Play, Louis, Play!
Terri Schichenmeyer | 7/27/2011, 5 p.m.
When you were a little kid, you had some weird ideas.
For one thing, you were convinced that monsters lived beneath your bed or on the other side of every door. You seriously thought that if you worked hard, you could somehow gain superhero powers. And you believed that your toys could talk.
On that last one, come to think of it, you still sometimes wonder....
Imagine the stories your toys could tell! In the new book "Play, Louis, Play!" (c.2011, Bloomsbury Children's Books, $15.99 / $20.00 Canada, 128 pages) by Muriel Harris Weinstein, illustrated by Frank Morrison, a young boy's musical instrument talks about a longtime friendship.
Growing up in the Back O'Town--the roughest, toughest part of New Orleans--little Louis Armstrong didn't have much to call his own. He didn't have shoes, so he walked the streets of New Orleans barefoot. He didn't have much of an education because the books at his African American school were old and tattered. Louis barely even had a home: He lived with his grandmother because his Mama worked all the time.
But Louis didn't complain. He had friends, his family, and he had music.
Louis loved music more than anything in the world. He paid attention to sounds all around him, including the tunes that drifted from neighborhood nightclubs. He looked forward to Sundays so he could sing at church, and his body jiggled with music for the rest of the week. Louis even dreamed of owning this battered old horn in a pawnshop window. One day, that horn would be his.
The horn knew, down deep, that it would belong to Louis someday, too. It waited patiently, and it noticed when Louis came by, just to wish.
Louis wasn't afraid of a day's work, and he carefully saved his money. One day, a friend who recognized the music in Louis' soul gave the boy two dollars and fifty cents. Louis was excited because he knew he could save the other half of the cost of the horn--and he did. Soon, he was making music all over New Orleans.
Years later, when Louis Armstrong was famous and had fancy, expensive horns, the one he loved the most was his first. It traveled the world with him, and it never let him down. His first horn, bought for $5 at a pawn shop, was his best friend forever.
Got a kid whose fingers and feet never stop tapping a tune? Then he'll make joyful noise when you hand him a copy of this book.
From the perspective of a tarnished old horn, author Muriel Harris Weinstein tells the story of a boy who couldn't hide the music inside him. I loved the feel of Weinstein's story; in fact, "Play, Louis, Play!" practically hops with a skittly-skat spirit that young jazz fans will really enjoy. Add in a few jumpin'-jive illustrations by Frank Morrison, and you've got a book that's the cat's pajamas, Jack.
If your 7-to-10-year-old budding musician can handle a chapter book, here's one to try. "Play, Louis, Play" is a book she'll be talking about.