April 4 – Jazz Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

Jazz Appreciation Month (nicknamed JAM) got its start at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2001. The aim was to celebrate and educate people on the history of and continuing love for jazz. The holiday encourages people of all ages to become familiar with jazz music and the musicians of the past who created this original sound and those today who keep innovating jazz for new audiences. This year’s theme is “Latin Jazz and the Spirit of Cachao López.” Celebrations will revolve around “exploring the cross-pollination of Afro-Caribbean music and jazz that led to the formation of Latin jazz as well as the work of one of the iconic figures in the Afro-Caribbean music tradition – bandleader, composer, and co-creator of mambo, Israel “Cachao” López. To learn more about the month’s events, featured artist, and ways to celebrate, visit the Smithsonian’s Jazz Appreciation website. To celebrate the spirit of jazz with your kids, listen to the rhythms of life inside your heart and in the natural world and make your own music. A great way to start is with today’s book!

First Notes of Spring

Written by Jessica Kulekjian | Illustrated by Jennifer Bower

 

It’s time for a change of seasons, and the First Notes of Spring musicians are gearing up to melt “winter away with their melodies.” Auditions are being held bright and early at 6:00 a.m. to put the orchestra together. Juniper the badger was eager to join. She brought her instrument – a toadstool drum and two strong sticks – and took her turn playing for Mr. Moose, the conductor. “BOOMEY BOOM BOOM!” she banged away while Mr. Moose covered his ears and said, “‘You’re doing it all wrong!'”

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Image copyright Jennifer Bower, 2022, text copyright Jessica Kulekjian, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Then he told Juniper to listen to the gentle “WHOO” of the flutes, the soft “HUM HUM” of the strings, and the delicated “Ringy Ring Ring” of the shaken keys. Juniper was sure she could play along, but as the other animals played their instruments, her “BOOMEY BOOMEY! BOOM BOOM! BOOMEY BOOM BOOM!” interrupted the dulcet flow.

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Image copyright Jennifer Bower, 2022, text copyright Jessica Kulekjian, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mr. Moose was beside himself. It was all ‘”Too WILD!'” for him and he added that “‘Spring will not bloom to such a ruckus!'” Then he cancelled the auditions. As Juniper dejectedly headed home through, she heard a random “tap-a-tap” and walked closer. She found Holly the woodpecker “drumming on a tree” looking for insects. Juniper wanted to join in with her “fun sound” and added her “BOOMEY BOOM BOOM!” to Holly’s “tap-a-tap.”

In a bit they heard “clap-a-clap and found… Darby slapping the ice” with his tail. He was fixing his fort, the beaver told them. Juniper and Holly thought Darby’s clapping was just the addition they needed to play louder. The little band made their way through the forest and discovered Dash, a rabbit, thumping the ground. With Dash’s “thumpity thumping,” the band could play louder and wilder, and as they paraded through the forest, sleeping animals awoke, snow fell from the trees, and Spring sprang up all around them.

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Image copyright Jennifer Bower, 2022, text copyright Jessica Kulekjian, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mr. Moose was surprised – and then sorry that he’d never known “‘Spring could wake up with such a bang!'” Still, the delicate flowers were still dozing. Juniper suggested that some “whoos, hums, and rings” could help rouse them. So while Juniper led Holly, Darby, and Dash in the beats, Mr. Moose led the squirrel, raccoon, deer, fox, and crow in the notes, and all of the forest blossomed into Spring.

Back matter includes an engaging discussion of the sounds heard during different seasons that will have kids and adults getting outside to listen to the loud and delicate music that orchestrate each magical time of the year.

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Image copyright Jennifer Bower, 2022, text copyright Jessica Kulekjian, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Jessica Kulekjian’s imaginative take on the waking of spring employs alliteration and onomatopoeia that will entice kids to whistle, hum, clap, stomp, drum – and read! – along as winter transitions into spring. But the new season isn’t the only one who awakens, Mr. Moose also makes an eye-opening discovery as Juniper’s belief in herself and her music makes his traditional concert inclusive for everyone.

As Jennifer Bower’s delicate icy blues and pale greens of winter give way to the lush vibrancy of spring, kids will enjoy pointing out all of the small animals, insects, and blossoms that begin to populate the pages as they are awakened by Juniper’s novel alarm clock. Two split-page cutaways give readers a glimpse into Juniper’s underground den and a rabbit warren, where a mom, wearing curlers in her ears and bunny slippers on her feet, is just preparing breakfast for her still-sleeping brood. The final two-page spread of The First Notes (and Beats) of Spring musicians is a true celebration of the beauty and rhythms of spring.

Fast-paced and sure to inspire enthusiastic participation, First Notes of Spring is an enchanting read aloud and would be a perfect addition to music class time for students of varying ages, from preschool to the lower grades. The book would also be an exciting introduction for an outdoor activity to listen and look for signs of spring.

Ages 3 – 6 

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1547604739

Discover more about Jessica Kulekjian and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jennifer Bower, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Jazz Appreciation Month Activity

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Cool Jazz! Word Search Puzzle

 

Jazz has a sound and vocabulary all it’s own! Can you find the twenty jazz-related words in this printable puzzle? Then have fun coloring it!

Cool Jazz! Word Search Puzzle | Cool Jazz! Word Search Solution

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You can find First Notes of Spring at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 2 – It’s Historic Bridge Month

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About the Holiday

Bridges can do so much more than just take vehicles and people over waterways or highways. Many are beautiful structures that enhance the skyline or environment in which they’re found. Covered bridges, stone bridges, and soaring steel and cable bridges all have their own stories to tell and inspire awe in their own way. Unfortunately, many older bridges are slated for destruction or replacement. To honor this month’s holiday, visit a historic bridge in your area or research famous bridges of the past and present. On November 6, we also celebrate National Saxophone Day! To get in the swing of this holiday, why not listen to music by Sonny Rollins? You can find his jazz classics on YouTube. To get started, you can listen to The Bridge here.

