cover image Sonny Rollins Plays the Bridge

Sonny Rollins Plays the Bridge

Gary Golio, illus. by James Ransome. Penguin/Paulsen, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-984813-66-4

In an evocative snapshot of a moment in a musician’s life, Golio (Dark Was the Night) celebrates Black saxophonist Sonny Rollins’s (b. 1930) private escape to a public place: when you can’t/ play in your apartment/ (shhh—the neighbors!)/ you can/ play outside/ if/ you know where.” Ransome (Overground Railroad) creates vivid watercolor and collage spreads of Rollins rehearsing on a fire escape, and the frustrated expressions of noise-averse neighbors, then follows the musician as he strides through city streets with his saxophone in its case, heading for the Williamsburg Bridge walkway, where “you can/ blow/ blow/ BLOW A HORN/ as loud as/ you/ WANT.” Ransome doesn’t stint on background scenery; he paints the structure, the buildings below it, and even the traffic along the river with reverence. Up on the bridge, golden bubbles of effervescent sound burst from the bell of Rollins’s instrument as he plays to his heart’s content, “anything/ EVERYTHING/ that/ comes into his/ mind” against the rhythm of trains “clanking clanging” and “tugboats/ blowing bass notes.” The creators’ deliberate lines and detailed visuals sing like music themselves as they pay homage to an artist who finds a way to ring out loud and clear. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)