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Born to Swing: Lil Hardin Armstrong's Life in Jazz
Contributor(s): Rockliff, Mara (Author), Wood, Michele (Illustrator)

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ISBN: 1629795550     ISBN-13: 9781629795553
Publisher: Calkins Creek Books
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Binding Type: Hardcover
Published: January 2018

Annotation: Presents the life of the jazz musician, describing her love of music as a child, her work as a composer and musician in Chicago, her marriage to Louis Armstrong, and her colloaboration with some of the greatest jazz musicians of her era.
Additional Information
BISAC Categories:
- Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography - Music
- Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography - Women
- Juvenile Nonfiction | Music - Jazz
Dewey: B
LCCN: 2017942222
Lexile Measure: 670
Physical Information: 0.5" H x 8.3" W x 10.1" (0.85 lbs) 32 pages
Accelerated Reader Info
Quiz #: 193651
Reading Level: 3.5   Interest Level: Lower Grades   Point Value: 0.5
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.

Contributor Bio(s): Mara Rockliff is the author of many historical picture books, including Anything but Ordinary Addie and Around America to Win the Vote, as well as the Cook Prize-winning book Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family. Visit mararockliff.com.

Michele Wood is an illustrator, painter, filmmaker, designer, and philanthropist. She is the illustrator of many picture books, including I See Rhythm by Toyomi Igus, for which Michele won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award; I Lay My Stitches Down by Cynthia Grady; and Chasing Freedom by Nikki Grimes. She lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. Visit michelewood.com.

Reviewed by Horn Book Guide Reviews (Horn Book Guide Reviews 2019 Spring)
Rockliff writes in an upbeat, toe-tapping first-person voice to tell the story of lesser-known black jazz pianist Lil Hardin, who was accomplished before she met and married jazz great Louis Armstrong. Wood's bold, naive acrylic paintings nicely match the era and subject. Photos, additional biographical information, and a list of songs complete the volume. Timeline. Bib. Copyright 2019 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Reviewed by PW Annex Reviews (Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews)

Lil Hardin Armstrong played jazz piano at a time when female musicians were expected to be "canaries" (singers) and not to "play hard" the way she did. Though Armstrong was Louis Armstrong's second wife, her own career was established before she met Satchmo. Rockliff (Mesmerized) brings immediacy to her story by writing in first-person: Armstrong describes how she learned to play jazz as a child, then moved to Chicago and played piano at a music store, which led her to perform with a jazz band and meet Armstrong. The two married and collaborated, but the end of the Roaring Twenties led to "hard times for America—and me. Louis was moving on." Wood's thickly painted acrylics bring rolling momentum to the pages; wearing bright yellow throughout, Armstrong is the focus of nearly every spread. A joyful portrait of a musician who made her mark on the jazz world. Ages 9–12. Author's agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. Illustrator's agent: Caryn Wiseman, Andrea Brown Literary. (Jan.)

Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2017 December)

Gr 2–5—Chronicling the life of Lil Hardin Armstrong, the illustrations and first-person text showcase an exuberance evident in the life of "Miss Lil," who pioneered not only female musicianship in jazz, but jazz itself. In the author's note, Rockliff mentions Hardin was working on an autobiography at the time of her death (at the piano, no less), which has since disappeared. Readers will learn of Hardin's childhood spent in Memphis where she was attracted to swing even as she trained as a classical pianist and played for services at her church. The "Jazz Wonder Child" dances through every page, a lively yellow-clad figure swirling and swinging through her move to Chicago, rise to jazz fame, and meetings with such famous folks as Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong (who would later become her husband). Wood relies on yellow to draw the eye to important features on each page and to drench the book in the fervor and delight Lil Hardin clearly felt for music. A "Listen to Lil" section provides a suggested song list for readers curious to hear more. VERDICT Suitable for read-alouds at storytimes or school projects for the upper grades.—Chelsea Woods, New Brunswick Free Public Library, NJ

Copyright 2017 School Library Journal.
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