Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Before John was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane

Before John was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane

Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator:  Sean Qualls 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 9
Henry Holt and Co., 2003   ISBN: 978-0805079944

Long before he was a famous "jazz giant" little John Coltrane heard sounds and music all around him. He heard his father "strumming the ukulele" and his mother playing hymns for the church choir. He heard birds, trains, cheers, and jazz playing on the radio.

Hearing all these incredible sounds made John pick up a saxophone to play a tune made up of "every sound/he'd every known." The bird song, the train whistles, the giggles of his cousin, and "the scoutmasters call to join a band" combined in a magical way to create a sound that was uniquely his.

The lyrical, musical text in this picture book flows across the pages, capturing the singular way in which John Coltrane listened to the world around him when he was a little boy. Without a doubt this is a book that shows the power that music can have over a young person who has a gift for hearing and creating music.

With Sean Qualls unique paintings to accompany the minimal text, this is a book that will resonate with anyone of any age who loves music.

At the back of the book an author's note provides readers with further information about John Coltrane's life and work. There is also a list of some of John Coltrane's most well known recordings.