cover image The Story of the Saxophone

The Story of the Saxophone

Lesa Cline-Ransome, illus. by James E. Ransome. Holiday House, $19.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8234-3702-3

A young visionary introduces a new musical sound to the world in an underdog story pulled from lesser-known music history. In early 19th-century Belgium, often bored Joseph-Antoine Adolphe Sax (1814–1894) works at his father’s instrument shop, playing “nearly every instrument you can imagine,” and inventing new ones, including the sax trombone and the flugelhorn. “Daydreaming of a new sound” and assembling “one crazy contraption after the next,” Sax finally finds a unique sound between a trumpet and clarinet: the saxophon. Sax’s instrument causes an uproar, admired by classical music icon Hector Berlioz, rejected by Parisian traditionalists, and labeled by others as a “devil’s horn.” Only after Sax’s death did American musicians such as Sidney Bechet, Charlie Parker, and Dexter Gordon elevate Sax’s controversial invention into an essential part of jazz expression. Cline-Ransome invites readers’ empathy through clearly established stakes as Sax triumphs over critics, while Ransome’s initially muted cityscapes give way to vibrant celebrations of band music, and end-paper portraits celebrate a diverse array of saxophonists. Ages 6–9. (Mar.)