It would seem a riddle worthy of the sphinx: how do you give children a sense of jazz music without playing a note? Chris Raschka answers loudly and clearly with the illustrated, syncopated Charlie Parker Played Be Bop. This sparse, rhythmic, repetitive text (inspired by a recording of Parker’s “A Night in Tunisia”) embraces and reflects the sound and feel of jazz when read aloud: “Charlie Parker played be bop. / Charlie Parker played saxophone. / The music sounded like be bop. / Never leave your cat alone.” Whether in complete phrases or in nonsense refrains that taste like music in your mouth (“Alphabet alphabet, alphabet, alph, / Chickadee, chickadee, chickadee, chick, / Overshoes, overshoes, overshoes, o, / Reeti-footi, reeti-footi, reeti-footi, ree.”), Raschka brings melody to the page, and rhythm to eager ears.
Raschka, whose Yo! Yes? won a Caldecott Honor, and whose Mysterious Thelonious–another ebullient, musical exploration of a jazz legend–was named a 1997 ALA Notable Book, proves once again that he is just as at home with a paintbrush as he is with a pen. His bold, quirky illustrations add movement and light to the words, buoying their already lyrical effect. Charlie Parker Played Be Bop is a colorful, whimsical romp through the world of jazz, sure to set young and old toes a-tapping. (Ages 4 to 8) –Brangien Davis