|Cosmobiography of Sun Ra : the sound of joy is enlightening|
Author: Raschka, Christopher
A picture book biography celebrating a legend of the jazz world who played, sang, and danced for people all over the planet because he believed music is what holds us all together.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: LG
Reading Level: 5.10
Points: .5 Quiz: 166189
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 3-5
Reading Level: 5.50
Points: 1.0 Quiz: 63716
Kirkus Reviews (+) (03/15/14)
School Library Journal (+) (04/01/14)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (A) (07/14)
The Hornbook (00/05/14)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 02/01/2014 Raschka has given us Charlie Parker Played Be Bop (1992), Mysterious Thelonious (1997), and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps (2002)—so why not Ra, whose sci-fi tendencies might be especially interesting to kids? Perhaps not musically interesting to kids (the audience for such books is debatable), but certainly biographically. Raschka’s chief metaphor is a rich one: Sun Ra (born Herman P. Blount) fancied himself as Saturn born, and thus his quizzical questioning of the world is depicted extraterrestrially. “The earthlings insisted on sorting themselves into two varieties: the white variety and the black variety.” Ra had a working band before he was out of high school, but being from Saturn, he did nothing the usual way: he barely slept, made his own space-age clothing, and was an early adopter of musical electronics. The art here is less interstellar than you would think; Raschka’s trademark blotches excel at gritty cityscapes even while Ra’s own personal style is harder to discern. As a biography, this is a bit clouded. As an experience, though, it definitely swings. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Everyone has an eye on Caldecott medal winner Raschka. Outré subject notwithstanding, there will be plenty of interest. - Copyright 2014 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 04/01/2014 Gr 3–6—Raschka's proven ability to convey in words and images the musical essence of composers or traditions as diverse as Sergei Prokofiev, John Coltrane, and Shaker hymnody now extends to the avant-garde jazz of Herman "Sonny" Blount. Carefully selected details respect subject and audience: "Sun Ra always said that he came from Saturn. Now, you and I know that this is silly…. And yet. If he did…it would explain so much. Let's say he did…." Readers learn that this "intergalactic boulevardier" was born in Birmingham, had an early aptitude for music, and enjoyed reading about philosophy. They discover his views on race and war, meet the "Arkestra," and follow his global footprints. It is the art, however, that transmits the showman's spirit and eclectic sound that featured big band elements, synthesizers, improvisation, and percussion. Raschka pulls out all the stops in what may be his finest work yet. Strong, black outlines define richly layered, multi-hued watercolors. The artist captures both the focused intensity of a composer's face in an intimate close-up and the verve of a musician playing through celestial cityscapes. Wet and dry brush strokes create a lively but fluid dynamic, while stars and motion lines electrify. Musical composition paper is cleverly integrated into particular page designs, including the cover, in which the musician, arrayed in his dazzling robe, is one with the staff and hand-lettered title. Endpapers display album titles; a selected discography is available. Pull up a YouTube recording, and enchant a new generation with this ode to transcendental joy.—Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Bulletin for the Center... - 07/01/2014 Creating a picture-book biography of a musician who claimed to come from Saturn (and who eschewed his birth name and was less than forthcoming about his birthdate) is quite a challenge, and Raschka agrees early on to simply play along and take Herman Blount, alias Sun Ra, at his word. He follows the career of the jazz musician through his name changes and the formation of his malleably named orchestra-the Arkestra-their several shifts of venue, and ultimately their best known iteration, replete with “robes of purple cotton, silk scarves, bone necklaces, and crowns of shining metal foil.” What remains elusive here, though, is an effective evocation of Sun Ra’s music, which veers notably and famously from a bebop-influenced big band sound, to chants that playfully (or perhaps dead seriously) conjure militant extra-planetary anthems, to electronic soundscapes suitable as soundtracks for travel far beyond Sun Ra’s home planet. Apart from offering an inventive opening scene of a roughly outlined Sun Ra crashing down to Earth and a few views of the full Arkestra in their dazzling garb, Raschka pays surprisingly little attention to the musicians’ visual statement, which would be most intriguing to a child audience. Instead, viewers find cityscapes and contemporary musicians, which are skillfully rendered in Raschka’s signature explosion of thick, freewheeling line and splashes of vibrant watercolor but which are not exactly the essence of Sun Ra. A closing note offers a bit more biographical information, and a list of selected album titles is included. An annotated list of individual pieces showcasing the Arkestra’s range would have been welcome, but musical explorers will easily track Sun Ra down on Planet YouTube. EB - Copyright 2014 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.