Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra

Book review by
Peter Lewis, Common Sense Media
Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra Book Poster Image
Charged-up intro to Ellington, his band & music.

Parents say

age 5+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book contains no objectionable content. The artwork is a pleasure, the text is jazzy, and combined they provide a transporting story that requires attention but repays a bit of effort.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLayneE September 20, 2010

Buy it!

Love it! Excellent, educational, easy to read!
Adult Written bymewsical_kk November 24, 2009

Excellent book, awesome illustrations

This book is excellent for teaching children about one of the greatest contributors to ragtime music. For parents who homeschool their kids, this book is great... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

A charged-up introduction to Duke Ellington, his band, and his music. Andrea Davis Pinkney tells the story in words as sparkling as the Duke's music, and her husband Brian's scratchboard artwork dances with color and pep. Kids will feel like they can step right into 1940s Harlem.


Is it any good?

This book calls up the spirit of Duke Ellington and his band through its whirling, swirling art and its vivid language. Although Andrea Davis Pinkney more than once pushes the lingo too far, leaving readers sprawling in the wake of her patter, mostly it is a fun and ear-opening ride, an exciting if taxing introduction to the jargon. Readers looking for a biography of Ellington should head elsewhere, for here the Pinkneys are trying to achieve a sense of time and place and impress readers with the effect that Ellington had both on the African-American community and on the world of music. It is not Ellington who rises from these pages, but his art.

As a read-aloud, Duke can be a strain for the reader as well as the listener; the text is so dazzling it blinds, then perhaps loses, its audience. Better, then, to let it hold its own as a read-alone so the words can be taken in at the reader's pace and savored like pieces of hard candy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Ellington's music. Have you heard any of his music? Does the book make you want to explore his music more?

Book details

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