cover image Born to Swing: Lil Hardin Armstrong’s Life in Jazz

Born to Swing: Lil Hardin Armstrong’s Life in Jazz

Mara Rockliff, illus. by Michele Wood. Calkins Creek, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-62979-555-3

Lil Hardin Armstrong played jazz piano at a time when female musicians were expected to be “canaries” (singers) and not to “play hard” the way she did. Though Armstrong was Louis Armstrong’s second wife, her own career was established before she met Satchmo. Rockliff (Mesmerized) brings immediacy to her story by writing in first-person: Armstrong describes how she learned to play jazz as a child, then moved to Chicago and played piano at a music store, which led her to perform with a jazz band and meet Armstrong. The two married and collaborated, but the end of the Roaring Twenties led to “hard times for America—and me. Louis was moving on.” Wood’s thickly painted acrylics bring rolling momentum to the pages; wearing bright yellow throughout, Armstrong is the focus of nearly every spread. A joyful portrait of a musician who made her mark on the jazz world. Ages 9–12.[em] Author’s agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Caryn Wiseman, Andrea Brown Literary. (Jan.) [/em]