Trombone Shorty

“Lots of kids have nicknames, but I want to tell you the story of how I got mine. Just like when you listen to your favorite song, let’s start at the beginning. Because this is a story about music.”

And so Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews welcomes his readers into the story of his early years. Trombone Shorty, written by Andrews and illustrated by Bryan Collier, demonstrates how the path to greatness often begins when we are young. (My favorite part of the book is in the backmatter, where readers see an actual photograph of a very young Andrews playing his trombone on stage for Bo Diddley.)

Here are three things I like about this book:

  • Instead of focusing on his accomplishments as a world-class musician, Andrews chose to tell the story of his youth and how he became a trombonist. This makes the story more relatable and I imagine many young people will be inspired to pick up a new instrument themselves.
  • Illustrator Bryan Collier’s collages are a perfect fit – the different shapes, textures, and colors reflect the essence of jazz itself.
  • Trombone Shorty is both an autobiography of a fabulous young musician and an homage to the vibrant jazz community in New Orleans. The reader feels as though Andrews couldn’t have become the musician he is without the influence of his surroundings, and now Andrews is giving back and carrying on the jazz tradition in New Orleans. It’s a beautiful symbiotic relationship.

I recommend Trombone Shorty for ages 4-10. It is perfect for introducing jazz music to a young audience. After readers have finished the story, I suggest finding some of Andrews’ recordings or videos to listen and see the trombonist he became.

Thunder Rose

Thunder Rose is a welcome addition to the tradition of American tall tales. Author Jerdine Nolen has created the larger-than-life Rose, who rolls lightning into a ball, twists iron, and tames stampeding steers.

Here are three things I like about this book:

  • There are less tall tales featuring female protagonists; even fewer non-white females. Thunder Rose gives us a valiant hero to embrace from an underrepresented group.
  • Illustrator Kadir Nelson’s illustrations convey the great expanse of the western frontier. His choice of viewpoint is unique and interesting – the reader is often looking up at Thunder Rose, which adds to the greatness of her personality.
  • Nolen has masterfully written a tale that has the feel of an old folktale, but also feels fresh.

Just under two thousand words, Thunder Rose is quite long, even though it is a fully illustrated book. While younger children may still be captivated by the tale, I would recommend this book for ages 6-10. It would be a great addition to a group of stories including Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, and John Henry.