Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, September 23, 2019

Sonny’s Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins finds his groove by Barry Wittenstein

Sonny’s Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins finds his groove
Barry Wittenstein; Illustrated by Keith Mallett
Charlesbridge. 2019
Grades 4 and up

Walter Theodore “Sonny” Rollins was born in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance, 1930. The music and musicians of that time had a profound influence on Rollins. Sweet sounds of swing jazz swirl in the air./Sir Duke’s satin melodies./(That’s Duke Ellington, for you younger cats.)

This picture book biography tells the story of Rollins (who celebrated his 88th birthday in 2018) and events in his life that culminated in recording the album, The Bridge in 1962, an album he recorded after a two-year sabbatical. During those two years Rollins played “sixteen hours every day,/plays to his heart’s de-light./Suits Sonny just fine till the neighbor complains.” And his wife tells him their having a baby and he must find another place to practice.

Where does Rollins play where he won’t disturb anyone?
“The bridge, named Williamsburg/ connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn,/where he’s gonna connect the old to the new-/from what was to what will be./Isn’t that what bridges do?”

The jazz influenced narrative is complemented by colorful illustrations. The double-page spreads, created digitally using Procreate software and Adobe Photoshop, brings the story to life.

Back matter includes an author’s note, more information about The Bridge album, a time line, source notes for Sonny’s quotes, and resources to learn more about Sonny Rollins.

This is a great introduction to one of Jazz greats. Be sure to have Rollins’ music quietly playing in the background as you share this book.

To write this review, I borrowed a copy of the book from my local public library.

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