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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Spirit Seeker John Coltrane's Musical Journey, Gary Golio, ill.Rudy Gutierrez

Guess where I saw this book?  Yep, on another Caldecott list, and this one is up there in my estimation.  Meaning?  Yep, you guessed it again, it probably has no chance.

But it is awesome and you should definitely read it if you are
*interested in music, especially jazz
*looking for a picture book biography with a little meat
*interested in spirituality
*interested in stories of recover from drug an alcohol addiction
*interested in black history

I really knew nothing about John Coltrane before I read this book, and now I could tell you many, many interesting facts about his challenging and oh, so gifted life.  John Coltrane grew up surrounded by music but faced some devastating family losses at a fairly young age. He struggled for most of the rest of his all too short life to overcome the addictions to drugs and alcohol.  Ultimately, he found that spirituality and music provided the solace he needed to survive, and he sought to share those gifts with the world. Sadly, he died at just 40 years old from cancer, likely as a result of the drug and alcohol abuse.

The story itself is very, very interesting.  It's well told and is much longer than many picture book biographies.  Each page has one or two paragraphs of information. There is additional information in the author's note as well. But what brings this book to the top for me is how the art in this story adds another dimension to the storytelling. At times it's bright, others, dark, but always powerful and engaging. There's lots going on in every illustration. Sometimes I found myself so sidetracked by the art that I had to go back and re-read the text because I hadn't really absorbed it.  The pictures convey mood beautifully as well as plot.  Another reviewer (clearly one way smarter than I), described it this way, "Wisely, Golio lets the pictures carry the melody while his text supplies the backbeat." Booklist (November 1, 2012 (Vol. 109, No. 5))

This book is gorgeous as well as being informative and is suitable for older elementary school as well as middle schoolers looking to get information about this jazz giant. Watch for it on the podium in January!

Just found THIS link to an interview with Gary Golio talking about the book!

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