Thanks go to Nancy Paulsen Books for sharing a copy of Sonny Rollins Plays the Bridge with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Sonny Rollins Plays the Bridge

Written by Gary Golio | Illustrated by James Ransome

 

“The Bridge / leaps / spreads its wings / joyfully / joining shore to shore”

“Steel towers / standing tall / reaching high / touching / sky” as people – walking and riding bikes – and cars and trucks move above “the River / stretched out below / a shiny / endless / song”

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Image copyright James Ransome, 2021, text copyright Gary Golio, 2021. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin.

In another part of New York City, Sonny Rollins, already a jazz great, is trying to find a place to play his saxophone – to become a better musician and a better person. The neighbors in his apartment building complain from their windows as he practices on the fire escape, so he takes to the sidewalks to find a more accommodating spot. He wanders the busy streets until he sees, towering above the tall buildings, the Williamsburg Bridge and wonders…. He listens to “that / small voice / inside / which says / you need to do this

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Image copyright James Ransome, 2021, text copyright Gary Golio, 2021. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin.

He climbs the stairs to the walkway high above the noisy, busy city and takes his saxophone from its case. Here, alone, Sonny finds the place where he can play as loud as he wants. But he’s not really alone. Around him the “clanking clanging” subway trains lend rhythm to his music, and the “tugboats / blowing bass notes / back / and forth” are answered “note-for-note / with / low moans” from Sonny’s sax while seagulls are “echoing / Sonny’s funny / squeaks / & / squawks.”

Here, this jazz great “can play / anything / EVERYTHING / that comes into his mind.” With his “mind opened wide,” Sonny finds the sound he’s been looking for and “the Bridge / leaps / spreads its wings / just like / Sonny.”

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Image copyright James Ransome, 2021, text copyright Gary Golio, 2021. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin.

Back matter includes more about the life and career of Sonny Rollins; a history of the Williamsburg Bridge and The Bridge – a series of songs inspired by his experience, recorded in 1962; and Sonny’s words about how he lives his life and what he thinks is important. Sonny’s website and recommended songs found on YouTube round out these informative pages.

Gary Golio’s story floats on the jazz rhythms of his poetic verses, enveloping readers in the musicality of Sonny Rollins’s life and the sounds of the city. In addition to relaying the facts of this seminal period in Rollin’s career, Golio emphasizes Rollin’s belief in the importance of listening to your own internal voice on the road to self-discovery. Lyrical descriptions of the impromptu “band” that accompanied Rollins on the bridge are both beautifully evocative and inspirational reminders for readers that they too can shine while working with or playing off of others. 

James Ransome’s glorious watercolor and collage paintings give readers a sense of the time period as well as the scale of the bridge as it soars above the high-rise buildings, providing a practice room and stage for Sonny Rollins’ talent. Textured and patterned details along with a variety of perspectives echo Golio’s lyrical verses. Gold accents on each page mirror Rollins’ shiny saxophone and visually represent the notes that rise and float away over the city.

A gorgeous and jazz-infused snapshot of a stirring and influential time in Sonny Rollins’ life,  Sonny Rollins Plays the Bridge will delight any music lover and inspire all readers to search for the best in themselves. The book is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House, 2021 | ISBN 978-1984813664

Discover more about Gary Golio and his books on his website.

To learn more about James Ransome, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Historic Bridge Awareness Month Activity

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Build a Remarkable Recycled Bridge

 

You don’t need fancy blocks and construction materials to build a bridge! Little ones will be fascinated to put together a bridge made out of items you already have at home or that may even be slated for the recycle bin. Spaghetti boxes make great roadways, and cut-up egg cartons can be used as supports.

Want to build a whole town? Cereal boxes and pasta boxes make skyscrapers, apartment buildings, fire stations, and more. Need a farm silo? Grab a peanut butter jar, oatmeal container, or aluminum can. You can use them as is or—if your kids are sticklers for a little more detail—add some paint and details! So look around, use your imagination, and get creative!

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You can find Sonny Rollins Plays the Bridge at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 20 – It’s the Spooky Season

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About the Holiday

The month of October is a spooky season. There are monsters lurking in closets, witches stirring up brews, and evil screams in the night. But, not all spooky things turn out to be scary. Sometimes, it just takes a closer look to see that what once spooked you was actually a helper in disguise, perhaps even a friendly ghost. After all, ghosts like to have friends too.

Today, I’m happy to welcome writer and artist Amanda Leemis, who also loves sharing books and creating worksheets and crafts for young readers. Just in time for Halloween, Amanda’s stopped by with a review of a book that’s perfect for the holiday and all year around. You can read more about Amanda and find some of her fun activities for kids at the end of this post.

Review by Amanda Leemis

Gustavo The Shy Ghost

By Flavia Z. Drago

 

When it comes to making friends, it can be hard, especially if you’re a paranormal being who blends into the background. Gustavo is a very shy ghost who loves to play the violin more than anything in the world. He is so shy that he can never get the courage to talk to any of the monsters, so he tries to get close to them in other ways. Being a ghost has its perks, and Gustavo is able to morph his shape into any situation. He rounds up his sides into a balloon and hangs out for a celebration, but none of the monsters notice him. He tries everything from curling up into sports equipment to becoming a lampshade, he even becomes a blank canvas in the art classroom, but none of the monsters take any notice.

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Copyright Flavia Z. Drago, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Gustavo’s sadness turns to determination as he sends out invitations to his very own violin concert. This is his chance to really be seen, face his fears, and make some new friends. He pushes his nervous thoughts – “What if no one shows up? What if they don’t like my music?” – away and invites all the monsters in the land! As the big night arrives, Gustavo’s worst fears come to life, not a soul had come to his party. Sitting all alone and mending his crushed heart, he picks up his violin and his music fills the air. Soon, he is glowing brightly with the music that fills his spirit!

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Copyright Flavia Z. Drago, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

A voice calls “Gustavo!” from behind the bushes, and soon all kinds of monsters begin to emerge from the darkness. The monsters got lost on the way to the party, but found their way back by following the music in the air and spotting Gustavo’s luminous glow! After the brilliant violin performance, Gustavo’s life changes forever. Now, he has all kinds of monster friends in his neighborhood! His quiet nature is now filled with friendship, and he has lots of friends to spook and surprise. Instead of trying to blend into situations, he gets to stand out! Whether it’s becoming an umbrella to shield his friends from the rain or creating an amazing shadow show on the wall, Gustavo isn’t alone.

