August 11 – It’s Elvis Week

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About the Holiday

Each year during the week in August surrounding the date of Elvis Presley’s death, fans gather in Memphis and at Graceland, his home that is now a monument to The King to celebrate his music, movies, and legacy. Events include concerts, workshops, dances, the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, and more. The annual Candlelight Vigil, which attracts tens of thousands of fans, is held from the evening of August 15 to the morning of the 16th. Participants carry a candle as they walk up the driveway to the Meditation Garden, listening to his music and taking in memorials created by fans. To learn more about Elvis Week, visit the Graceland website.

Elvis Is King

Written by Jonah Winter | Illustrated by Red Nose Studio 

 

Elvis is King by Jonah Winter and Chris Sickels’ Red Nose Studio is an eye-popping wonder for fans of The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll wanting to share their love for Elvis with their kids. In short, lyrical chapters with dramatic titles that are cleverly reminiscent of the sensational headlines Elvis generated throughout his life (and even after), Winter peels back Elvis’s rags-to-riches story, encapsulating the depth of poverty, talent, and ambition that fueled his life. It’s all here—his birth “in a humble shack / on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, / the side where the poorest of the poor people live…;” his reason for being: singing; and the county fair talent show, where ten-year-old Elvis got his first taste of adoration and a “Fifth Prize!” award.

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Image copyright Red Nose Studio, 2019, text copyright Jonah Winter, 2019. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Kids walk into the hardware store with Elvis’s barefoot mama, who “with pennies she saved…/ buys her eleven-year-old birthday boy / the most important gift he will ever receive. / It will be the key to his salvation.” Elvis plays that guitar everywhere, “All. The. Time.” There’s the moment Elvis overheard gospel singing coming from the African American Church and “The First Cheeseburger Ever Eaten by Elvis.” And that question: Why peanut butter and banana sandwiches? The answer’s here too.

When the family moves to Memphis, it’s up to teenage Elvis to make the money by “working nights as a ticket taker at a movie theater.” Then, suddenly during those years, Elvis finds the “Weird Teenage Elvis” inside him. He dyes his blond hair black and waxes it into a wave. At a thrift shop he buys green pants, a pink shirt, and a checkered jacket. Then at the high school talent show, he “KNOCKS ‘EM DEAD with his song.” And not only that “something happens, something big, when he’s up there: / He is no longer shy! / He can be whatever he wants to be—let loose, go crazy!”

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Image copyright Red Nose Studio, 2019, text copyright Jonah Winter, 2019. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Along the way he falls in love, graduates from high school, and soaks up the sounds of the blues on Beale Street. For his mama’s birthday, he goes to Sun Studios, where anyone can record themselves singing. “(It also makes *real* records of big-time singers— / and Sly Elvis knows this.)” Elvis has his first recorded song for just $3.98. A bit later he gets the call he’s been hoping for from Sun Studios and discovers his signature sound and moves. The song—”That’s All Right”—plays on the radio, and where’s Elvis? Hiding out. Will people like it? Five thousand requests and fifteen replays in one night say Yes!

And when Elvis walks on stage for the first time to sing his song, he’s met with an “AVALANCHE of screaming—in a good way!” Goggle-eyed girls just want to be near him, and it’s the same no matter where he travels. This “Good-Lookin’ Heartthrob Elvis” is soon to lose his “One True Love, / his little darlin’, Dixie Locke. He uses that feeling, though, in a song—”Heartbreak Hotel” that “rises to number 1 on the pop charts.” So “What Is This Crazy Music, Anyway?” It’s not exactly country and it’s not exactly rhythm and blues. “It’s… / ROCK ‘N’ ROLL, baby. / And Elvis is its KING…!”

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Image copyright Red Nose Studio, 2019, text copyright Jonah Winter, 2019. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Jonah Winter’s biography is in every way a loving tribute to Elvis Presley that also winks at his larger-than-life persona and the world’s obsession with him. Well-chosen adjectives presented in initial caps and attached to Elvis’s name, give titles to the phases of Elvis’s life and present an evocative way to show what and where he grew from and left behind on his rise to fame. Sprinkled with southern vernacular and touched with the cadence of a slow, considered southern drawl, Winter’s ingenious verses mirror song lyrics and echo themes that not only make up the country and blues standards that influenced Elvis’s music but that applied to his life. 

As always Chris Sickels’ Red Nose Studio artwork is nothing short of astounding. Each illustration is composed as a 3-D set handcrafted from polymer clay, wood, wire, fabric, and found objects. The intricate details and moving emotions, demonstrated in a look, by a gesture, and through perspective, give the illustrations a realism that goes beyond a photographic depiction to illuminate the heart of Elvis Presley’s story. Readers will want to linger over every page to absorb the cultural landscape and life-affirming moments that created The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

A joy to read aloud, Elvis Is King is an inspirational story for anyone with a dream, big or small. The personal, yet universal, story and phenomenal art make the book a stirring addition for home, school, and public libraries. 

