Beauty, Art, Music in Literature Books Early Readers Genre Lifespan of a Reader Middle Grade Picture Books Poetry Poetry Friday Reading Themes

[Poetry Friday] The Rhythm of a Famous Photograph in “Jazz Day”

The story behind Art Kane's Famous Photograph in Esquire, 1958.

poetry friday

Myra here.

I am very pleased to be joining the Poetry Friday community again this week. Special thanks to the amazing poet Laura Purdie Salas for hosting this week in her blog Writing the World For Kids.

Since our current reading theme is all about beauty, art, music, I thought that this title, in particular, would be perfect.


Jazz Day: The Making Of A Famous Photograph

Written by Roxane Orgill Illustrated by Francis Vallejo
Published by Candlewick Press (2016)
ISBN-10: 0763669547 (ISBN13: 9780763669546). Literary Award: Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Picture Book (2016)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This brilliant picturebook told in verse revolves mainly around a famous photograph published in Esquire magazine in 1958, featuring American jazz. Art Kane did not even own a camera at the time, but pitched the idea of gathering as many jazz musicians as he could in front of a Harlem brownstone.

This is an imagined version of the difficulties, uncertainties, anxieties – not to mention excitement that Art Kane may have felt at the time.

As noted by Orgill in her Author’s Note found at the end of the book:

I’ve known of Art Kane’s photograph for about as long as I’ve been listening to jazz, which I got to know as a sideline to my job as a classical music critic. I’ve seen the documentary at least three times.

I marveled that musicians would show up for a group photo in such great numbers and that they would be having such a good time, as is obvious in the expressions on their faces. I wanted to tell the story of how the photo got made and of some of the people who happened to be in it.

Orgill also noted how surprised she was that she ended up writing this in verse, as she writes prose – mostly. However, the exercise of writing this story demanded something more distilled, more free-flowing, more with a beat, cadence, and rhythm to it – hence Jazz Day was born. My Poetry Friday offering is this poem of the young girl looking outside her window, marveling at all the goings-on in the ground before her as jazz musicians come together – how this pulse of the city – so alive, so vibrant, so musical – must have seemed like for her.

Naturally, I am offering a few video clips of some of the jazz musicians mentioned in this book. Enjoy!


#LitWorld2018GB Update: United States of America

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Singapore. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she serves as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads or meeting up with her book club friends, she is smashing that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life.

4 comments on “[Poetry Friday] The Rhythm of a Famous Photograph in “Jazz Day”

  1. Interesting book — did not know about the famous photograph. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A stunning post. I’m so glad I stopped by. I must get this book!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I adore this kid’s version of the events going on below. The details, and the total disregard for anything historic or meaningful–just give me back my street so we can play! So honest. I heard about this book on a podcast, but haven’t seen it yet. I just went and put it on reserve at my library–thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely book and amazing music–thanks Myra!

    Liked by 1 person

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