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This innovative visual deconstruction of one of jazz saxophonist Coltrane's most beloved compositions may be Raschka's (Mysterious Thelonious) most ambitious picture book yet. After a playful introduction ("Good evening. And thank you for coming to our book"), the unseen narratorconductor introduces the performers a box, a snowflake, some raindrops and a kitten a tongue-in-cheek nod to Coltrane's version of "My Favorite Things"). The book does not require previous awareness of the jazz great's work, however. Each performer (representing percussion, bass, piano and sax) appears in a different color and shape (Raschka riffs on primary red, yellow and blue, and the basic square, triangle and circle). The performance begins, only to be interrupted when the kitten ("the melody on top of everything") takes steps a little too large ("People, people! What happened?"). Some coaching finally produces what Coltrane called "sheets of sound." Raschka's transparent watercolors layer colors and shapes the way a musician would notes and harmonies. Stunningly simple, the concept provides a compelling introduction to Coltrane's genius. Those who possess a little musical knowledge will delight in such arch references as "remixed by Chris Raschka" on the title page and the conductor's hilarious critique ("First of all, raindrops, you were rushing on page 19"). Even the jacket repeats the book's central conceit: a clear plastic wrap featuring the kitten, painted in thick black outline, overlays the other elements. A must for jazz enthusiasts and, for first-timers, a clever introduction to this wildly creative musical genre. Ages 4-7.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
PreSchool-Grade 5-Paw forward, the cat featured in Raschka's Simple Gifts (Holt, 1998) graces the clear cellophane jacket of this book. Her thick, black, inked contours overlay the watercolor, biomorphic forms on the book's front cover-a box, snowflake, and raindrop-the performers of Coltrane's jazz classic "Giant Steps." An offstage narrator/conductor prepares listeners for "swirling, leaping, tumbling 'sheets of sound.'" In the ensuing double spreads, the 4/4 tempo is introduced by a quartet of raindrops (drums); the foundation is then formed with an overlay of boxes (the bass). Snowflakes (the piano) build up next to represent harmony, and, at last, the kitten (sax) dances across the shapes, bringing the melody. The conductor, however, is not pleased, so after some comments, the piece is played again, winding down to a quiet curtain call of the four isolated images. The sequential design and layering of the organic forms are a creative, joyful, and energetic match for the pulsing momentum and resolution in the music. Raschka manages to distill body and soul and "remix" Coltrane's sound graphically, and the book offers an engaging intellectual and sensory experience. Presenting it with the music itself is a must. Bravo, maestro!-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.