Friday, May 3, 2013

Five Picture Books That Celebrate Jazz

April was an exciting month being National Poetry Month, Autism Awareness Month, Asperger's Awareness Month, and including Earth Day and Arbor Day. Additionally, April was also Jazz Appreciation Month. I had some difficulty acquiring the books I wanted to feature--hence this post being late--but better late than never!

Bebop Express
written by H.L. Panahi, illustrations by Steven Johnson and Lou Fancher

Fancher and Johnson's collage art portrays a racially diverse array of jazz musicians and appreciators aboard the fictional Bebop Express which travels from city to city in search of jazz. Every city has its own unique style which is expressed in words and rhythmic sounds which should make for a fun read-aloud. 
Jazz on a Saturday Night
written and illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon

A product of one of the greatest art teams of the 20th and 21st century, this book by LeoDiane Dillon tells the fantastical story of a night in which many of the jazz greats get together to play. This book could serve as an introduction to the jazz giants, as well as the sounds and feelings often invoked by jazz music. Minimal text coupled with both rhythm and rhyme make this a good choice for wide age range of readers. Includes an introduction about the roots of jazz, notes on the musicians, and CD. Winner of the Coretta Scott King Honor award.

The Sound That Jazz Makes
written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

The Sound that Jazz Makes follows the origins of jazz from drummers in Africa to the heartbreaking cries of the Africans forced to cross the Middle Passage to the joyful strains of gospel to the Harlem Renaissance and beyond. Velasquez's beautiful and strong depictions evoke emotion and Weatherford's rhyming prose flows effortlessly from one aspect of jazz's history to the next. Good for a wide age range of readers.

God Bless the Child
written by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr., illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

God Bless the Child is based on a Billie Holiday song of the same name. In this book Pinkney imagines the song as the story of a rural Southern family moving to a city (possibly Chicago) in the North of the United States during the Great Migration. The story chronicles the joys and trials of this poor family while the text offers advice and words of wisdom about life. Includes a CD with Billie Holiday performing the song and an artist's note.

Ben's Trumpet
written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora

Ben lives near the Zig Zag Jazz Club where he listens to the sounds of music and joins in on his imaginary trumpet. He plays for everyone in his family and one day the trumpeter from the Club himself tells Ben he likes his horn! But when some neighborhood kids make fun of his pastime, Ben gives up his playing, until a special someone helps him out. With minimal text, this is another good choice for younger children though the bold black and white illustrations should help keep the interest of older listeners as well. Winner of the Caldecott Honor.

Do you have a favorite picture book about jazz? We'd love to know which one and why you love it in the comments!


  1. I originally clicked over here when I saw the first book was about a train (trains are the gold standard around here right now). I will have to hunt that one down. I am also really excited to read Ben's Trumpet. Thank you for sharing these.

    1. Our pleasure! They're both good books and we hope you enjoy them. We do have plans for a train-themed post at some point in the future. We'll be sure to pin it, but you might want to keep an eye on the main page or check the recommendations periodically because we'll link it there, too :)

  2. Hi there! I just became a picture book author in 2013 (July) and my book is about jazz! The book is called "Journey to Jazzland" and I've been getting some rave reviews :D. My website is and it's available in Hard Cover, Soft Cover and e book editions. Let me know if it's okay to post the Amazon link! Thanks!

    1. sorry, website should be ;)