Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Duke Ellington: His life in Jazz with 21 activities

Duke Ellington: His life in Jazz with 21 activities

Stephanie Stein Crease
For ages 9 to 12
Chicago Review Press, 2006   ISBN: 978-1556527241

Edward Kennedy Ellington was born in Washington, DC and was raised in middle-class comfort by his loving and supportive parents. In their well appointed home Edward's parents had a piano, which they both knew how to play to some degree. Edward however, did not have any interest in the instrument. He was much too fond of playing baseball to waste time indoors playing the piano.

Then, when he was seven years old, Edward's mother decided that baseball playing was too rough, and she arranged for her reluctant son to have piano lessons. An unenthusiastic Edward did not devote much time to his practicing and he still loved baseball.

Then in 1915, when he was fourteen, Edward began to listen to the music that was being played all over town, and he fell in love with the syncopated rhythms and tunes. He started to play the piano with more interest, "trying to copy the songs and styles of the pianists he heard."

After a timely meeting with a successful young musician that same summer, Edward – who now used the nickname "Duke" – was inspired to work even harder on his piano playing. He practiced for hours trying to better understand the rhythms and learning songs by heart because he could not read music very well.

After a popular pianist and musician took Duke under his wing, the young man really began to learn the skills he needed to begin what would be a long and illustrious career in music.

This excellent title looks at every aspect of Duke Ellington's life. In addition to the main text, there are numerous period photographs throughout the book, and there are twenty-one activities to try. These are both creative and musical in nature, and children will, among other things, get to design a concert poster, make a "washtub bass," and write lyrics for an Ellington tune.