This Jazz Man
Karen Ehrhardt, R.G. Roth
Harcourt Children’s Books
It’s been a long time since I reviewed a picture book! Last semester I had a class focused entirely on picture books, and because the professor was a former president of ALSC, she had TONS of new books being sent to her. I was reviewing them left and right, but this semester I’m focused on other things, and my personal pleasure reading tends to fall on the YA side of things. When this delightful book showed up in my storytime kit for this week, however, I knew I wanted to review it, because it’s awesome, and even if only my mom reads this review, that’s one more person who will enjoy This Jazz Man.
The text of This Jazz Man plays off the nursury rhyme “This old man/he played one…” Each of the nine “jazz men” represents a real musician; included are Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and others. Jazz man number two, for example, is Bojangles, who “makes music with his shoes/with a tap-tap! shuffle-slap!/give the man a hand.” Ehrhardt does a fantastic job of capturing the rhythmic qualities of jazz; it’s virtually impossible to read This Jazz Man aloud with adopting a syncopated, shuffle-slap rhythm of your own. The text introduces jazz terms like scat and be-bop, but the vocabulary is simple enough that young readers and listeners won’t be confused.
For older kids who are intrigued by the main text and want to learn more, the book also features some great back matter. A short paragraph gives the dates of each musician’s life and provides an introduction to his contributions to jazz music (side note: it’s too bad there aren’t any jazz women represented, although I suppose that might have proved more difficult to incorporate into the rhyme).
R.G. Roth’s print and collage illustrations pair nicely with the text. The loose, colorful quality of the illustrations complements the playful text. Visual clues will hint to adults and jazz-lovers about the identity of each jazz men. Younger children (including my VERY squirrelly four year olds ) will enjoy pointing out instruments, which are abstracted but recognizable. This one is a winner for all elementary school kids, and some younger ones as well.