Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Rock and Roll Persona

In 1983 a group of prominent names in the music industry formed the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame FoundationThe primary goal of this group after the establishment of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was to find a city in which to construct a building which would serve to honor the inductees and promote this genre of music.  It was September 2, 1995 when the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame welcomed visitors for the first time.

Prior to that time in 1986 the first inductees were named.  Of those sixteen men, one of ten performers is Elvis Presley.  Elvis Is King! (Schwartz & Wade Books, January 8, 2019) written by Jonah Winter with illustrations by Red Nose Studio chronicles this signature musician's rise to fame.

Elvis Is Born!
But alas, he is born
in a humble shack
on the wrong side of the railroad tracks,
the side where the poorest of the poor people live,
down down down in the Deep South---Tupelo, Mississippi.

Twenty-eight subsequent short, concise chapters highlight significant contributory events. At an early age Elvis's father is sent to jail for fourteen months.  Before and at ten as a shy little boy Elvis sings solo in church and at a county fair talent show.

Knowing Elvis has a gift, his mother buys him a guitar for his eleventh birthday.  This took a lot of saving and sacrifice.  The boy cannot stop singing and playing his guitar, even when he should not.  A fortuitous moment outside an African American church with gospel music singing makes a memorable impression.

Leaving Tupelo, hoping for a better future, the family lands in Memphis.  It's a struggle for the trio to live in a one-room apartment sharing a bathroom with other residents.  Elvis, now a teen, is the breadwinner and a student.  He decides it's time for a change.

With hair dyed black and wearing stand-out-in-the-crowd second-hand store clothes, Elvis croons his way to a crowd-pleasing success at his high school talent show.  Dixie Locke becomes Elvis's one true forever love.

After graduation Elvis haunts clubs listening to blues.  Recording a song on a record on his own leads to an important phone call; Sun Records wants to record Elvis!  It takes several tries but it's an instant success.

When people see Elvis perform, they go crazy at his movements and the sound of his voice.  The number of his fans grows but heartbreak is in the offing.  There are costs for fame not measured by dollars and cents.  Elvis is a star.

The length of the chapters, the number of sentences or phrases in each one, is determined by the portion of Elvis's life author Jonah Winter wishes to disclose.  Each chapter is a relevant layer forming the whole individual the public sees.  Specific word choices supply an easy conversational narrative.  Here is another chapter.

County Fair Talent Show
Look at Little Elvis up onstage,
shy as he can be, ten years old,
so small he has to stand on a chair to reach the microphone,
but when he opens his mouth to sing---
a tearjerker song about a dog that dies---
everybody listens to every word.  When he is done:
Clappin' and hootin'!
What a feeling that is.
(Fifth prize!)

One look at the open dust jacket and you know the artwork in this book is a showstopper much like Elvis.  The decision to have the text ELVIS like a neon sign and show only a portion of his face with that signature hair style is excellent.  To the left, on the back, Elvis with his eyes closed, is singing and playing his guitar as he vibrates before his audience on the stage.

On the underside of the dust jacket illustrator Red Nose Studio (Chris Sickels) displays elements from his pictures labeling them with how they were made.  They are shown in actual size.  He also asks readers to locate these objects in the story.

The book case is done in the blue seen on the jacket.  To the left, on the back, a microphone on a stand is placed on a stage.  On the front, the title is recreated with a star hanging from the top between "L" and "V".  Elvis's guitar is leaning against an empty folding chair.  Two different shades of blue, light and dark, cover the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page is an old radio with a single rose in a vase on top.  Above this is a family portrait.

All the illustrations

are hand-built three-dimensional sets shot with a Canon EOS 5D Markill Digital SLR camera.

Each scene is meticulously created replete with accurate details.  Some are full-page pictures and others span two pages.  Two accentuate the moment, the point of view shifts from bringing us close to the subject or giving us a larger view.  When the chapter reads

The First Cheeseburger Ever Eaten by Elvis

all we see is the table top of a booth with two beverage glasses and a single cheeseburger.  Elvis and his mother are seated opposite each other on benches.  We can only see their legs and feet.  His mother is barefoot.  It's as if we have stepped back in time with this individual.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  The background is in hues of sunset rose, orange and blue in the sky at day's end.  A large sign in neon letters spreads across most of the two pages.  It reads


Seated on top of the sign and looking over the city below is Elvis and Dixie Locke. Their backs are to us. Elvis has his guitar. 

Elvis Is King! written by Jonah Winter with illustrations by Red Nose Studio is a stellar picture book biography about this one-of-a-kind rock and roll musician.  It informs readers but also will inspire them to realize you can come from nothing and become exactly what you want to be.  The blend of words and art is fabulous.  Whether you are a fan or not, you will want this title in your professional and personal collections.  At the conclusion of the book there is a two-page author's note.

To learn more about Jonah Winter and Red Nose Studio, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Red Nose Studio has two other places to visit, here and here, for more about this title. Chris Sickels, Red Nose Studio, has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Jonah Winter is interviewed at Book Q&As With Deborah Kalb about this title.  At author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast this book is showcased.

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the other selections by participants in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

No comments:

Post a Comment