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Copyright Flavia Z. Drago, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Flavia Z. Drago’s message of perseverance and courage will remind your little ones that it’s ok if making friends is hard. Drago reassures kids that the best way to introduce yourself to new people is to simply be yourself, just like Gustavo. While the October season can be a spooky time, this book is great chance to bring more fun and less unease about what’s lurking in the night. Not all spooks are scary, and in fact, some just want a friend.

Drago’s illustrations will have you captivated from the first moment you see Gustavo floating a teapot across the page. The vibrant, warm colors throw you into a new world full of monsters and spooks, and gets you in the mood to hear a tale of the lesser-known paranormal beings. The illustrative details – like Gustavo’s family portrait, his handcrafted invitations, and his kitty cat peeking around the door – give the reader so much to explore within each and every page!

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick, 2020, | ISBN 978-1536211146

Discover more about Flavia Z. Drago, her books, and her art on her website.

The Spooky Season Activities

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Gustavo the Ghost Puzzles and Craft

 

The fun with Gustavo doesn’t have to end! Be sure to print out an activity to accompany the story! Gustavo Shape Sorting” is great for little ones in preschool. Sort Gustavo’s shape into his same column. “‘Gustavo The Shy Ghost’ Word Search” is great for ages 5-7. Highlight all of the spooky words hidden in the mishmash of letters! And hey, while you’re at it, get creative with a fantastic make-your-own ghost water bottle craft!

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About Amanda Leemis

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Amanda Leemis is a model, artist, and creator of The Hollydog Blog! She is passionate about encouraging our littlest humans to read! With two books published in the “My Hollydog” series, she loves illustration and uses her skills to create printable worksheets for ages 2-5. Creating resources that build fine motor skills and boost creativity is her passion.

Amanda Leemis is the illustrator of My Hollydog and My Hollydog Rides in the Car. Her mother Charise Leemis is the author! The “My Hollydog” series is written specifically for ages 2-3. With one sentence per page, little ones will stay engaged and keep focused on the vibrant illustrations. Come along with Hollydog on an adventure! Whether it’s hanging her head out the window or jumping into a pile of leaves, Hollydog loves her humans more than anything in the world!

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You’ll find Gustavo the Shy Ghost at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 8 – Opera Day

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About the Holiday

Opera has been a favorite art form since its beginnings in Italy in the 1500s. Combining magnificent voices, soaring arias, grand costumes, and dramatic storylines, operas continue to thrill audiences and gain new fans. To celebrate Opera Day today or at a time in the future, enjoy a performance in your area or find one on YouTube and gather your family and friends for an opera party.

I received a copy of Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse

Written by Laura Sassi | Illustrated by Rebecca Gerlings

 

Fernando had many loves in his life—including chocolate, cheese, gumdrops, and popcorn—but what he loved most was “feasting on Mozart, Puccini, and Strauss, / and lending a paw at the Old Opera House.” Delores loved nothing more than being in the spotlight, and now she was getting the chance to leave her place in the chorus to “take center stage and be Diva Delores.” She warmed up in her dressing room with “Me-me-me-me!”

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Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Fernando wanted to give Delores the benefit of all of his years of experience, but she wasn’t having it. A mouse was not a suitable helper for someone as great as she, she thought. At the rehearsal the next day, Delores was a flop, hitting wrong notes, missing her entrance, and the last song? Well…. From the back Fernando called out that he could help. He wrote cues on little cards “and—presto!—Delores knew just what to do.” You’d think Delores would be thankful, but instead she complained that a mouse’s help was just not proper for a diva, and she shooed Fernando away.

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Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

The day before her big performance, Delores found that her dress didn’t fit. Again, Fernando rushed to her rescue, but what thanks did he get? Delores grumbled and fussed. “Then grabbing a bottle / of stinky perfume, / she spritzed poor Fernando / right out of the room!” Fernando went home, wanting to quit. But as he looked at his pictures of Mozart, Puccini, and Strauss, he knew that without him the show would fail and that he couldn’t quit now.

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Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

First, he went to Delores and laid down the rules: “For starters, I’d like to hear / thank you and please / when I help fix your dress / or bring crackers and cheese.” Delores was startled and quickly said good night. At home she wondered: had she been rude? The next day, Delores was nervous. She tried calming herself with candy and tea. She even looked for Fernando, but he was nowhere to be found.

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Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Standing on stage in the glare of the spotlights, “as the orchestra played, / Delores felt faint. / First she swooned… / then she swayed.” When she opened her mouth, no notes, no sound, no song came out. Then inside her wig she saw Fernando, who squeaked “‘You can do it.’” And then Delores did sing “with a voice rich and sweet.” When she forgot some words to her song, Fernando reminded her by tra-la-la-ing along.

The audience loved them. They cheered for Delores; they cheered for Fernando. Later, Delores admitted she could not have done it alone. Then she apologized to Fernando and asked for a fresh start on their friendship. “Of course!” he agreed, and now they bring down the house night after night as “the Opera House team!”

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Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Laura Sassi’s clever and original story about teamwork and sharing the spotlight hits all the right notes in showing how accepting help can elevate anyone’s performance and lead to a new friendship. After playing second fiddle in the chorus, Delores finally gets her chance to shine, but her vanity exceeds her experience. When a tiny mouse offers help from his deep well of knowledge, Delores takes one look at Fernando’s diminutive size and rejects him and his advice. Through her perfect rhymes and musical rhythm, Sassi engages readers in how to graciously learn from another’s experience and encourages the Fernandos out there to keep trying, even when their initial offerings of assistance are rebuffed.

Rebecca Gerlings lends charm and humorous touches to Sassi’s tale, and the promise of the enticing cotton-candy fluff of a wig, introduced in the first pages and teased throughout the story, is comically and satisfyingly fulfilled in the end as Fernando directs Delores to a winning performance from within. Along the way, readers are treated to an octopus piano player, multiple meltdowns as Delores dispatches Fernando from her orbit, and demonstrations of persistence as the little mouse stands up for himself, good manners, and the honor of his beloved opera. 

