A Horn for Louis

Eric A. Kim­mel; James Bernardin, illus.
  • Review
By – July 9, 2012

This sim­ple chap­ter book takes an episode from the life of jazz great Louis Arm­strong and makes it acces­si­ble to chil­dren. At the same time, it pro­vides a glimpse into Armstrong’s pos­i­tive rela­tion­ship with a Jew­ish fam­i­ly in New Orleans, mak­ing the book of par­tic­u­lar inter­est for Jew­ish readers. 

As a young boy, Louis worked on a junk wag­on owned by the Jew­ish Karnof­sky fam­i­ly. He attract­ed cus­tomers to the wag­on with his bur­geon­ing musi­cal tal­ent by play­ing on a sim­ple toy horn. The inci­dent relat­ed in this book shows how the toy was lost, and how the kind­ly Karnof­skys helped him obtain his first real horn. 

Kim­mel brings the char­ac­ters to life in this engag­ing tale. The rough life of Sto­ryville is white­washed, but this is appro­pri­ate in the con­text of a book for young­sters. The focus remains on the rela­tion­ships between Louis and his loved ones, and on his dreams of becom­ing a great musi­cian. The book makes an excel­lent intro­duc­tion to Louis Arm­strong as a famous per­son­al­i­ty and to the impor­tance of jazz in the Amer­i­can expe­ri­ence. At the same time, it pro­vides an encour­ag­ing look at inter­ra­cial and inter­faith rela­tions in our his­to­ry. An unusu­al but desir­able selec­tion for Jew­ish libraries serv­ing chil­dren. Ages 7 – 10.

Read­ing Guide 

» Down­load the A Horn For Louis Read­ing Guide from PJ Library 

Hei­di Estrin is librar­i­an for the Feld­man Chil­dren’s Library at Con­gre­ga­tion B’nai Israel in Boca Raton, FL. She is a past chair of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Com­mit­tee for the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries.

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