In this unusual and inventive picture book that riffs on the language and rhythms of old New Orleans, noted picture book biographer Jonah Winter (Dizzy, Frida, You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?) turns his focus to one of America's early jazz heroes in this perfectly pitched book about Jelly Roll Morton.
Gorgeously illustrated by fine artist Keith Mallett, a newcomer to picture books, this biography will transport readers young and old to the musical, magical streets of New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century.
A Neal Porter Book
Jonah Winter is the award-winning author of more than 25 non-fiction picture books including the New York Times Best Illustrated Books Diego and Here Comes the Garbage Barge!, and the highly acclaimed Frida and Dizzy. Winter has been listening to Jelly Roll Morton's music since he was a young boy.
Keith Mallett has been drawing and painting for as long as he can remember. As an artist and designer he has created posters and fine art prints for over thirty years. He lives in San Diego with his wife Dianne and his German Shepherd Pi. How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz was his first children's book.
“This informational picture book covers self-proclaimed "Inventor of Jazz" Jelly Roll Morton's contribution to the musical scene." Winter describes the atmosphere of the early 1900s in general terms and often uses rhyming verses to advance the story ("I thought I heard Mister Jelly Roll too/Sayin' 'I invented jazz in 1902./It was me who invented jazz-'cause it sure wasn't you.'/I thought I heard him too..."). The text is confusing in places, and readers may have to refer to the back matter to clarify certain statements. For instance, the author explains that Morton didn't truly invent jazz but created his own, inimitable style. It's Mallett's attractive, painterly, oil-on-canvas illustrations that are the real draw here, with many spreads featuring dark silhouettes positioned on vibrant backgrounds of orange and yellows among a swirl of musical notes. VERDICT While this book isn't one of Winter's strongest works, there is a dearth of material on this star jazz musician, making it suitable supplemental material on the Jazz Age or a possibility for biography collections.” —School Library Journal