[Nonfiction Wednesday] Celebrate Jazz with “J is for Jazz” and “Jazz Day”

Fats here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2017 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

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I have two award-winning nonfiction books to share with you today. One of them was included in NPR’s Best Books of 2016. If you like music—especially jazz!—then be sure to check these books out!


nfpb0301aJ is for Jazz

Author: Ann Ingalls
Illustrator: Maria Corte Maidagan
Publisher: Bright Connections Media (2014)
Award: Annual American Graphic Design Award (Winner, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1622670264
ISBN-13: 978-1622670260

J is for Jazz is a fun alphabet book for easy reading. The book begins with a story about jazz that writer Ann Ingalls put together to give young readers a background on the kind of music that became popular in America in the late 1800’s.

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B is for Blues, the heart of jazz.

Its sad, simple sound helped give jazz its flavor. Some of the best jazz cats have been hip to the blues!

C is for Count Basie, the jazz pianist and songwriter.

The Count said, “If you play a tune and a person don’t tap their feet, don’t play the tune.”

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As you can see from the quote above, each alphabet comes with a short explanation or trivia about jazz. This book is great not only for teaching the alphabet to younger readers but also introducing jazz to them. J is for Jazz includes a glossary of jazz slang that kids can learn about. My favorite thing about this book is Maria Corte Maidagan’s superb illustrations. I love her drawing style and how she used bold colors in her design. ♦


nfpb0301dJazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph

Writer: Roxane Orgill
Illustrator: Francis Vallejo
Publisher: Candlewick Press (2016)
Award: Boston Globe Horn Book Award (Winner, Picture Book, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0763669547
ISBN-13: 978-0763669546

In Jazz Day, Roxane Orgill described the historic photograph that graphic designer Art Kane took for a special edition on American jazz that Esquire published in 1958. The famous photograph was called Harlem 1958. Art Kane was no professional photographer by any means but Esquire gave him the assignment anyway. He wasn’t sure if he could carry out his plan to take a photo of jazz musicians in front of a Harlem brownstone but he persisted.

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“The Golden Age of Jazz”

The cover’s cerulean
For the special supplement
Esquire, January 1959
Inside, the big picture:
Fifty-seven musicians
All living, all gathered
In black and white
A long August morning
Stretched into afternoon
Fifty-seven musicians
Standing on a stoop
Spilling on the sidewalk
Still talking
Can you hear the music
Window street brownstone
No sky
Although the sky
Was in fact cerulean
That day

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Through lyrical verses based on fact, Roxane Orgill re-creates that monumental day and captures the personality of some of the jazz musicians who showed up for that photograph. Jazz Day is Francis Vallejo’s first book and his paintings are breathtaking. The illustrations magically transport readers to that hot summer’s day in 1958 with fifty-seven jazz musicians. At the end of the book, the author included short bios of the people she wrote about in her poems, as well as a long list of bibliographic references that readers could check out.

Below you’ll find the actual Harlem 1958 photograph and a poem from Jazz Day that pays tribute to Art Kane.

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You
A Praise Poem for Art Kane

You got there early and wondered if anyone would show up.
They did, like some big happy class reunion. You begged them
to get into position. Some listened. Most didn’t. You felt alone.

Unexpectedly they began to move, slowly, at your command.

You didn’t tell anybody where to stand, or how. You didn’t
shoo away the boys who perched on the curb at the bottom
of your picture frame. You didn’t tell weary Count Basie to get
up and stand with the rest. When the old guy called “the
Lion” wandered off, you let him be. You didn’t get annoyed at
Dizzy, clowning. Or at Rex, blowing his horn. You waited.
You watched. You trusted. You. ♦

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