Theo and the Blue Note

Peter Kuper, Author, Peter Kuper, Illustrator . Viking $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-670-06137-2

In a debut picture book sprinkled with jazz allusions, Kuper (Sticks and Stones ) introduces Theo, a saxophonist cat who "practiced Day and Night . But all he managed to learn was one blue note." Theo is "feeling Kind of Blue " when a glowing golden rocket—shaped like a soprano sax—materializes in his backyard. To the sounds of a jukebox, he blasts off to the moon, where he discovers a nightclub-spaceship named the Apollo. Theo climbs the Apollo's Giant Steps and walks in on a jam session by bassist Nat King Cobra, xylophonist Lionel Hamster and singer Elephants Gerald. When band leader Duck Ellington—a cross between early Daffy and Cab Calloway—complains that their tune has "the red note, the green , the yellow ... but something's still missing," Theo leaps onstage and provides literally "all the blues " including indigo, periwinkle, cyan and cobalt. Kuper pictures Theo himself in an inky navy-blue, in keeping with the cat's cool sound. The illustrations nod to 1920s and '30s animation, and appear colorized in shadowy blues and warm hazy golds; with his snub nose and noodly limbs, Theo resembles Krazy Kat, and Kuper blurs his illustrations' edges for a grainy freeze-frame effect. Kuper's direct, unpoetic language doesn't convey a jazzy rhythm or tone. Yet jazz fans will pick up on the puns, and readers might imagine hearing a rainbow of colors. Ages 4-up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/30/2006
Release date: 11/01/2006
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