cover image Satchmo's Blues

Satchmo's Blues

Alan Schroeder. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32046-7

Ignoring the research presented in the biographies cited here as suggestions for further reading, Schroeder (Ragtime Tumpie; Minty) invents out of whole cloth this ""fictional recreation"" of Louis Armstrong's boyhood. Living in a rough New Orleans neighborhood ""back o' town,"" this young Louis knows hard times when there is little to eat and lots to be done. His every free moment, according to this story, is spent sneaking around to clubs and listening to the music he loved. In one of several divergences from the historical record, Louis is desperate to earn money so that he can buy his own horn from the local pawn shop (Armstrong first played a musical instrument when, at age 12 or 13, he was put into a reformatory for shooting off a gun). Schroeder's lengthy text moves at a dogged pace here, coming dangerously close to overkill in its dubious emphasis on Louis's desire for a trumpet. However, Cooper's (Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea) warm and grainy oil compositions pulse with all the energy of a Mardi Gras parade. Effective portraits of Louis and his family span a range of emotion and other scenes hook readers in, the way a jumping jam session should. It's unfortunate the author didn't trust his readers with the facts of his hero's life. Ages 6-10. (Oct.)