Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra



Charged-up intro to Ellington, his band & music.

What parents need to know

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

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.

Kids say

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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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrator:Brian Pinkney
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Disney Publishing
Publication date:January 1, 1998
Number of pages:32
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 7
Award:Caldecott Medal and Honors

This review of Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra was written by

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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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Adult Written byLayneE September 20, 2010

Buy it!

Love it! Excellent, educational, easy to read!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
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 for teaching imagery and analogies. The original illustrations are that of an artistic genius, which recieved the Caldecott Honor Citation. It is also the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Honor. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in music history or who loves to read.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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