TITLE: Trombone Shorty
Author: Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews
Illustrator: Bryan Collier
Narrator: Dion Graham
Publisher: Live Oak Media; Spoken word CD with Hardcover Book edition (September 29, 2017)
I have been holding off about writing about this book (to be fair, I have been holding off about writing about any book!!) until I wasn't serving on the Notables Children's Recordings Committee that just released its 2018 list the other day. If you don't know what the Notable lists are, they are a "best of the best" list for children's literature in the subcategories of books, video and recordings (both music and audiobooks). I might be biased but I feel like our recordings group had the best task, to listen to endless hours of excellent (and OK, some not so excellent) children's audio. This book and CD set was on our best of the best list, and it also was awarded an honor by the Odyssey committee, based again on excellence in audio.
I first came across Trombone Shorty la few years back, even before it made the Caldecott Honor list of 2016, I knew it was special. Collier's exquisite use of light and dark, lines straight and curvy, balloons floating through the air like music through the streets of New Orleans - all are the delicious ingredients in a visual gumbo that tells the inspiring story of Trombone Shorty - a boy who played music because he was driven to do it by his environment and a seriously healthy dose of self-respect in difficult circumstances. The illustration of Trombone Shorty and his friends using improvised instruments, the day he found his near broken trombone includes "invisible" crowns that are made with shiny transparent gloss so that they shine and glimmer from the page. This book is stunning, and I would recommend you immediately buy it, except....
I cannot in good faith recommend that you buy this book without hearing the audio first. If you love the illustrations as much as I did (AND I DID), then you only love it 10% as much as you would if you could also hear the audio. I hereby pledge NEVER to try and read this book aloud to an audience, because the experience of hearing the book while also seeing the pictures is so much better. The first couple of times I had tears of joy welling up in my eyes. Tears welled up again when I listened with each of my daughters who are musicians. This. Audio. Is. Insanely. Good.
Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews who wrote the book himself, and has also written a companion book called the Five O Clock Band, narrates the music with his trombone, and I suspect also the trumpet and some of the improvised instruments. I seriously considered going to his concert four days before the ALA conference in Denver just to get a look at this musical hellion in action, just for the utter joy of seeing how his book turned out. This book (and I guess the next one?) refer to his Trombone Shorty Foundation and Trombone Shorty Music Academy that supports young musicians who might not otherwise have access to instruments and music education. It's such a cool idea, and a worthy cause, that I have already bought both the book and CD set several times over as baby gifts for musicians.
Ok I guess I can't just write about this without giving you a little taste of the music in the book, right? Here it is. It's insanely cool, right? Keep in mind this is really just the music that happens at the end, so as you are reading the book you also get scattered trombone and sound effects all the way through. I can't tell you how amazing it is. I just can't. Please just go and get it now.
A word too about the narration by Dion Graham. It's young, it's fresh and it's exactly appropriate for this story. Graham doesn't hurry through the text - the narration leaves time for you to explore the pictures, but goes fast enough for you to retain interest in the story. This is one of those books that will have your child begging "again" and "again" and "again" before bed, because they will hear and see different things each time they read. Graham's narration is exactly as joyous as it needs to be for young children to read this book, and then go and find their own broken / invented instrument to play. The importance of constant practice in the book is not lost, yet neither is it didactic. Dion Graham's voice in this story, the excitement of a small child becoming a giant on stage with Bo Diddley (with his big vast microphone echo voice) will have children rushing out to see how they can make music.
An Australian who lived in Japan with my bicultural family now living in the USA, I believe that there are more different realities than there are books to be written.