May 20, 2014
No author does more to introduce children to the wonderful world of jazz than Chris Raschka. The author and illustrator of Charlie Parker Played Be Bop, an introduction to the saxophone player and composer Charlie Parker, which has become a part of many a kindergarten reading list, he has also written Mysterious Thelonious and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps.
To that impressive list, Raschka has added a profile of Sun Ra, The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy Is Enlightening . What better way to turn your youngster on to this avant-garde great?
To quote from Publisher’s Weekly:
One century ago, in 1914, “Sun Ra landed on Earth. Looking around, he found himself in Birmingham, Alabama.” Claiming to be from Saturn and mystified by terrestrial customs, young Herman (Sonny) Blount invented a new name, learned to compose all manner of music, and traveled the U.S. performing and absorbing musical cultures. Raschka pictures Sun Ra and his Arkestra orchestra in chromatic gouache daubs and silhouette-black lowlights, bringing to mind Romare Bearden’s sultry palette and mellifluous collages. Raschka acknowledges the social and musical influences on the innovative artist, noting Sun Ra’s surprise that the “earthlings insisted on sorting themselves into two varieties: the white variety and the black variety” and Sun Ra’s conscientious objector stance during WWII (curiously, Raschka mentions Sun Ra’s love of Egypt, but never the sun god Ra). Although Raschka cannot fully convey “the sound of joy” in a silent picture book, he provides a selective list of recordings, encouraging readers to consider Sun Ra’s nonconformity and genius alongside a first listen to his polyphonic music. Ages 6–9. (May)