In Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa, Caldecott Honor recipients, Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney, bring us a lyrical tale of the life of the great jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald. Everything about this picture book is musical from the movement in the illustrations to the rhythm of the writing. The different sections of the book are even separated into “tracks.”
The story of this jazz great is narrated by a cat, Scat Cat Monroe. This adds an element of fun to the otherwise factual book. Scat cat uses lots of slang and figures of speech in the telling of his story.
But when the band joined in, Ella rolled out a tune sweet enough to bake.”
When Chick and Ella performed together, they were grits with gravy…”
Kids, young and old can learn a lot from Ella Fitzgerald. This book shows how she conquered racial differences by being one of the first musicians to perform to mixed audiences. We also learn from Scat Cat, that Ella was able to face her fears and overcome them. Another thing I learned and admire about Ella Fitzgerald is her willingness to learn from others.
The illustrations done by Brian Pinkney are sure to draw young readers in. The unique style was inspired by Harlem Renaissance Artists from Ella Fitzgerald’s time. The illustrator used the color pallet of the Art Deco movement to tint his scratchboard pictures.
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The picture book on its own is a joy to read, but when paired with the audio version, it’s pure delight. I was able to download it for just over $6 from Audibles, and I’m so glad I did! It is narrated by Billy Dee Williams. His smooth voice really portrays the smooth jazz feel of the era. While the narrator reads the story, jazz music is played in the background. We even get to hear Ella’s voice when a clip of her smash hit, “A Tisket-a Tasket” is played just after the author tells us about it in the book. I really think it’s worth the money to combine the book with the audio reading. I’m including a link to the audio version for your convenience.
My family and I really enjoyed this children’s book about a bold woman who followed her dreams and left behind a jazz legacy. While listening to the audio version, I caught my daughter drumming her hands on the table. This gave me the idea to make a snare drum for her out of recycled materials.
Here’s what we used and how we made it in case you want a snare drum of your own.
Materials: empty pie tin, cereal box cut open, parchment paper, liquid glue, washi tape, rice, chopsticks
Steps to build it:
- First, we found an old pie tin and traced the opening of it onto a side of a cardboard cereal box.
- We cut the inside of the circle we traced onto the cereal box to make the cardboard circle slightly smaller than the opening of the pie tin.
- Then we used that cardboard circle to trace and cut out a piece of parchment paper.
- Next, we added 3 teaspoons of rice into the pie tin. (This will give it the “snare” effect.)
- Then we placed a bead of liquid glue all the way around the lip of the pie tin and placed the cardboard circle on top. (We put the printed side of the cardboard face down so it didn’t show.)
- Once the glue dried, we put another bead of glue along the outside edge of the cardboard circle and carefully laid the parchment paper on top of it.
- After that glue dried, we finished our drum by outlining it with washi tape.
- Then we found a pair of chopsticks to use as drum sticks.
I found Ella Fitzgerald’s song, “A Tisket, A Tasket” on YouTube, and my daughter played her snare drum along to the beat of the song.
I wrote this review as part of Picture Book Month 2016. You can learn more about Picture Book Month here.