cover image Mysterious Thelonious

Mysterious Thelonious

Chris Raschka, Raschka. Scholastic, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-531-30057-2

Raschka (Charlie Parker Played Be Bop), one of the most original illustrators at work today, is at it again, pushing the limits of his chosen craft. Here, bound in a delightful hand-sized volume, his paean to jazz great Thelonious Monk doubles as a clever visual pun. By matching the notes of the chromatic scale (do, di, re, me, mi...) to the 12 color values of the color wheel, and then placing each word of text within a color-coded square, readers can not only read it, but literally play it like a musical score. ""Misterioso,"" the Monk composition represented here, begins simply (i.e., lots of white space visually), but just as the musical piece grows more complex, so does the visual picture as pigment washes are added to represent harmonies and improvisations, and the pages fairly roil with color. Although young ones may find the book's rich double entendre difficult to grasp, they'll certainly enjoy the musician himself, cavorting across the pages decked out in hip blue shades and a checked cap. And young-at-heart Monk fans will feel Raschka's passion for his subject as he renders the pianist incomplete without his piano (their shapes and colors answer one another across the double-page spreads in melon greens or cool reds). Words swoop and dive across the pages (""He played the music of freedom/ Jazz is the music of freedom"") yet, like the musical form itself, return to the simple theme with which the book began: ""This is a story about his music."" In creating this homage to one great artist, Raschka has honored all the innovative artists who inspire others--and once again proves he belongs among them. All ages. (Sept.)