cover image RENT PARTY JAZZ


William Miller, , illus. by Charlotte Riley-Webb. . Lee & Low, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-58430-025-0

Miller's (Night Golf) spryly narrated, uplifting story set in New Orleans in the 1930s springs from an intriguing tradition—informal musical fund-raising parties that originated in the South in the early 20th century to help neighbors in financial need. When his mother loses her job in a fish-canning factory, Sonny (who works daily for a coal vendor before school) is determined to do something to help raise the rent money so that they won't be evicted. "You stay in school and learn everything you can—everything, so things will be better for you," cautions Mama when he suggests he get a second job and quit school. Day after day, the worried boy listens to the music of Smilin' Jack, who plays his trumpet on the street to an appreciative crowd. When Sonny confides his problem to the musician, he tells Sonny about the rent-party custom and offers to play for the benefit of the boy and his mother. As supportive neighbors toss coins in a bucket and happily move to the strains of Smilin' Jack's horn, Riley-Webb's gaily hued acrylic paintings seem to keep time with the music. Composed of swirling, broad strokes, the art evokes the mood of the jazz riffs as it depicts the streets of the French Quarter. Newcomer Riley-Webb is an illustrator to watch. Ages 6-up. (Oct.)