April is Jazz Appreciation Month!

  • Posted on: 29 March 2021
  • By: Laura Noble

Music fans rejoice! April is Jazz appreciation month and it's time to spend some quality time with the syncopated rhythms of Billie Holiday, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, and more. As you listen to the distinctly unique sounds of jazz, there are many library books to learn about these musicians and the history of jazz as an American export.  For an overview of the time period, kids will enjoy checking out What Were the Roaring Twenties? The book describes many aspects of American life during the decade including not just music, but politics, fashion, and the Stock market crash that concluded the decade. Another good introductory book into what Jazz is and its form is Leo and Diane Dillon's book Jazz on a Saturday Night. Winner of the 2008 Coretta Scott King Award, this illustrative story does a fantastic job describing the sound of jazz.  Included with the book is an audio cd to allow the reader to hear how jazz sounds as well as the instruments most often utilized in the music genre.

If you'd like to learn about particular musicians, there are several beautifully illustrated kids' books at the library to discover. My favorite is The Music in George's Head by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Stacy Innerst. Just as stylized as his "Rhapsody in Blue", this picture book biography really feels like Gershwin's music. The illustrations are filled with blue tones and musical imagery throughout that's filled with jazz, blues, ragtime, and classical music. The writing is also very outstanding for its descriptions of Gershwin's genius.

One of the first jazz musicians I remember listening to was Billie Holiday. Her unique voice and meaningful lyrics make her one of the best jazz singers in history.  One particularly meaningful song is "Strange Fruit" which Holiday sang in protest of the unjust lynchings occurring in the Deep South. Gary Golio's Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song discusses in kid-appropriate words the history and creation of the protest song and its impact of jazz and the country. The beauty of the illustrations is like looking at a painting on each page.  Poetic readers will appreciate Becoming Billie Holiday's use of verse. Told from the fictional perspective of Billie Holiday, readers learn of the hardships and experiences of Holiday as she goes from young girl to famous jazz singer.

Other library books about the history of jazz and its musicians include Jazz, Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat Ella Fitzgerald, Sweet Music in Harlem, and Who Was Louis Armstrong. All titles mentioned in this blog can be found on the library catalog here: Jazz Appreciation.