Award-Winning AWB (Award-Winning-Books) 2015 Books Diversified - Rainbow Colours of Literature GB Challenges Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Bebop, Soul, and Jazz in Little Melba’s Big Trombone and Hey Charleston!


Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, as well as reading challenges that we have pledged to join this year.

We have just launched our new reading theme for July – August: Diversified – Rainbow Colours of Literature.


I deliberately searched for these two picturebook biographies – I will be doing a series of these multicultural PBBs in the next two months.

IMG_2192Hey Charleston! The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band

Written by: Anne Rockwell Illustrated by: Colin Bootman
Published by: Carolrhoda Books Minneapolis, 2013
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins was a former slave who made it his life’s work to turn bad into good. When he found two orphans near the train tracks and took them in, he didn’t realize how, with beat up old instruments, a hundred dollar donation, and an abandoned warehouse – the Jenkins Orphanage Band would soon be born.


From Charleston, the Reverend was able to bring the orphans to New York, marched during the Inaugural Parade for US President Theodore Roosevelt  and even made it to Paris and London. But this didn’t happen overnight.


Reading the book made me marvel at this man’s vision, his sense of purpose, and his charisma. His genuine desire to transform darkness into light, filling it with rag music shines through. Teachers would be happy to note that there is an extensive author’s note at the end of the book as well as selected bibliography for further research.

Here is a youtube clip of the Jenkins Orphanage Band that I found in Youtube – it’s just amazing how many lives have been transformed through this one man’s vision.

Little Melba and Her Big TromboneIMG_2183

Written by: Katheryn Russell-Brown Illustrated by: Frank Morrison
Published by: Lee & Low Books, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Little Melba Doretta Liston was born in Kansas City in 1926 at a time when the streets and “avenues were lined with jazz clubs, street bands, and folks harmonizing on every corner.”

It is not surprising that little Melba breathes, lives, and even dreams music:


While it was initially difficult for her to learn how to play the trombone with her being such a wee little thing, Melba was determined, patient, and tenacious. It is of great significance too that she fell in love with her instrument and she had Grandpa John to show her how to “cradle the horn.”


Things weren’t easy though for Little Melba – she had to contend with jealous boys from her own band who called her names, perform alongside men who seem to have their own cliques and regarded her as largely invisible – the image below just captured my heart because it just shows that Little Melba would NOT be invisible no matter what –


to being an outstanding African performer in a crowd of stoic, unresponsive predominantly-White crowd.


Clearly the illustrations in this book moved me tremendously. The overall layout, book design, and typography were also thoughtfully considered and come together in such a coherent fashion that wasn’t too over-the-top or flashy, just right.

Here is a youtube clip of the Quincy Jones Band with a solo performance by none other than not-so-little Melba Doretta Liston – such soothing, beautiful music that feeds the soul. I am glad to have known the artistry of jazz performer Melba Liston through this picturebook biography.


Little Melba and her Big Trombone: Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Honor
American Library Association (ALA), Notable Children’s Book American Library Association (ALA), Best Books of the Year School Library Journal

Hey Charleston: 2014 NCSS Carter G. Woodson Book Award Winner, Elementary Level

#AWBRead2015 Update: 54-55 (35)


#nfpb2015 Challenge Update: 33 (25)

10 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Bebop, Soul, and Jazz in Little Melba’s Big Trombone and Hey Charleston!

  1. trkravtin

    Great post! Love the music books. :->


  2. I really enjoyed Little Melba. You should read Josephine illustrated by Christian Robinson, another fun music book.


  3. Love the story of that first one, Myra. Hard to believe there is a clip of the band-wonderful! And since I played the trombone, must get the Little Melba book. I wasn’t so passionate, but loved being in the band!


  4. Little Melba looks so gorgeous! I want to grab it next time I am at the public library 🙂


  5. Myra – There are so many good jazz books for kids. If you need a list, I would be happy to send you a bunch of titles. Thanks for sharing these.


  6. Myra – These books are incredible. Both of these are going on our TBR stack. Thank you!


  7. I loved Melba! I recently read Trombone Shorty, and really enjoyed that one as well. I think it’s my next Wednesday post!


  8. Oh these titles both look like so much fun. Would love to get them for my class to read when my Dad visits my class. He loves jazz music and would really love to share that with kids I think.


  9. Katheryn

    Greetings Myra,
    Thanks so much for your kind words about Little Melba. I’m so glad that you enjoyed the story. I’m thrilled that so many more people now know about Melba Liston.

    All the best,
    Katheryn Russell-Brown


  10. Pingback: [Nonfiction Wednesday] Trombone Prince of New Orleans: Trombone Shorty! | Gathering Books

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