Monday, February 16, 2009

Louis Lives On

Pop Quizzity: In literature, what does it mean to truly value language? An answer could be gleaned, perhaps, from surveying the work of the word-coining master William Shakespeare or, on the other pole, of verbal uber-economist Ernest Hemingway. In children’s literature, however, the proof is in the pudding—or more specifically, in the texture of the pudding as it tickles the tongue, plays on the palette, and rolls down the roof of the mouth like a sliding rain. When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat (Chronicle Books), a word-wiggling giggling story of a young girl who is mentored by the Sultan of Scat himself, combines the playful prose of veteran children’s writer Muriel Harris Weinstein with the Coretta Scott King Award-winning talent of illustrator R. Gregory Christie to create a work that is an absolute pleasure to read aloud. Jazzy, smoky, melodic and happy, this dream yarn strings together lines of scat like links in a lip-loosening jingle, to the effect that anyone, young or old, who attempts to read it in a sober tone will find it impossible to keep the music embedded in Weinstein’s prose from bubbling to the surface. Even Christie’s colors are appropriately harmonious, beginning with a ragtime-rosy pallet of simple tones, and punctuated with spontaneous bursts of color at just the right measure. It is, at the end of the evening, a story of which Louis himself would have been proud, and more importantly, one which your children will want to hear again. To order a personal copy, visit Chronicle today.

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