A smart, fresh, and fun read aloud, Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse has multiple applications for discussing friendship, modesty, respect, and collaboration. The book would make a delightful addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454922001

Discover more about Laura Sassi and her books on her website.

To learn more about Rebecca Gerlings, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Opera Day Activity

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Sparkly Opera Glasses by Laura Sassi

 

Make a pair of these fancy glasses, then pretend you are at the opera while reading Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse.

Supplies for each pair of opera glasses

  • Two recycled toilet tissue tubes one large craft stick
  • Markers tacky glue
  • Two paper clips assorted fancy embellishments (We used feathers, sparkly gems and snippets of shimmery ribbon, but use whatever you have around the house. Be creative!)

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Directions

  1. Decorate the tissue tubes using markers.
  2. Glue the tubes side by side, as shown. Be sure to insert the craft stick in between so your opera glasses have a handle. Slip a paper clip at each end over the sealed part for extra  pressure while drying.
  3. Use tacky glue to affix whatever fancy embellishments you choose. The more the better!
  4. When dry, elegantly hold your opera glasses up to your eyes and pretend you are watching Diva Delores and Fernando at the opera!

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You can find Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 15 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Stompin’ at the Savoy

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About the Holiday

I was thrilled to host the cover reveal of Stompin’ at the Savoy and am now excited to be celebrating the book birthday of this extraordinary biography of one of the greats of Jazz with a review, an interview with Moira and Laura, and a giveaway of the book. Enjoy!

Thanks goes to Sleeping Bear Press for sending me a copy of Stompin’ at the Savoy for review consideration. all opinions of the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with them in a giveaway of the book. See details and two ways to enter below.

Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums

Written by Moira Rose Donohue | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

 

As a child William Henry “Chick” Webb turned everything into a drum. “He tapped rhythms on iron railings. Tinkety-tink! He slapped rhythms on marble steps. Thwapety-thwap!” Years later he would be competing in the “biggest band battle of the century” at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. But before that he had to overcome many obstacles. Throughout his life, William suffered with a spinal illness that stunted his growth. After an operation after a fall, the doctor recommended getting him a drum set to strengthen his arms. But drums—even drumsticks—were too expensive, so William used wooden spoons and pots and pans to make music.

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2021, text copyright Moira Rose Donohue, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

William’s illness left him with a hunchback and the “kids called him ‘Chicken’—shortened to “Chick”— because of the way he walked. To make money, Chick began selling newspapers when he was nine or ten. Soon he had bought real drumsticks and finally a drum set. Even though Chick only grew to be four feet, one inch that “didn’t stop him from making a giant sound. He just needed a taller chair and a higher bass pedal to do it.”

As a teenager, Chick was hired to play in local bands. He met Duke Ellington. He thought Chick was ready to lead his own band, but Chick waited. In the late 1920s a new kind of music—swing, with its dance-driving beat—came on the scene. “This new music was just right for Chick” and after choosing the best musicians he could find, he began touring the country. On one of these trips he hired Ella Fitzgerald to be the band’s lead singer. By 1937, Chick and his band was playing at the famous Savoy Ballroom. Some even called him the “‘Savoy King.’”

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The Savoy Ballroom was different from most clubs. Here, both Black and White people were welcome to dance. “Working-class people and movie stars danced alongside one another. People jumped and jived to new dances all night long.” At the time, bands competed in live “battles,” which Chick usually won. But then in February 1937, his band lost to Duke Ellington.

Chick didn’t let that get him down. Instead he challenged Benny Goodman—who led the number one big band in the country—to a battle of the bands. Benny laid down some rules: his and Chick’s band would play the same songs, his band would play first, and he would play on the biggest stage at the Savoy. Chick agreed. “That night, four thousand people crowded together on the dance floor” and another five thousand gathered outside in the street. In the crowd were also reporters from music magazines. Before his band went on, Chick laid down just one rule as he talked to his bandmates: “‘I don’t want nobody to miss.’”

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Benny Goodman and his band started off with his smooth, sweet clarinet that set the crowd swaying. But when Chick’s band took the stage, they gave the song a “hotter and faster… Swingier” beat, and the audience bounced along. The music swelled as “back and forth the bands played.” But it may have been “Jam Session” that decided it. As Chick “pounded louder and faster than a speeding train… Benny’s band just shook their heads in disbelief.” Everyone agreed that Chick had won. From that night on, Chick had a new nickname—“the ‘King of Drums.’”

An Authors note telling more about the life of Chick Webb follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stompin-at-the-savoy-dancing

Thrilling for music-lovers, readers, and dreamers alike, Moira Rose Donohue’s biography of Chick Webb will inspire children to look not at the obstacles they may face but at ways to rise above them to achieve their goals. Donohue’s early focus on Chick’s determination to make music—whether he was using wooden spoons and pots or, much later, real drumsticks and drums—will impress on kids that practice, confidence, and an unfailing vision for the future can move mountains.

An important underlying lesson in Chick’s story is his self-awareness and willingness to wait until he felt ready to find his own niche and create his own band. This example, highlighted in Donohue’s compelling storytelling, will reassure readers who are meticulous, careful, and chafe under a “hurry, hurry” atmosphere. Through Donohue’s lyricism, pacing, and riveting vocabulary, readers can almost hear Chick at his drums as his drumsticks sizzle, whether at home, at venues across the country, or at the Savoy.

Laura Freeman’s rich colors and realistic depictions of Chick Webb—nearly always with drumsticks in his hands—will captivate readers as they watch a little boy with a big talent become the King of Drums. From his childhood kitchen to the school hallway to his natural entertaining spirit while selling newspapers, Freeman shows Chick’s singular focus and the times in which he grew up. Swirled musical bars, floating notes, and shadowed drumsticks give her illustrations movement. The look of rapture on Chick’s face as he plays and images of couples dancing to swing depict how the music transported people from the normal rhythms of life. The final spreads of Chick and Benny Goodman’s battle of the bands are raucous and enthralling and will have kids wanting to hear Chick’s music for themselves.

