King of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin by Stephen Costanza

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

King of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin: Costanza, Stephen, Costanza,  Stephen: 9781534410367: Amazon.com: Books
King of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin: Costanza, Stephen, Costanza,  Stephen: 9781534410367: Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  Scott Joplin grew up in a musical family in Texarkana, Arkansas.  His parents encouraged his talents by buying him a piano, not an easy feat for the impoverished family, and got him lessons when his mother offered to clean the music teacher’s house.  When Scott was old enough, though, his father told him he should get a job on the railroad, one of the only opportunities for a young African American man to find steady work.  But the pull of music was too great, and Scott started playing in saloons, gradually working his way up to more respectable establishments and a chance to go to college.  His love of a new form of music, ragtime, led to his most famous composition, “The Maple Leaf Rag”.  Its success allowed him to leave saloons forever and focus on composing, creating “an American music like the country itself–a patchwork of sounds and colors.”  Includes a lengthy author’s note with additional information, a bibliography, and a recommended listening list.  56 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  There’s a folksy feel to both the voice and the illustrations of this picture book biography that draws the reader in immediately.  Although not a lot is known about Scott Joplin, the author does an amazing job of piecing together his story, and the author’s note and bibliography make this an excellent research resource.

Cons:  I can’t stop humming “Maple Leaf Rag”.

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