Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrator:   Brian Pinkney 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 9
Hyperion, 2007   ISBN: 978-0786814206

When Edward “Duke” Ellington’s parents first enrolled him to have piano lessons the baseball loving boy was not very enthusiastic. He would much rather be outdoors throwing a ball around than to be stuck indoors playing the same old tired exercises over and over. So Duke gave up on the whole piano lesson thing for a while. And then some years later he heard the piano being played in a whole new way; he heard ragtime and his fingers wanted to play.

With practice Duke soon learned how to play all kinds of wonderful melodies, many of which he made up himself. By the time he was nineteen Duke’s playing also became his livelihood. He entertained people of all kinds in clubs and cabarets and then he formed his own band which traveled to all the most popular clubs. Duke and his band’s music began to get played on the radio and the country got to know the splendid sounds that he and his friends were making. Then in 1939 Duke teamed up with Billy Strayhorn, a musician and song writer, and together they created some wonderful songs which rocked the music scene to its very core.

Andrea Davis Pinkney not only tells Duke Ellington’s story, but she does so in a lively and playful way, capturing the excitement and energy that flowed from the Duke Ellington to his audiences through his music. She lets us ‘meet’ the people in his band and experience their music through her lyrical and highly visual language. Best of all she helps us see that Duke Ellington changed the music world forever, giving it a new flavor and making it richer than it had ever been before.