cover image Brother Billy Bronto's Bygone Blues Band

Brother Billy Bronto's Bygone Blues Band

David F. Birchman. Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books, $14 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-688-10423-8

This delicious Bayou-style ghost story reflects the style of a hip Robert Service. Birchman tells the tale of Billy Bronto's blues band, whose ghosts can still be heard at night in the Louisiana swamp. Lilting, bluesy rhythms and repeated refrains recount how the dinosaur combo sets New Orleans jumping, goes on tour and eventually meets its demise. This singular verbiage begs to be read aloud--``An iguanodon with some dark shades on / tickled the teeth of a rumply keyboard / while a lonely clarinet blew a wild set / 'round a too-cool-hot-blues chord.'' Although Birchman occasionally strains for a rhyme, the seductive text with its jazz-style language redolent of the Bayou pulls readers into the story and holds them there. But though the narrative is upbeat, its ghostly ending may disturb some younger listeners. With distinctive crosshatching, O'Brien's ( What His Father Did ) stylish watercolors, in predominantly cool tones of aqua and violet, are perfectly paired with the exceptionally evocative text, as the dinosaurs blow their horns, thump their tails and rise from their final resting place to serenade the night. Ages 5-up. (Apr.)