Friday, September 24, 2010

Jimi sounds like a rainbow: a story of the young Jimi Hendrix by Gary Golio, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe

I know, I know. I said I wouldn't...but here I am again, reviewing a picture book biography. These things are so addictive! So many of them have amazing writing, gorgeous art...and absolutely no use in my library.

This one is, of course, about Jimi Hendrix. In rich, varied language, Golio tells the story of young Jimi's obsession with sounds and his interest in a wide variety of music - all of which he later incorporated into his own musical style. Golio talks about Jimi's imagination and how he tried to express himself through art and music. We see Jimi's first band, his first encounter with an electric guitar, and finally how he fulfilled his dream of playing the sounds and sights he saw and heard around him and in his imagination.

Javaka Steptoe's illustrations are painted in layers on plywood, giving a unique texture and feel to the backgrounds and characters she painted to accompany the story. The book finishes with two pages of detailed biography of Jimi Hendrix's adult life, an author's note addressing Hendrix's drug addictions, websites and books on dealing with alcohol and drug addictions, and an illustrator's note describing her techniques and inspiration. There's an additional page of resources about Jimi Hendrix's life; books, discography, and websites.

This is a lovely, detailed, beautifully written and illustrated book. And nobody is going to read it at my library. There's not much interest in older music here among teens; certainly none of our teens will pick up a book that looks like a picture book. Elementary students only want biographies that are 100 pages - the length required for school projects. I don't see any parents reading this aloud to their children, because of the lengthy text and the author's note and discussions about drug and alcohol addiction at the end of the story seem aimed at an older audience anyways.

Verdict: I'm still not adding picture book biographies, especially of musicians, to my library. There's just no audience. I do think this book might find an audience in a larger, more urban library. It might also be a good resource in a school library perhaps. I'd hate to not see it loved somewhere, because it's a great book - just not right for our library. I feel like that about a lot of picture book biographies. What on earth is one supposed to do with this troublesome genre?

For the people who read THE WHOLE REVIEW....GIVEAWAY! Leave me a comment about how you'd use this book in your library or school and I will choose a lucky winner! Deadline to enter, Oct. 1st.

ISBN: 978-0618852796; Published October 2010 by Clarion; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates

No comments: