cover image The Jazz of Our Street

The Jazz of Our Street

Fatima Shaik. Dial Books, $15.89 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1886-9

Lewis's (Down the Road) action-filled watercolors animate a New Orleans neighborhood in Shaik's (Melitte) introduction to a turn-of-the-century tradition: the ""second line"" of dancers who followed the legendary jazz bands. Shaik is at her best when describing the joy in the movement the music evokes: ""Hips shake to the pavement,/ shoulders shimmy up with the melody/ like fish leaping from rivers./ To the beat of the drums, backbones slink."" But too often the text's pacing trips up with inconsistent and awkward jumps from prose to rhyme (two children ""greet [their] neighbors--/ old folks and teenagers,/ and fathers and mothers/ who dropped their pounding hammers/ and stopped cleaning mid-sweep--/ to meet the jazz band that calls with its beat""). Lewis, however, visually documents the shifting moods: readers will feel the anticipation as the musicians round the corner of a red-shuttered clapboard house onto an indigo avenue, as well as the hush of a moment of silence as Lewis shifts to an aerial view of bowed heads. His shimmering paintings do more than the rambling poem to capture the impromptu vibrancy and delight of children and adults alike as they strike up behind the band. Ages 4-8. (May)