An absorbing biography of Chick Webb and the era of the big bands as well as a shining example of how one’s belief in oneself can conquer hurdles, Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and library collections.

Stompin’ at the Savoy Book Birthday Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stompin-at-the-savoy-coloring-page

Stompin’ at the Savoy Activity Kit

 

You can enjoy coloring a picture of Chick Webb at his drums and challenging yourself with the word search puzzle found in this printable Activity Guide found on the Sleeping Bear Website.

Stompin’ at the Savoy Activity Kit

Meet Moira Rose Donohue

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moira-rose-donohue-headshot

Moira Rose Donohue has written over 35 books for children, most of them nonfiction, including National Geographic’s Little Kids First Big Book of the Rain Forest and two Junior Library Guild selections: Great White Sharks (Scholastic/Children’s Press) and The Invasion of Normandy (North Star Editions). She loves tap dancing, opera, hockey, and animals. Moira lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, with her dog, Petunia.

Among the many titles you’ve published are books on nature, history, and many, many biographies of figures from explorers to sports stars to civil rights leaders. What is your favorite thing about writing biographies? What was the initial spark that prompted you to choose Chick Webb as the subject of your newest book?

The thing I like most about writing biographies is that through the extensive research you have to do, you eventually discover the “essence” of the person—that unique quality that guided him/her/them to act in a way that made a difference in the world.

My initial interest in Chick was sparked when I was watching a re-airing of the Ken Burns documentary on jazz music. When the movie reached the evolution of swing and big bands, Chick Webb was mentioned. I have always loved Big Band music, even though it was not the music of my era. I was familiar with all the big band musicians discussed except Chick Webb. So, of course I had to research him. When I saw his life-loving grin and learned that he had to face the challenges of an affliction that left him no taller than an average eight-year-old boy, I was hooked.

Can you talk a little about the story readers will discover in Stompin’ at the Savoy and take readers on the book’s journey from idea to published book?

This book is not a chronicle of Chick’s life. It focuses on his resilient and competitive spirit because that’s what struck a chord with me. I love contests, and so, apparently, did Chick. To showcase his competitiveness, the climax of the book is his legendary band battle with 6-foot tall Benny Goodman, the King of Swing—a contest so exciting that almost 10,000 people showed up, inside the Savoy and outside on Lenox Avenue. You’ll have to read the book to find out who won!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned about Chick Webb during your research?

As a drummer and a band leader, Chick was precise and demanding. He told his musicians to practice and to be perfect. This didn’t surprise me because my daughter is a percussionist and I know that to be successful, practice and discipline are essential. What did surprise me is that, on occasion, Chick was known to give in to his wilder side and ride around town on the back of a motorcycle, standing up.

Researching Chick Webb was tricky because not much has been written about him. I had to call upon librarians, my superheroes, to watch a documentary at the Library of Congress and to find out what his childhood home looked like (thanks to the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore).

For an author it must be thrilling to see your story come to life visually. When did you see the cover and illustrations for your story? What was your first reaction?

I have been a big fan of Laura’s work for some time, so I knew when I got the sketches in May, 2020 that they would be wonderful. But the best part was that she completely understood the Big Band era and captured the ethos of the Savoy perfectly. It turns out that she had a connection to it—her father danced at the Savoy Ballroom.

As for the cover, which I didn’t see until early October, 2020, well…it brought tears to my eyes. The purple background is such a perfect choice for the King of Drums. And Laura even managed to put his signature green chicks on his drum set!

What would you like young readers to take away from the story of Chick Webb?

Although I cannot fully understand the magnitude and complexities of Chick’s struggle, as someone who is only 4 feet 11 inches tall and always trying to figure out how to reach things in high places, I relate to the challenges of being a short person. I completely understood his need to make his bass drum pedal higher so he could reach it! And I admired his perseverance. I hope the young readers will see Chick’s story as an inspiration—a story of someone who believed in himself and his music. Chick was a person with short stature who created a giant sound.  

When will readers be able to find Stompin’ at the Savoy on bookstore shelves? Do you have any special events to planned that readers can look forward to?

Stompin’ at the Savoy will be available for purchase on January 15, 2021. We are holding a virtual book release celebration this Monday, January 18 at 3:30 EST with Tombolo Books bookstore. You can register for the event as well as buy signed copies of the book there. You’ll find more information and the link to register on my website, moirarosedonohue.net. And I am hoping to have an in-person event in Baltimore, Chick’s (and my son’s) home, when it’s safe to do so. 

You can connect with Moira Rose Donohue on

Her website | Twitter

Meet Laura Freeman

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Laura-Freeman-headshot

Laura Freeman has illustrated many fine children’s books over the years, including Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe, written by Deborah Blumenthal, and the Coretta Scott King Honor book Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly and Winifred Conkling. Laura now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and their two children. 

I think readers are fascinated by an artist’s process in translating a manuscript to images that explain, highlight, and enhance the text. Can you talk a little about how you approached the manuscript for Stompin’ at the Savoy and then developed your illustrations.

I always spend a lot of time looking at photos and researching the character and time period before starting. For Stompin’ I wanted to get in the mood, and so I searched for his music online and was surprised to find that I recognized the title song (which was written in 1933!). Maybe I watch too many old movies, but it really is great! I found great old photos of him at his drum kit and photos of the Savoy nightclub as well as people dancing and swinging to the orchestra. Since it was the ’30’s, all the photos I found were in black and white so I dug into the internet to find out what color his drum kit was… and I found conflicting information. One article stated that the kit was pearlized cream decorated with sparkly green chicks but the accompanying photo showed the chicks as being red. I ended up trusting the words since the photo was obviously hand tinted. I hope I got it right but guess it’s not the end of the world if I’m wrong! 

What were your thoughts as you began to design the interior images for Stompin’ at the Savoy?

I wanted to give the illustrations a sense of movement to mimic the way Chick’s music makes me feel. There are a lot of colorful musical notes dancing throughout almost all of the pages. There is one spread in particular where if you look closely you can find them in a pattern in the ironwork of the staircase that Chick falls down as a child. Even though he’s not playing music on this page I wanted the notes to foreshadow his future.

