The 5 O'Clock Band

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
The 5 O'Clock Band Book Poster Image
Trombone Shorty tale is joyous love letter to New Orleans.

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

Educational Value

Details about Trombone Shorty's childhood. Information on New Orleans: neighborhood called Tremé, French Quarter, Jackson Square, Mississippi River, steamboats, Mardi Gras Indian tribe and costumes,. New Orleans food: gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, andouille sausage, collard greens, okra, Instruments and other musical info: trombone, tuba, drums, "When the Saints Go Marching In," Louis Armstrong, lyrics of Mardi Gras Indians' song. New Orleans greeting "Where yat?" Author's Note at end includes more info on the city and the music, and the Trombone Shorty Foundation benefiting students.

Positive Messages

The important ingredients for success in music -- or life -- are dedication, honoring tradition, and love. Adults can advise, help, and mentor young people. When you hit a snag working toward your dreams, you can adjust your approach. Celebrate the special character of the place you're from.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Shorty has a dream: to be a bandleader. He forgets to meet his band at the appointed time only because he's engrossed in trombone practice. Shorty has warm, connected relationships with many adults in his community, including a celebrated neighborhood musician, a chef, and a Mardi Gras Chief. They all know him, greet him warmly, and offer helpful advice.  Trombone Shorty himself not only excels in music, but the Author's Note at end reveals that he heads up the Trombone Shorty Foundation, supporting talented New Orleans kids.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The 5 O’Clock Band by noted musician Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, and illustrated by multi-award winner Bryan Collier, is a follow-up to their previous book, Trombone Shorty, which garnered both a 2016 Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award. This book's a worthy companion, a story about young Shorty earning his music chops in New Orleans, and it brims with the life of that vibrant city. The message is stated outright: In order to succeed, you need dedication, love, and to honor tradition. And readers won't be able to look away from Bryan Collier's gorgeous, colorful art.

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What's the story?

In THE 5 O'CLOCK BAND, Shorty plays trombone in the 5 O'Clock Band, so called because they played together "every afternoon, after school and homework were finished." One afternoon, he's engrossed in practice and forgets to meet the band. Shorty worries: How can he be a bandleader if he can't be on time? While chasing after his friends, he comes across a series of adults who greet him --"Shorty, where y'at?" -- each giving him advice in turn. Musician Tuba Tremé tells him to keep tradition in mind. "Every bandleader needs to know where music came from in order to move it forward." Queen Lola feeds him from the window of her restaurant, advising him to infuse his work with love, as she does her cooking. And Big Chief of the Mardi Gras Indians counsels "dedication." When Shorty finally comes upon his band, he shares these "ingredients for success." As they march home to Tremé, they play "When the Saints Go Marching In."

Is it any good?

This joyous love letter to New Orleans feels like a surprise trip and a very happy jazz concert rolled into one, and readers can nearly hear the bright brass band parading to Jackson Square. The 5 O’Clock Band is written by Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews himself, along with co-author Bill Taylor, and illustrated by the incomparable Bryan Collier. The team's unbeatable. While it's unclear who wrote what -- did Trombone Shorty provide the New Orleans color and biographical detail, and Bill Taylor the picture book know-how?  However they divvied it, it works. Kids will relate to the story since it focuses on young "Shorty" as he leads his friends in a local brass band, and will have fun meeting the adult characters who bring out the special spice of one of our most distinct and colorful cities. "Where y’at?" In the Quarter!

Collier's art is staggeringly gorgeous. It's shot through with light and bright color, studded with textural collage elements, and celebrates the character of the city as well as the characters who people it. His faces -- such beautiful faces! -- keep us rapt and riveted. In this book, all the elements combine to create a lovely celebration of the rich musical and cultural heritage of New Orleans.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Shorty's hopes and dreams in The 5 O’Clock Band. What does Shorty want to accomplish? Do you have something special you want to do? Are you worried in any way that you won't be able to do it?

  • Do you have adults like Tuba Tremé, Queen Lola, and Big Chief who give you good advice? Who are they? How have they helped you?

  • If "Everyone’s hometown is special," how is yours special? How is the place you live helping you "grow into the person you’ll become"?

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