Prather’s Pick: ‘This Jazz Man’ offers tribute to timeless musical style
June 18, 2018
"This Jazz Man," by Karen Ehrhardt and illustrated by R.G. Roth, is this week's featured picture book. The book was recommended by Tania Bade, a librarian at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries. Though it has a copyright of 2006, the book is new to the children's room, and I absolutely love it.
Intended as a tribute to jazz and the musicians who brought it to life, the book is actually more than that. It is an introduction to jazz music, done in a toe-tapping style. In the "story," the reader meets nine members of a band, each representing a well-known musician. A brief biography of each musician's contributions to jazz is included at the end of the book.
As the reader opens the book, he or she finds a clever "this book belongs to …" tag. It's a ticket to "The Jazz Man" with a space for the book holder's name. There's even "Admit One" and numbers printed vertically on both sides of the ticket, making it appear authentic.
Then, the book begins, with the text set to the well-known rhythm of "This Old Man." The first jazz man is snapping his thumb on his other fingers.
"This jazz man, he plays one; He plays rhythm with his thumb, With a snap! snap! snazzy-snap!
Give the man a hand, This jazz man scats with the band."
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This jazz man, playing "one" is Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong (1900 — 1971). According to his biography, Armstrong was known for his nonsense singing (scat) and improvisation. He is the "undisputed ambassador of jazz."
The jazz man playing "two" makes music with his shoes. He's Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (1878 — 1949). Robinson was the musician who appeared in "The Little Colonel" with Shirley Temple.
And that's the way this delightful book goes, featuring seven other famous musicians, such as Thomas Wright "Fats" Waller and "Duke" Ellington, for a total of nine in all.
The illustrations were done in mixed media collage and printmaking on watercolor paper. The men's clothing appears to have been cut from some kind of printed papers.
This picture book is intended for children age 3 to 7.
"This Jazz Man" is published by Harcourt, Inc. The hardcover book costs $17.99. You can also find the book at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries … as soon as I return it.