What aspects of Chick Webb’s story did you most want to express in your illustrations? Is there a spread in the book that you particularly enjoyed creating?

Even though he had a tragic accident when he was a child that affected him for the rest of his life, his music is so full of joy – I wanted the book to feel joyful! I wanted it to be bright and colorful. There’s one spread in the book that depicts a battle of the bands. The one where Chick’s band goes up against Benny Goodman’s band. It was one of the last images I tackled because I have to admit, I had no idea how I was going to pull it off. There was just so much going on. I wanted to show the excitement and electricity of the moment – both bands playing their instruments, Chick’s band in white tuxedos, Benny Goodman’s band in black, Chick at his drum kit, Gene Krupka breaking his drum head. All this, but I didn’t want it to look busy and confusing. It ended up being one of my favorite images in the book!

I’ve been fortunate to review several of your picture books. In each one the illustrations are uniquely suited for the subject and yet instantly recognizable as your work. What would you say is your signature style? How did you develop it?

Thank you for saying so! I guess I’d say my illustrations are somewhat realistic in that I do try to capture a likeness. But still not so much so that I can’t deviate from reality to make a point. I guess you could say my work has a collage feel to it since I love to play around with patterns and textures too. I think that the amount of research I do shows up in the illustrations. I try to immerse myself in the time period of the book. I love finding the right clothing and hairstyles. What did the streets look like? The cars? What kind of technology was available? What about the furniture? I collect 100’s of photos of all these things. Very few end up in the books, but the essence of what I’ve seen does… I hope!

What do you hope children will take away from your illustrations for Stompin’ at the Savoy?

I hope that they can see themselves in his story. I love that he didn’t let his physical limitations stop him from doing what he wanted to do. He had to sit on a high stool to reach the drums. He couldn’t reach the bass drum pedal on the stool, so he had a special one made. He even embraced what surely started out as a derogatory nickname and called himself Chick.

Like Moira, many of your books for children are biographies. What draws you to those projects? What are the challenges and the rewards of working on biographies?

I especially like learning about people I may never have heard of and learning new things about people I have heard of. If I don’t know the information, chances are that most kids don’t either. With a biography there’s the challenge of capturing a likeness. Sometimes there are lots of photos and videos of the person I’m depicting to reference. Other times, not so much. I may need to distill the person’s facial features and try to figure out what they might look like from a different angle or as a child when there really aren’t any reference photos to go by. I want to do them justice because I feel honored to be involved in uncovering their stories.

You can connect with Laura Freeman on

Her website | Instagram | Twitter

Thanks so much Moira and Laura for these insightful answers! I’m sure readers are as excited to read Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums as I am! While we have to wait a little longer to find the book in bookstores, everyone’s invited to enter my giveaway for a chance to win a copy!

Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums Giveaway

 

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in Twitter giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Stompin’ at the Savoy, written by Moira Rose Donohue| illustrated by Laura Freeman 

Here’s how to enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books 
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet OR leave a comment below
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite kind of music for an extra entry (each reply gives you one more entry).

This giveaway is open from January 15 through January 21 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on January 22. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stompin-at-the-savoy-cover

You can preorder Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 3 – Cover Reveal of Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stompin-at-the-savoy-cover

Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums

Written by Moira Rose Donohue | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

 

Although a disability stunted his growth and left him with a hunched back, William Henry “Chick” Webb didn’t let that get in the way of pursuing his dreams of being a musician. Even as a young child, Chick saw the world as one big drum. He pounded out rhythms on everything from stair railings to pots and pans with a wooden spoon until he earned enough money selling newspapers to buy himself a real set.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stompin'-at-the-savoy-band-battle

Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2021, text copyright Moira Rose Donohue, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

He saved more money and was at last able to buy a drum set where he could “bang on the bass drum, crash the cymbals, and rattle the snare.” When he was still a teenager, he played drums in several bands. His talent and love for music eventually brought him to the big time as an influential big band leader. But Chick wanted to be at the top. Would he get his chance? This picture-book biography bops with the sounds and dance moves of the Swing era and one of the most famous clubs in America as it relates the life of Black American jazz drummer Chick Webb, who in the 1930s earned the nickname the “King of the Savoy.”

With Moira Rose Donohue’s scintillating storytelling about a time in musical history that still resonates today and Laura Freeman’s vibrant illustrations that ring with bright horns, soar on a sublime voice, and pulsate with the beat of a master drummer, Stompin’ at the Savoy – which Kirkus calls “an effervescent celebration”is a book that will inspire children.

I’m thrilled to be talking today with Moira Rose Donohue and Laura Freeman to learn more about how they brought the extraordinary story of Chick Webb to life for young readers. 

Meet Moira Rose Donohue

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moira-rose-donohue-headshot

Moira Rose Donohue has written over 35 books for children, most of them nonfiction, including National Geographic’s Little Kids First Big Book of the Rain Forest and two Junior Library Guild selections: Great White Sharks (Scholastic/Children’s Press) and The Invasion of Normandy (North Star Editions). She loves tap dancing, opera, hockey, and animals. Moira lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, with her dog, Petunia.

Among the many titles you’ve published are books on nature, history, and many, many biographies of figures from explorers to sports stars to civil rights leaders. What is your favorite thing about writing biographies? What was the initial spark that prompted you to choose Chick Webb as the subject of your newest book?

The thing I like most about writing biographies is that through the extensive research you have to do, you eventually discover the “essence” of the person—that unique quality that guided him/her/them to act in a way that made a difference in the world.

My initial interest in Chick was sparked when I was watching a re-airing of the Ken Burns documentary on jazz music. When the movie reached the evolution of swing and big bands, Chick Webb was mentioned. I have always loved Big Band music, even though it was not the music of my era. I was familiar with all the big band musicians discussed except Chick Webb. So, of course I had to research him. When I saw his life-loving grin and learned that he had to face the challenges of an affliction that left him no taller than an average eight-year-old boy, I was hooked.

Can you talk a little about the story readers will discover in Stompin’ at the Savoy and take readers on the book’s journey from idea to published book?

