SWEET MUSIC IN HARLEM
Debbie A. Taylor, , illus. by Frank Morrison. . Lee & Low, $16.95 (28pp) ISBN 978-1-58430-165-3
Inspired by Art Kane's famous 1958 photograph of nearly 60 celebrated jazz musicians gathered in front of a brownstone in Harlem, first-time author Taylor relates the story of young C.J., who is trying to find his musician uncle's hat in time for a photo shoot for a jazz magazine. He finds his uncle's watch at the barber shop, his handkerchief at the restaurant and his bow tie at a nightclub. All the people C.J. has encountered in his search have come to join his uncle in the photo by the time the photographer arrives. They were "some of the greatest musicians and singers in Harlem. It was like seeing the sun, the moon, and the stars all shining at once." That evening his uncle gives C.J. an early birthday present of a new clarinet, and the two discover the hat tucked into the gift box; C.J.'s "own sweet music [rings] out clear and strong." In a confident debut, Morrison nearly channels Ernie Barnes, working in velvety, contrasting colors to depict characters with thin, elongated limbs and expressive faces. The arms and legs twist at right angles, and even the desks, cabinets, drapery and wooden floors seem to be full of energy. A full-page author's note reproduces the historical photograph and names all 57 musicians, among them whites as well as blacks; oddly, Morrison's painting shows only black artists assembled before the camera. Readers are bound to notice and puzzle at the change. Ages 4-8.
Reviewed on: 05/24/2004