And we’re back with another collection of themed picture books! Continuing with this month’s performing arts theme, today we’re looking at picture books that celebrate musical expression.
I am passionate about – some might say obsessed with – picture books. The incredible variety of formats, themes, art forms, styles, topics and creators available always amazes and inspires me.
This Five Finds celebration of the power of music really has a bit of everything in it – we’ve got singers, trombone players and a violinist all taking centre stage, sharing their music and their stories.
Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews came from the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans – a community rich in spirit and music, but poor in opportunities and material wealth. Troy and his friends dreamed of being musicians like their jazz idols, but since their families couldn’t afford to buy them instruments, they fashioned their own makeshift instruments and formed their own band! From these humble roots, Troy rose to the highest heights of the jazz world, performing to great acclaim in concert halls around the country, but he never forgot where he came from, or lost touch with the community that raised him. A 2016 Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Award Winner.
With text by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrations by Caldecott Honor medalist Brian Selznic, you just know this picture book is going to be spectacular. Marian Anderson has been hailed as one of the greatest singers in American history, who achieved incredible fame and success throughout Europe, but whose race meant that she was barely known in her own country. Though her career was marred by racism, prejudice, and adversity, Marian Anderson faced life’s many challenges with grace, dignity and a deep well of inner strength. While she is perhaps best remembered for her historic 1939 concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, which drew an integrated crowd of over 75,000 adoring fans, this groundbreaking event is only one aspect of a life that was lived to the very fullest.
Imagine living your entire life in a landfill, without access to clean running water, electricity or even fresh, unpolluted air. This was the everyday reality of Ada Rios and the residents of Cateura, one of countless towns built of garbage dumps around the world. Ada’s dream of learning the violin seemed impossible, but life in her village would change forever with the arrival of Favio Chávez, a music teacher who was committed to changing the lives of Cateura’s children. Chávez used trash from the landfill to create beautiful, working instruments for Ada and the other children of her community, and thus the Recycled Orchestra was born. Ada’s Violin is an inspiring tale of perseverance, hope and triumph in the face of the most incredible odds.
Melba Doretta Liston always had music in her soul. She taught herself to play the trombone when she was only seven years old, and she was touring the country with a jazz band while still a teenager. As both a woman and an African-American the odds were always against her, but Melba never let anything stand in her way, and she would one day become of the greatest jazz artists of the twentieth century, creating incredible music for such famed performers as Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday. Though she was but little, Melba was always fierce.
Florence Mills always dreamed of being a professional singer, and with the voice of an angel, she had the talent and the drive to make her dream a reality. A talented singer and dancer, Florence thrilled audiences in 1920s New York, eventually starring in plays and musicals on Broadway – no mean feat for the daughter of former slaves in pre-Civil Rights Movement America.
But Florence Mills never lost sight of where she came from, and Harlem’s Little Blackbird would turn down the role of a lifetime to instead devote herself to supporting all-black musicals and promoting fellow African-American artists in their struggles against bigotry and prejudice.
Oh, and did I mention the illustrations are from Christian Robinson?!? They’re just as stunning as you would expect.
I hope you’ll find these incredible stories as inspiring as I did! What are some of your favourite music-themed picture books? I’m always looking for new titles to explore and love!