This book is not a chronicle of Chick’s life. It focuses on his resilient and competitive spirit because that’s what struck a chord with me. I love contests, and so, apparently, did Chick. To showcase his competitiveness, the climax of the book is his legendary band battle with 6-foot tall Benny Goodman, the King of Swing—a contest so exciting that almost 10,000 people showed up, inside the Savoy and outside on Lenox Avenue. You’ll have to read the book to find out who won!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned about Chick Webb during your research?

As a drummer and a band leader, Chick was precise and demanding. He told his musicians to practice and to be perfect. This didn’t surprise me because my daughter is a percussionist and I know that to be successful, practice and discipline are essential. What did surprise me is that, on occasion, Chick was known to give in to his wilder side and ride around town on the back of a motorcycle, standing up.

Researching Chick Webb was tricky because not much has been written about him. I had to call upon librarians, my superheroes, to watch a documentary at the Library of Congress and to find out what his childhood home looked like (thanks to the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore).

For an author it must be thrilling to see your story come to life visually. When did you see the cover and illustrations for your story? What was your first reaction?

I have been a big fan of Laura’s work for some time, so I knew when I got the sketches in May, 2020 that they would be wonderful. But the best part was that she completely understood the Big Band era and captured the ethos of the Savoy perfectly. It turns out that she had a connection to it—her father danced at the Savoy Ballroom.

As for the cover, which I didn’t see until early October, 2020, well…it brought tears to my eyes. The purple background is such a perfect choice for the King of Drums. And Laura even managed to put his signature green chicks on his drum set!

What would you like young readers to take away from the story of Chick Webb?

Although I cannot fully understand the magnitude and complexities of Chick’s struggle, as someone who is only 4 feet 11 inches tall and always trying to figure out how to reach things in high places, I relate to the challenges of being a short person. I completely understood his need to make his bass drum pedal higher so he could reach it! And I admired his perseverance. I hope the young readers will see Chick’s story as an inspiration—a story of someone who believed in himself and his music. Chick was a person with short stature who created a giant sound.  

When will readers be able to find Stompin’ at the Savoy on bookstore shelves? Do you have any special events planned that readers can look forward to?

Stompin’ at the Savoy will be available for purchase on January 15, 2021. We are planning on setting up a virtual book release celebration with Tombolo Books. For more information and updates, please check my website, moirarosedonohue.net. And I am hoping to have an in-person event in Baltimore, Chick’s (and my son’s) home, when it’s safe to do so. 

You can connect with Moira Rose Donohue on

Her website | Twitter

Meet Laura Freeman

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Laura-Freeman-headshot

Laura Freeman has illustrated many fine children’s books over the years, including Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe, written by Deborah Blumenthal, and the Coretta Scott King Honor book Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly and Winifred Conkling. Laura now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and their two children. 

I think readers are fascinated by an artist’s process in translating a manuscript to images that explain, highlight, and enhance the text. Can you talk a little about how you approached the manuscript for Stompin’ at the Savoy and then developed your illustrations – especially this stunning cover.

I always spend a lot of time looking at photos and researching the character and time period before starting. For Stompin’ I wanted to get in the mood, and so I searched for his music online and was surprised to find that I recognized the title song (which was written in 1933!). Maybe I watch too many old movies, but it really is great! I found great old photos of him at his drum kit and photos of the Savoy nightclub as well as people dancing and swinging to the orchestra. Since it was the ’30’s, all the photos I found were in black and white so I dug into the internet to find out what color his drum kit was… and I found conflicting information. One article stated that the kit was pearlized cream decorated with sparkly green chicks but the accompanying photo showed the chicks as being red. I ended up trusting the words since the photo was obviously hand tinted. I hope I got it right but guess it’s not the end of the world if I’m wrong! 

The cover is just a peek at what readers have to look forward to in the book. Can you give them a little taste of what’s in store inside?

I tried to give the illustrations a sense of movement to mimic the way Chick’s music makes me feel. There are a lot of colorful musical notes dancing throughout almost all of the pages. There is one spread in particular where if you look closely you can find them in a pattern in the ironwork of the staircase that Chick falls down as a child. Even though he’s not playing music on this page I wanted the notes to foreshadow his future.

What aspects of Chick Webb’s story did you most want to express in your illustrations? Is there a spread in the book that you particularly enjoyed creating?

Even though he had a tragic accident when he was a child that affected him for the rest of his life, his music is so full of joy – I wanted the book to feel joyful! I wanted it to be bright and colorful. There’s one spread in the book that depicts a battle of the bands. The one where Chick’s band goes up against Benny Goodman’s band. It was one of the last images I tackled because I have to admit, I had no idea how I was going to pull it off. There was just so much going on. I wanted to show the excitement and electricity of the moment – both bands playing their instruments, Chick’s band in white tuxedos, Benny Goodman’s band in black, Chick at his drum kit, Gene Krupka breaking his drum head. All this, but I didn’t want it to look busy and confusing. It ended up being one of my favorite images in the book!

I’ve been fortunate to review several of your picture books. In each one the illustrations are uniquely suited for the subject and yet instantly recognizable as your work. What would you say is your signature style? How did you develop it?

Thank you for saying so! I guess I’d say my illustrations are somewhat realistic in that I do try to capture a likeness. But still not so much so that I can’t deviate from reality to make a point. I guess you could say my work has a collage feel to it since I love to play around with patterns and textures too. I think that the amount of research I do shows up in the illustrations. I try to immerse myself in the time period of the book. I love finding the right clothing and hairstyles. What did the streets look like? The cars? What kind of technology was available? What about the furniture? I collect 100’s of photos of all these things. Very few end up in the books, but the essence of what I’ve seen does… I hope!

What do you hope children will take away from your illustrations for Stompin’ at the Savoy?

I hope that they can see themselves in his story. I love that he didn’t let his physical limitations stop him from doing what he wanted to do. He had to sit on a high stool to reach the drums. He couldn’t reach the bass drum pedal on the stool, so he had a special one made. He even embraced what surely started out as a derogatory nickname and called himself Chick.

