ELLA FITZGERALD

THE TALE OF A VOCAL VIRTUOSA

In this terrific picture-book biography, Scat Cat Monroe, a slick, fast-talking cat tells the story of Ella Fitzgerald, the Queen of Scat. Scat Cat (who shares author credit on the title page) claims to have been there from the start and considers himself the keeper of Ella’s flame. Cleverly organized in four tracks instead of chapters, his account chronicles Fitzgerald’s unlikely debut at an Apollo Theatre talent contest as a 17-year-old who sings only because she’s too scared to dance. From there, it moves to her rousing success with the Chick Webb Orchestra, and then to her eventual teaming up with Dizzy Gillespie, when she would rechart the course of bebop. The prose is jazzy and rhythmic in the voice of a hipster, and it’s expertly illustrated with images inspired by the works of Harlem Renaissance artists, clueing readers to several departure points for further study. In this vein, the team provides useful afterwords explaining their methods and the historical backdrop to the story—complete with bibliography, videography, and selected discography. The design of this effort is quite remarkable; from time to time, words splash across the pages, and change in font and size, effectively mirroring rhythms and meanings. Using Scat Cat as the narrator allows easy access for younger readers, and his in-the-know voice will win over older ones. Anyone who enjoyed the Pinkneys’ other cultural collaborations—Alvin Ailey (1995) and Duke Ellington (1998)—will love what they’ve done with Ella. Others may simply find themselves inspired by these tales of her genius for invention. Cool. (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-0568-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

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An early reader that kids will want to befriend.

NOT ME!

In an odd-couple pairing of Bear and Chipmunk, only one friend is truly happy to spend the day at the beach.

“Not me!” is poor Chipmunk’s lament each time Bear expresses the pleasure he takes in sunning, swimming, and other activities at the beach. While controlled, repetitive text makes the story accessible to new readers, slapstick humor characterizes the busy watercolor-and-ink illustrations and adds interest. Poor Chipmunk is pinched by a crab, buried in sand, and swept upside down into the water, to name just a few mishaps. Although other animal beachgoers seem to notice Chipmunk’s distress, Bear cheerily goes about his day and seems blithely ignorant of his friend’s misfortunes. The playful tone of the illustrations helps soften the dynamic so that it doesn’t seem as though Chipmunk is in grave danger or that Bear is cruel. As they leave at the end of the book Bear finally asks, “Why did you come?” and Chipmunk’s sweet response caps off the day with a warm sunset in the background.

An early reader that kids will want to befriend. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3546-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.

A PLACE FOR PLUTO

If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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