Benny Goodman played the clarinet and Teddy Wilson played the piano. That may be something of an understatement, but play they did! This magnificent picture book tells the story of their historic jazz band and the era in which they played their music. The art is spectacular, with deep glorious colors which meld with the poetic text and draw the reader into the time, the place, and right into the music. Extensive endnotes tell more about the history of Jewish Benny and African-American Teddy, not sparing the reader Goodman’s initial discomfort at publicly integrating his band. Goodman’s Jewish background is featured. The other musicians mentioned are addressed in the endnotes with further biographical information. A timeline is included. This is one of those books that makes the reader want to dance. The text is too sophisticated for the usual picture book readers and is recommended for ages 8 – 11. These readers may need to be encouraged by a parent or teacher to overcome their reluctance to pick up a picture book but will be amply rewarded if they do.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.