Django: World's Greatest Jazz Guitarist

 
(i)

 

Moving bio of jazz guitarist can be a little hard to follow.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Besides learning about the specifics of Django's life, the author's note details the times in which he grew up and performed.

Positive messages

Great lessons in beating the odds and not being stopped by a disability.

Positive role models

Django's commitment to his music is inspirational. He doesn't let his disability stop him.

Violence & scariness

A fire severely burns Django.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that, though the ending of this book is happy
and Django is admirable for overcoming a disability, he suffers in a
terrible fire and comes out of the flames with severe burns. Also, the plotline -- the trajectory of Django's life -- may be difficult for some kids to follow since the poetry-like narrative is not very straightforward.

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What's the story?

As inspirations go, Django Reinhardt is a good one. Born into a poor Gypsy family in Belgium a decade after the turn of the century, Django learned to play guitar at the family's fireside. When his parents moved to Paris a few years later, Django was able to help the family make money with his musical skill. Eventually he became one of the jazz greats playing at the smoky Paris nightclubs.Then one night, tragedy happens. Django's caravan goes up in flames and he was severely burned on his hand and leg. Would he ever play the guitar again?

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Written in an obscure, poetic narrative some kids may grow bored trying to figure out what's happening. They may also have trouble appreciating Django's accomplishments without some background. Fortunately parents have a crutch in the form of an author's note at the back, which details some of Django's background and historic circumstance. They can also get a heads up on the happy ending so they'll be able to reassure any kids upset by the tension of Django's injuries.

The gorgeous pictures are muted with scratchy charcoal lines and yellow tints lending them an air of historic import. They may also be better appreciated by older readers than the usual picture book audience.

Christensen's illustrations are gorgeous, conveying time past but still retaining a feeling of immediacy and intimacy.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Django's music and head to the library or look online for recordings. 

  • This book won a Schneider Family Book Award for "books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience." Django didn't let burns to his fingers stop him from playing guitar. Can you think of other admirable people who have overcome great obstacles in their lives?

  • Kids might be interested in learning more about Romany (gypsy) culture.

  • Why did Django live in a caravan? What kinds of hardships have the

  • Romany people suffered throughout history?

  • Kids can research other jazz guitarists like Chet Atkins, Jeff Beck,

  • George Benson and Lee Ritenour. How is Django's sound different? How is

  • it the same?

  • What was Paris like when Django lived there? What other jazz musicians

  • were a part of the music scene? Kids might want to make a poster

  • advertising a dream show of the jazz greats who were performing in

  • Paris at that time.

Book details

Author:Bonnie Christensen
Illustrator:Bonnie Christensen
Genre:Biography
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Roaring Brook Press
Publication date:September 1, 2009
Number of pages:32
Publisher's recommended age(s):5 - 9
Read aloud:5
Read alone:9

This review of Django: World's Greatest Jazz Guitarist was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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