John Coltrane’s Giant Steps (Picture Book)

Score: lemon_1small lemon_2small lemon_3small   out 5 lemons

612WNYgUnbL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_This picture book may be lost on me.

Chris Raschka‘s lively illustrations bring John Coltrane’s unique jazz style to life using a box, a snowflake, some snowflakes, and a kitten. Each character represents a specific element of music, such as the tempo and melody. These elements animate music as a visual experience for children. As the musical sequence progresses, the characters change color to reflect the movement of music. What’s fun is that the conductor/narrator allows the cast of characters to stumble in the music and then calls for them to stop! The conductor gives each character some mild criticism and compliments, and they restart their energetic performance, ending with brilliance and a series of “bravos”.

I appreciate and enjoy the concept of representing music as a literary experience specifically targeting children. I also appreciate introducing children to famous jazz figures and music terminology. People may experience music in different ways. This captivating storytelling is certainly unique and expressed brightly with vivid alternating colors on the pages. It’s experimental and exciting to the eyes.
Although, I’m not sure if I “got” it. Maybe those with more experienced musical backgrounds will understand, and perhaps children, but it may require instruction and explanation. This book could be utilized in a unit, as part of a series of activities for children. My copy of the book did not come with a CD to follow along with, but that may have helped understanding the musical sequence in the story. I did, however, listen to John Coltrane’s spirited and complex Giant Steps track on YouTube while reading the story, which allowed me to grasp the tone of the picture book.

Overall, I found the picture book charming with its colorful illustrations, but also confusing. To those who are musically and analytically inclined, they may enjoy this introduction to jazz and music expressed visually. It is clever in concept, but it might be confusing for younger children without any sort of explanation or guidance from more experienced readers. Recommended for primary readers.


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