cover image ELLA FITZGERALD: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa

ELLA FITZGERALD: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa

Andrea Davis Pinkney, , illus. by Brian Pinkney. . Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0568-6

The talented husband-and-wife team behind Duke Ellington turns to jazz biography once again, this time showcasing the First Lady of Song. Narrated by Scat Cat Monroe, a feline in a zoot suit, the book spins four "tracks" on Fitzgerald's life, from her childhood in Yonkers performing on street corners, to her discovery at a 1934 talent contest at the legendary Apollo Theatre to her move into the "ping-pong rhythms" of bebop. Whether swinging at the Savoy "to a house packed tighter than the A train" or breaking the racial barrier at many clubs ("Ella's popularity showed them that a true star has no color—it just shines"), the singer's career is expertly framed to fit a picture book format. The prose, while occasionally labored, swings to a syncopated beat and piles on the synesthesia ("Ella rolled out a tune sweet enough to bake"; "Her voice was quick-fried rhythm, with a brassy satin twist"). Brian Pinkney turns out some of his best work yet. Rendered in a pleasingly high-contrast palette of pastels, the scratchboard illustrations are invested with magical realism, complete with dancers flying off the pages and topsy-turvy musicians. A particularly memorable spread about Ella's hit "How High the Moon" launches her into space on a trumpet with Dizzy Gillespie. A "skippity-hop-doo-dee-bop" picture book. Ages 5-9. (Apr.)