Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Just a Lucky So and So: The Story of Louis Armstrong

Just a Lucky So and So: The Story of Louis Armstrong

Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrator:  James E. Ransome 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Holiday House, 2016   ISBN: 978-0823434282

Louis Armstrong was born “black and poor and lucky” and he lived in a poor neighborhood in New Orleans called The Battlefield. When he was still a child, Louis did his best to supplement his mother’s meager wages by taking on little jobs such as hauling coal and selling newspapers.

Louis’ world was full of music, because even in The Battlefield music was played in the streets, in the honky-tonks, and in the churches. He used to listen to musicians play at the Funky Butt Hall, and in particular he revered Joe “King” Oliver, who was a marvelous horn player.

When he was seven Louis started going to school, and every afternoon he worked for the Karnofskys, helping out with their business and tooting a little tin horn as they drove around the streets seeking out “rags” and “scraps” to buy. Morris Karnofsky cared for Louis so much that he loaned the boy five dollars so that he could buy a cornet from a pawnshop.

Unfortunately Louis’ gift for singing and playing his little cornet did not keep him out of trouble, and when he was eleven his “scrapes with the law” landed him a juvenile detention center. At first his life there was grim. After all he, was separated from his family and had no cornet to play. Then the band master realized that the little boy from The Battlefield had a gift, and eventually Louis played the cornet in the band and became the bandleader. Walking down the streets in his old neighborhood dressed in his uniform and playing the cornet made Louis incredibly happy. He did not know then that this was just the beginning of an amazing musical career.

In this wonderful book a splendid text, vibrant artwork, and Louis Armstrong quotes are combined to give young readers a picture of what the great musician’s life was like.

At the back of the book readers will find an author’s note full of more information about Louis Armstrong,  and a list of resources that they can explore at their leisure.