runs away and becomes involved in Chicago's world of jazz clubs, low life, and gangsters. Eventually his obsession involves the family and his father must come to the rescue when some gangsters make trouble. Paulie gratefully returns home, wiser and ready to take up his horn again more responsibly. Told in the first person, this is historical fiction that may need a little booktalking, but is well worth the push. The world of 1920's Chicago jazz comes alive through Paulie's eyes and ears. Famous musicians like the Rhythm Kings, King Oliver, Bix Beiderbecke, and others were part of a new and exciting era of sound. The ``nigger music,'' as many whites called it, was greeted with mixed reactions; this becomes a perfect background for Paulie's dilemma. Collier writes with accurate detail and creates believable, realistic characters. Paulie's infatuation with the jazz sound is so clearly written, one can almost hear the horn singing. The multiple themes of music, family, and responsibility harmonize to make one fine story. An author's note gives listening suggestions and background information.-Beth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY
Bill Ott
Collier, who has written numerous nonfiction books about jazz for both adults and young people, turns here to historical fiction. Paulie Horvath is just an ordinary 12-year-old kid in Roaring Twenties Chicago when he joins the Hull House marching band. All's well until he's introduced to jazz while helping his pa, a plumber, fix a nightclub owner's pipes: "Then I heard a sound I never forgot: a stream of cornet notes suddenly spilling down, like a cascade of little silver balls." A jazzman has been born, and soon enough Paulie is taking lessons, hanging out on the South Side listening to Armstrong, Oliver, and Beiderbecke, and, inevitably, sitting in himself with the big boys. School suffers, Pa explodes, and Paulie runs away. Along with reprising the history of Chicago jazz, Collier examines race relations in the twenties, jazz and individuality, and freedom and responsibility (Pa gets in hot water with the gangster-owner of a club where Paulie works). The introduction of serious "growing up" themes into the jazz plot seems a bit contrived, but on the whole, Collier wraps his music lesson in an agreeable package. Most important, he gets the story of Chicago jazz right, both historically and emotionally.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781620646519
Publisher:
Blackstone Publishing
Publication date:
01/28/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
File size:
1 MB

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Meet the Author

Born in New York City in 1928, author James Lincoln Collier is beloved by young readers in particular for the award-winning historical novels he has written, some with his brother, historian Christopher Collier. A graduate of Hamilton College, Collier served in the U.S. Army after college and then worked as a magazine editor for several years. Perhaps his most famous children's book is the Newbery Honor Book he wrote with his brother, the popular Revolutionary War story My Brother Sam Is Dead. The father of two children, Collier is also an accomplished trombone player. He lives in New York City, where he continues to write and play jazz music.

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