cover image Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums

Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums

Moira Rose Donohue, illus. by Laura Freeman. Sleeping Bear, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5341-1097-7

Colorfully accentuated onomatopoeia and musical notes punctuate this profile of brilliant self-taught drummer William “Chick” Webb. Born in early-20th-century East Baltimore with spinal tuberculosis, Webb’s lifelong back pain was exacerbated after a childhood fall down the stairs, which resulted in “a hunched back” and, due to his resultant walking style, the nickname “Chicken.” After a surgery, the doctor recommended drumming to strengthen Webb’s arms; after fashioning drumsticks out of spoons, Webb earned real ones by selling newspapers, eventually creating a swing band with Ella Fitzgerald at the helm. Freeman’s bright digital illustrations add energy to the narrative, which reaches its apogee as 4’1” Chick takes on the over-six-feet-tall Benny Goodman in a battle of the bands at the integrated Savoy Ballroom in 1937. Donohue largely elides any racial discrimination Webb may have faced, focusing instead on his musicality and physicality. Back matter features a section called “More about Chick,” which concludes with a brief author’s note. Ages 7–8. [em](Jan.) [/em]