cover image Bebop Express

Bebop Express

H. L. Panahi, , illus. by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. . HarperCollins/ Geringer/Amistad, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-057190-0

Panahi's ode to the jazz era invites readers on a heart-thumping, hand-clapping train ride from New York City to New Orleans. The opening full-bleed spread shows passengers, dressed in zoot suits for the men, and elegant coat-and-hat ensembles for the ladies, boarding "the jazziest train from the east to the west." As the train pulls out, Sax Man stands between cars, playing "blee blee, doot doot wah!/ Blee blah, blee blah, doot doot bah!" As the train passes through 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Drum Man, pictured with sunglasses, suspenders, hat and five arms, plays an assortment of trash cans ("He hits it, dips it, rolls it, flips it"). A rooftop bass player "snaps and pops it while he strums it" in Chicago, while a Song Lady from St. Louis entertains the dining car ("riffs glide from her lips just like rich buttermilk"). In New Orleans, a crowd gathers to see the four musicians perform together. Johnson and Fancher's (New York's Bravest ) complex collage work incorporates photographic images of multi-ethnic faces, as well as pictures of buildings, trains cars, and instruments that tilt at uneven angles. Brick walls, train tracks (occasionally linked by keyboards and sheet music), and numerous other patterns form intriguing urban backdrops (a rooftop boasts a blue floral print, a station platform consists of tiny newsprint reading "chug-a chug-a Choo!"). The artists' visuals echo the rhythmic, energetic text, inspired by the improvisational legacy of this uniquely American art form. Ages 3-8. (June)