Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Living In Music

Growing up in a small town in a small house, five rooms, did not mean we were small on music.  We had one of those big radio-record player units in a cabinet in our living room, front and center, circa no television.  My parents loved most kinds of music.  I still recall a favorite, Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White, and lots of big band tunes.  The music of George Gershwin was popular, especially Rhapsody in Blue.  The haunting beginning is what convinced me to pursuit playing the clarinet in the junior and high school bands.

Money was tight but my parents found a second-hand clarinet which served me well for all those years.  When it comes to making music or even listening to it, true hearts will find a way.  Trombone Shorty (Abrams Books For Young Readers, April 14, 2015) written by Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews with pictures by Bryan Collier is about keeping a dream alive and those who lift us closer to its realization.

We have our own way of living down here in New Orleans, and our own way of talking, too.

After bidding readers hello, Troy Andrews asks us to go back to the beginning to understand how he came to be given the nickname of Trombone Shorty.  Music was and is important to him because it was and is important to his community.  You cannot walk the streets of Treme anytime without hearing melodies surrounding you like a welcome breeze.

His older brother, James, played trumpet in his own band.  Troy and his friends imagined themselves in this band too.

James would say.

During Mardi Gras, a festive time of celebration with the sounds of the brass bands, Troy was mesmerized.  Those parades lifted the spirits of everyone.  This boy's mind likened the kind of music he wanted to make to those foods most enjoyed by the people of Treme; a little bit of everything blended to perfection.

While it was difficult to have a band without instruments, Troy and his companions designed their own and used them until one very special day.  Troy found an old discarded trombone.  He blew music out of that metal.  It was much bigger in size than he was; so much so that James shouted out his nickname


Wherever Troy went, the trombone went too, even in his bed at night.  It went with him to a special event, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.  It was here that a world-renowned musician noticed the boy, inviting him to play on the center stage.  That event was all Trombone Shorty needed to validate what he already knew to be true.

Page after page, reading the words written by Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, readers hear a note played in their hearts grow into a loud, glorious tune.  The beat of New Orleans and Treme music is captured with the use of language in the narrative.  It's the vivid descriptions of the places and the people and the sounds of both which create a song of this man's life; soft and slow, loud and fast and pauses.  Here is another sample passage.

But before you can understand how much music means to me, you have to know how important it is to my hometown, my greatest inspiration.
I grew up in a neighborhood in New Orleans called Treme.  Any time of day or night, you could hear music floating in the air.

Rendered in pen and ink, watercolor, and collage the illustrations on the dust jacket, book case and the interior pages are beautifully brilliant.  It's as if Bryan Collier has woven Trombone Shorty's musical magic into his illustrations. The sound from his trombone shouts out from the front of the dust jacket.  To the left, on the back, Troy and his friends are featured with their home-made instruments and the newly discovered broken trombone.  You will not be able to resist reaching out to touch the texture here and on every page.  The book case shifts from the jacket's rich, warm hues to cool, calm and classic colors.  Each of the four different images can be found inside the book.

The endpapers appear as two-tone gold marbleized paper.  Beneath the bold text on the title page is a close-up of Trombone Shorty as a child playing his trombone.  Each two pages is a masterful exhibit of design and layout.  We are given panels, interplay of shadow and light to distinguish different places; street views intermingled with interior views, and symbolic balloons.

I have many favorite illustrations but one which portrays the dedication of Troy Andrews is him sleeping with his trombone.  The pages are a fusion of blues, patterns, swirls, books, a bed, a boy and his beloved musical instrument.  It's a blissful scene but also depicts dedication in its purest form.

Trombone Shorty written by Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews with pictures by Bryan Collier is worthy of standing ovation after standing ovation.  It's a nonfiction picture book triumph from beginning to end.  Readers can see how holding onto a dream and receiving support can make it a reality.  An Author's Note with black and white photographs is part of the concluding back matter.  There are extensive Acknowledgments and information About The Trombone Shorty Foundation.  Bryan Collier has also included a valuable Illustrator's Note. 

The link attached to Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews' name takes you to his official music web pages.  For more information about Bryan Collier please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  TeachingBooks.net offers a pronunciation of Bryan Collier's name.  Bryan Collier and this title are featured by author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  A series of video interviews of Bryan Collier can be found at ReadingRockets.  In a May 1, 2013 interview at School Library Journal Bryan Collier was highlighted.  Enjoy the book trailer.

Every week I am excited to continue participating in the 2015 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by educator Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy.  I am anxious to see her and the other bloggers choices each week.  I hope you stop by there too.

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