Jazz – Diversity Reading Challenge, 2015

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Today I am reviewing a book from category #8. I have read many Walter dean Myers’ books, but chose JAZZ because I have just completed writing a YA novel set predominantly in New Orleans and I am living a stone’s throw from Harlem so this book about the birth and beauty of Jazz connects well with me. It also reminds me of one of the highlights of summers in Nice, the CIMIEZ JAZZ FESTIVAL, held annually since 1948!

2015 Diversity Reading Challenge

2015 Diversity Reading Challenge

Title: Jazz

Written by: Walter Dean Myers

Illustrated by: Christopher Myers

Published by: Holiday House, 2006

Themes/Topics: Jazz, musicians, rhythm & rhyme

Suitable for ages: 7-11

Awards: 2007 Coretta Scott King Honor

Opening (2nd double spread):

Louie, Louie, how you play so sweet?
What have you heard down on Bourbon Street?
“I heard London
Turned it black and blue
Heard Copenhagen
Played it my way, too
Heard a sad song
Swung it into joy
Heard a bad tune
Spanked it like a naughty boy.”
Louie, Louie, how you play so sweet?
What have you heard, down on Bourbon Street?


Different instruments, influences, musicians and locations of the jazz movement are introduced through a series of fluid, rhythmic, rhyming poems. Each poem contributes to the story of jazz culture and history. From raft-time to swing, be-bop to fusion, fifteen poems burst and stride through the pages revealing the colors and sounds of this American-born music form.

Why I like This Book:

The two-page detailed introduction introduces the reader’s to the books topic and the time period and explains what was going on before and during the creation of jazz music and the “jazz age”. It explains that “ultimately, [jazz] becomes, like all art, a dialogue between the artist and the audience, a dialogue that is still vital, still fun, and still America’s gift to the world”.

The blending of the artwork and content of the punchy, rhythmic poems gives the reader a sense of what jazz music sounds like. For example, isn’t the ‘spanking a tune like a naughty boy’ a penetrating image in the opening I quoted? Or in a poem entitled Twenty-Finger Jack, a man named Jack is playing the piano, and the sound of the piano is written multiple times throughout the poem as Be ba boodie, be ba boodie, boo, be ba boodie, be ba ba ba, boodie, boo.

The poems are as varied as the fictional musicians they depict and reflect the spontaneity and vivacity of jazz music. This is an energetic and beautiful book that beats to its theme and would be a great addition to a unit on Jazz or New Orleans.


The introduction is very informative and helpful for any unit on jazz while the glossary in the back of the book explained a number of jazz terms that I would have had a hard time defining. The time-line is selective, but indicates some key moments in jazz history, starting with Congo Square in New Orleans in the 1800’s – the only place in America where African music and dance was legally allowed and encouraged at the time!

Take your kids to hear some live jazz if you can!

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3 Responses to Jazz – Diversity Reading Challenge, 2015

  1. Catherine says:

    I love jazz! Look forward to reading this. There was a jazz video on FB yesterday on the tube. So fun!

  2. What a unique book! I love really good jazz! Love the opening you shared, because it really gave me a feel for the book! After writing a novel based in New Orleans, I can only imagine how this would book would touch your soul!

    Sorry I haven’t been around. Just returned from 2 weeks of vacation.

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