Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Non-Fiction
Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum

Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum

Spring 2008 Non-Fiction
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Robert Andrew Parker
Illustrator: Robert Andrew Parker
ISBN: 978-0-375-83965-8
Hardcover Price: $16.99
Adult readers and filmgoers are familiar with the musical biopic, that illustration of the life of a famed musician from an earlier time in American culture. Often these tales are far too mature thematically for younger readers, but Robert Andrew Parker has created a more child-friendly version with Piano Starts Here. It's the story of Art Tatum, a musician who, despite being nearly blind since birth, became one of the greatest jazz pianists in history. During the 1930s, Tatum was a regular on the jazz circuit, playing in clubs frequented by Fats Waller and other greats of the era. Parker's book focuses on Tatum's early years- performing in church at age ten, gradually playing in public after school, and eventually touring with bandleaders across the country. Parker's text, written from Tatum's point of view, is as melodic as you would expect in a book about music: "When I am at the piano, I close my eyes. I play clouds of notes, rivers of notes, notes that sound like skylarks singing and leaves rustling, like rain on a rooftop." The soft watercolors, also by Parker, complement the story well. Even without including the darker details of Tatum's life (and early death), this is an interesting look at the man and his era in music history.
Zarina Mullan Plath   ©2008 Parents' Choice
Zarina Mullan Plath has undergraduate degrees in both biology and English. Her interests include cookbooks/culinary history, South Asian literature (especially in regards to South Asians in America), and, of course, children's literature. Her poetry is included in the anthology Sweeping Beauty (U. of Iowa Press, 2005). Zarina lives in Central Illinois with her husband, two children, and assorted pets.

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