cover image Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

Katheryn Russell-Brown, illus. by Frank Morrison. Lee & Low, $18.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-60060-898-8

A musician plucked from jazz history is the subject of Russell-Brown's debut picture book. In the music-filled Kansas City of the 1920s, young Melba Doretta Liston wants to play an instrument, eventually swooning over a shiny trombone and learning to play. Staccato rhythms pepper the fluid prose: "Blues, jazz, and gospel rhythms danced in her head%E2%80%94the plink of a guitar, the hummmm of a bass, the thrum-thrum of a drum." Eventually, Liston's talent attracts the attention of Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and others, but her struggles are laid out plainly: "Some white folks didn't show good manners toward folks with brown skin. Hotel rooms were hard to come by, and the band members often had to sleep on the bus." Morrison's oil paintings practically sway with a jazz beat, though somber moments crop up, too: the shadows on Liston's face signify the trials of life on the road. A final image showing long-limbed Liston in profile as she plays under the glow of stage lights is exquisite. Ages 6%E2%80%9310. Author's agent: Adriana Dominguez, Full Circle Literary. Illustrator's agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (July)