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2019 | ISBN 978-0399554704

Discover more about Jonah Winter and his books on his website.

To learn more about the work of Chris Sickels and Red Nose Studio, visit his website.

Elvis Week Activity

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Elvis Coloring Page

 

Elvis wowed audiences and movie goers with his moves and flair. This printable coloring page shows Elvis in of his well-known dance poses. In honor of Elvis Week, why not share Elvis is King, this page, and some of Elvis’s songs or movies with your kids?

Elvis Coloring Page 

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You can find Elvis Is King at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 20 – It’s Jazz Appreciation Month

How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz by Jonah Winter and Keith Mallett picture book review

About the Holiday

Jazz Appreciation Month, nicknamed JAM, was initiated by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2002 to celebrate the heritage and history of jazz and to inspire people to embrace this musical form by attending concerts, listening to recordings, reading about jazz, and playing your own jazz music. The theme for JAM 2016 is an exploration of how jazz is a form of democracy in itself. Jazz works as a method of communication, brings people together, and can be enjoyed individually or in a group. This year’s events also remember the legacy of bandleader Benny Carter.

How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz

Written by Jonah Winter | Illustrated by Keith Mallett

 

So “here’s what could’ve happened” if you were the baby born to grow up and become one of the best, most innovative talents—maybe even the inventor—of jazz music: Living in New Orleans in the 1890s you might have been put under the spell of music by your godmother, who was a voodoo queen. This same godmother might have taken you with her to a saloon, and later that night you may have accompanied her to jail when trouble broke out at the bar. In jail you may have cried and cried until the other people in your cell “commenced to singing—‘cause music was the only thing that calmed you down.”

When you were still a little child, it might have happened that you sat down at a piano and without training “commenced to play.” With that kind of talent you might have snuck out at night to play for adults who loved to hear your music and paid you well. But one morning your great-grandmother who was raising you may have seen you sneaking back home. She’d ask where you’ve been and how you got such a fancy suit.

When you tell her, she says “she wouldn’t have no LOWLIFE MUSICIAN livin’ under her respectable roof.” But music is who you are, and so still a child, you have nowhere to live and must make your way in the world. This is how and why in 1902 “a thing called JAZZ got invented by a man named Jelly Roll Morton.” At least that’s how the story goes.

Jelly Roll Morton knew the only way to escape his life and show people who’s the best is by playing the music inside him “one piano note at a time.” He had a recipe for jazz as spicy as a pot of Creole gumbo combining the rhythms of New Orleans, the beat of Africa, a dash of Spanish melodies and a pinch of Calypso syncopation. Stir in the Blues and add a bit of “messin’ around” and the tones of laughter. Throw in a teaspoon of symphony, with its flavorful instruments, and you’ve got a ragtime band that produces “high-steppin’, low-down, horn-blowin’ spectacularamicus!”

Jelly Roll Morton took his unique style to Mobile, Alabama and Chicago, Illinois and to every place in between, showing people how music should be played. And while Jelly Roll Morton might not have invented jazz all by himself, he “sure did spread it around the towns,” waving that magic spell everywhere he went.

The final pages give more information about the life of Ferdinand Joseph La Menthe, nicknamed Jelly Roll, as well as further reading and listening resources.

Immersing yourself in Jonah Winter’s biography of Jelly Roll Morton is akin to sitting at the knee of the most captivating storyteller. With mesmerizing rhythms Winter weaves the events of Morton’s life into a tale as enthralling as jazz music itself. Passages of the text are infused with the flavor of New Orleans: “I thought I heard Mister Jelly Roll too / Sayin’ ‘I invented jazz in 1902, / It was me who invented jazz—‘cause it sure wasn’t you.’”

Complimenting Winter’s story, Mallett paints Jelly Roll Morton’s environment in dark washes of night illuminated by the glow of music. The bayou of New Orleans, the dance halls, and city streets glimmer in golden hues from lamp light, the dawning sun, and the radiance of Jelly Roll’s piano keyboard. Notes fly away from Morton’s piano, becoming birds as they soar over the wakening city, and the recipe for “Jazz Gumbo” is stunningly illustrated.

How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz is a unique, fascinating true-life tale that will entice music lovers and all readers.

Ages 5 – 9

Roaring Brook Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1596439634

Jazz Appreciation Day Activity

CPB - Trumpet maze

Blow Your Horn for Jazz Day! Maze

 

Jazz music is amazing in so many ways! Enjoy this riff on the usual maze and trumpet your success to your friends! Print the Blow Your Horn for Jazz Day! maze here. And here’s the Solution.