Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Jonah Winter
Illustrator:  Sean Qualls 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 4 to 8
Scholastic, 2006   ISBN: 978-0439507370

John Birks Gillespie was born into a poor family and into a life full of violence, suffering, and anger. He lashed out at the world whenever he could until the day when his music teacher put a trumpet into his hands. Blowing into that trumpet "as hard as he could" made John feel better, and the anger in his soul finally had an outlet that was creative rather than destructive.

Though his playing "was pretty bad at first," John kept on practicing and over time he got better and better. He learned to read music and then he decided that he wanted to play jazz, which was all "the rage" and which could be heard all over the country on the radio and in clubs. Jazz was different and it was fun and determined to find it for himself John left his small southern "Podunk" town and went north to Philadelphia where he got a job playing in a jazz band. John had fun making music and being "dizzy" silly at the same time and the audiences loved him. Because of his goofing off he was given the name Dizzy and over time he developed a new kind of "bebop" jazz that was wild and cool and all his own.

Written in rhythmic often musical free verse which occasionally rolls out a rhyming sequence, this picture book is a true reflection of Dizzy Gillespie's life and his music. It is unconventional, bright and vivid, and full of surprises.

At the back of the book an Author's Note provides the readers with further information about Dizzy Gillespie's life and his achievements.