A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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.