Like Moira, many of your books for children are biographies. What draws you to those projects? What are the challenges and the rewards of working on biographies?

I especially like learning about people I may never have heard of and learning new things about people I have heard of. If I don’t know the information, chances are that most kids don’t either. With a biography there’s the challenge of capturing a likeness. Sometimes there are lots of photos and videos of the person I’m depicting to reference. Other times, not so much. I may need to distill the person’s facial features and try to figure out what they might look like from a different angle or as a child when there really aren’t any reference photos to go by. I want to do them justice because I feel honored to be involved in uncovering their stories.

You can connect with Laura Freeman on

Her website | Instagram | Twitter

Thanks so much Moira and Laura for these insightful answers! I’m sure readers are as excited to read Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums as I am! While we have to wait a little longer to find the book in bookstores, everyone’s invited to enter my giveaway for a chance to win a copy!

Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums Giveaway

 

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in Twitter giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Stompin’ at the Savoy, written by Moira Rose Donohue| illustrated by Laura Freeman 

Here’s how to enter:

  • Follow Sleeping Bear Press 
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite kind of music for an extra entry (each reply gives you one more entry).

This giveaway is open from December 3 through December 9 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on December 10. The prize book will be sent from Sleeping Bear Press in January.

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

To learn more about Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums and other marvelous books from Sleeping Bear Press, visit their website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stompin-at-the-savoy-cover

You can preorder Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

November 2 – It’s Picture Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-song-for-everyone-cover

About the Holiday

November is all about picture books thanks to Picture Book Month founder author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas and co-founders author/illustrators Katie Davis, Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Wendy Martin, and author Tara Lazar. This month-long international literacy initiative celebrates print picture books and all that they offer to young (and even older) readers. With gorgeous artwork and compelling stories, picture books open the world to children in surprising ways. They entertain, explain, excite, and help children learn empathy and understanding. If you want to learn more about the holiday and read engaging daily posts about why picture books are important by your favorite authors, illustrators, and others in the children’s publishing industry, visit picturebookmonth.com

The Song for Everyone

By Lucy Morris

 

There was a tiny window “too high in the eaves to be noticed from below and too small to let in much daylight.” But one day a “delicate tune” wafted from it’s open panes and floated along the street. A boy trudging to school alone heard it and stopped to listen. As the music swirled around him, he felt happy and he skipped along on his way. Soon an old woman, slow and bent with age, walked by on her way to the market. As she passed under the window, “the sound flowed down and wrapped itself around her weary body.” Suddenly, she felt strong and joyful. A homeless cat followed stray notes from this tantalizing music and was led to two children “who longed for a cat of their own.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-song-for-everyone-schoolboy

Copyright Lucy Morris, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The music continued to float from the open window, always seeming to know who needed to hear it and making the townspeople begin to care for and connect with each other in new ways. The town grew content and peaceful. But then one morning, the music stopped. The town seemed gray and lifeless, and the people felt sad, lonely, and weary. The people held a meeting and decided to see what was behind the open window. The little boy who’d first heard the music climbed up the ladder of townspeople and clambered inside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-song-for-everyone-happy

Copyright Lucy Morris, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

There he found a little wren. She was tired and hungry and her song had left her. The boy promised to help her and he yelled down to the people gathered below. They gathered food and provisions and sent them up to the window in a basket. Two days passed, but the wren stayed silent. But then early one morning…! “A melody, a song. A sound so sweet” once again floated into the air and through the streets. Everyone rushed from their homes and crowded together under the window. There they saw “the boy and the wren making music together. Singing the song for everyone.” A they listened, the central square came alive with dancing, twirling, and playing.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-song-for-everyone-meeting

Copyright Lucy Morris, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Lucy Morris’s lovely story—in both words and pictures—reveals the power of one person’s voice and/or actions to transform lives. The wren, singing from a darkened window offers her song, a melody that brings happiness and makes passersby realize they are not alone. Readers can imagine the cheered schoolboy, old woman, and new cat owners sharing their new-found joy with classmates, store clerks, other shoppers, parents, and friends, who also pass their sudden optimism to others until this small community embraces each other as never before. But one wren (or person) cannot sustain it alone. As the townspeople in Morris’s story discovers, it takes a group effort, and it is that coming together that truly creates change.

Morris’s beautiful, lyrical language is as light and buoyant as the wren’s song. Her word choices evocatively describe both the angst, weariness, and world view of the townspeople before the wren’s appearance and the joy, peace, and hopefulness they acquire after accepting her song.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-song-for-everyone-dancing

Copyright Lucy Morris, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Morris’s charming illustrations, rendered in a serene color palette portrays a town where, despite the close proximity of the homes and buildings, the people are apparently distanced from each other. The wren’s music is depicted as a garland of flowers that once released into the air do not scatter, but remain strongly together to fill the streets, wrap around the needy, lead the lost, shelter the cold, and lift up those who need a boost.

While the loss of the wren’s song brings sadness, readers will also see that the wren has already accomplished much. Instead of returning to their solitary lives, the townspeople now gather together to discuss a solution. As a little girl addresses the group, kids will understand that their voice is important too. Images of the townspeople each contributing to the wellbeing of the wren and then celebrating her recovery reinforces Morris’ message of community.

A moving and triumphant story that will touch all readers and encourage them to use their individual talents to benefit others, The Song for Everyone will become a thoughtful favorite and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1547602865

To learn more about Lucy Morris, her books, and her art, visit her website

Picture Book Month Activity

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Books to Love, Books to Read Book Bag

 

True book lovers can’t go anywhere without a book (or two or three) to read along the way. With this easy craft you can turn a cloth bag into a kid-size book bag!

 

Supplies

  • Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template
  • Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
  • Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
  • Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
  • Scissors
  • Small sharp scissors (or cuticle scissors) for cutting out the center of the letters
  • Fabric glue
  • Thread (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-books-to-love-bag-empty

Directions

  1. Print the sayings and cut out the letters
  2. Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
  3. Cut out cloth letters
  4. Iron cloth bag if necessary
  5. Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
  6. Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
  7. Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
  8. Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag

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You can find The Song for Everyone at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review