Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxanne Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo

Published by Candlewick

 

Summary: In 1958, graphic designer Art Kane sold Esquire on the idea of taking a picture of as many jazz musicians as he could gather together. Looking for the perfect backdrop, he traveled to Harlem, where he spent a full day seeking the brownstone he wanted to use for the shot. Although he wasn’t a professional photographer, Kane got his photo of 57 jazz musicians, now known as Harlem 1958. This book tells the history of that day through poems about Kane and some of his subjects. Thelonius Monk was an hour late because he was picking out the perfect outfit to wear. Count Bassie explains many of the musicians’ nicknames, including his own. “There’s A Hole in the Picture” recounts the reason Duke Ellington is missing from the photo (he was on the road). Other poems are about lesser-known performers, as well as some of the Harlem kids who ended up in the photo, lining up in the front row or peeking out the windows of the house. An oversized page near the end unfolds to finally reveal the photograph. Back matter includes an extensive author’s note, an outline picture identifying all the musicians, thumbnail biographies of all the subjects of the poems, and a huge bibliography. 66 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros: This carefully researched, beautifully illustrated collection of poems requires a slow reading. Readers will find themselves flipping between the poems, the photo, and the back matter. 66 pages jam-packed with information, presented with enormous artistic flair.

Cons: It’s difficult to know who the audience would be for this book. Most kids in grades 4-7 won’t have the context to really appreciate it, yet clearly it’s written for an upper elementary/middle school reader.

 

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