Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph

by Roxanne Orgill

illustrated by Francis Vallejo

In 1958, a graphic designer named Art Kane had an idea: gather as many jazz players as possible in Harlem and take a photograph of them—for free. He put out the word and waited to see what would happen. The result is an iconic photograph published by “Esquire” magazine, now famous around the world. Jazz Day uses poems to tell the story of how the photograph was taken. These poems focus on particular aspects of the famous jazz musicians and of the not-so-famous kids living in the blocks of Harlem. Most of the jazz greats are represented here, including Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Maxine Sullivan. The poems are mainly in free verse, and their rhythms echo the tempo of jazz. So do the illustrations, which are realistic and richly hued (do not forget to take off the dust jacket and admire the artwork on the hard cover). The book includes an “Author’s Note,” explaining the inspiration for the poems, biographies of some of the musicians, the legacy of the photograph in books and film, source notes, and a bibliography. A copy of the original photograph is included. The author and illustrator have managed to combine a great, true story with the poetic and visual arts to produce a book that will become a collector’s item for readers young and old.

Reviewer: Leona Illig

The Sun is also a Star

by Nicola Yoon

Natasha Kingsley and her family are about to be deported from New York City to Jamaica, but she has lived most of her life in the United States and doesn’t want to go back. Daniel Jae Ho Bae was born in the U.S., as was his older brother, Charles Jae Won Bae. Their parents are here legally; Natasha’s are not. The likelihood of Natasha and Daniel ever meeting seems very unlikely, but meet they do as Natasha makes one last ditch effort to turn the tide on her family’s deportation. Daniel is in Manhattan to be interviewed for admittance into Yale, not that he wants to go to Yale or become a doctor. He’d rather learn more about writing poetry. But they do meet and end up spending most of the day together. Daniel is open to falling in love with Natasha, but she keeps resisting. What’s the use she thinks, but she can’t help herself. In the end, Daniel takes her to the plane and watches her fly away. For a while they keep in touch, but time and distance finally take their toll on the relationship—until ten years later. The story is complex and, at first, it is difficult to follow who belongs in which family; but soon the reader figures out who belongs where and starts rooting for the star-crossed lovers. Like Ms. Yoon’s first book, Everything, Everything, this story will pull readers in. This book discusses some tough issues, such as the U.S. immigration laws, ethnic/culture differences, and “coincidences.”

Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan

Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop: Slave-Explorer


by Heather Henson
illustrated by Bryan Collier

Stephen Bishop is a slave. Assigned by his master to explore Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave in 1838, Stephen has become an expert guide for tourists visiting the natural wonder. He has searched its trails, discovered eyeless fish and albino crayfish in its streams, and made the original detailed map of the explored parts—he was the first to cross a spot called the “Bottomless Pit.” Since little is known of Bishop besides his work, Henson presents him as he might want to speak to modern readers. Her poetic words convey his pride in his expertise, his fascination with the cave, and his utter frustration at being a slave. Only underground does he feel the dignity and authority that his knowledge gives him. He has even learned to read in the cave, as a result of tourists’ graffiti written with soot from candles on long sticks. (Visitors can still see his signature—“Stephen.”) Award-winning artist Collier employs a rich palette of browns and black for excursions underground, reserving blues and greens for time in the sun, as in portraits of Bishop, his wife Charlotte, and their son in front of the small slave house; especially beautiful is a page of collage framing Bishop’s face. Speaking directly to readers, he tells them that no one knows exactly how he died, but he’s still there as a spirit of the cave. “Sometimes you just got to lift your light a little higher…go beyond what’s written down to get to what’s been left untold.” Young (and older) readers can learn more from endnotes by Henson and Collier and from Elizabeth Mitchell’s novel, Journey to the Bottomless Pit (Scholastic, 2004) or, best of all, visiting Mammoth Cave National Park.

Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft