Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Louis Armstrong You Never Knew

Collier, James Lincoln. 2004. The Louis Armstrong You Never Knew. Scholastic.

Few people have ever risen as far in life as Louis Armstrong did. He started at the very bottom of American society. It was hardly possible to begin life in worse conditions. By the time he was sixty he was one of the most famous entertainers in the world, and probably the best known black person anywhere. In his time, perhaps only the Beatles and Elvis Presley were more celebrated performers. In 1964 his recording of "Hello, Dolly" was such a hit that it bumped one of the Beatles' most famous records off the top spot on the charts.

I loved this book. It's just a great nonfiction biography--not only is it rooted in fact, it grows and blossoms there too, not relying on fictionalized dialogue to hook readers. In five chapters, Collier covers Armstrong's life. And he does so in a way that is reader-friendly. If I was in elementary school and looking for a biography to read for a book report--written or oral--this would be a good choice. It's simple, but not too simple. Rich in detail, but not to the point where it becomes bogged down in such. It explained just enough that you got a good feeling, a good taste for what his life was like, the culture was like, but it wasn't boring. I liked learning more about New Orleans and jazz. And I liked that it touched upon race relations--segregation and prejudices. I felt I learned a lot while reading this book. It has a nice blending of photographs with illustrations. And overall, I just thought it was really well done.

Get a playlist!
Standalone player
Get Ringtones

What a Wonderful World

When the Saints Go Marching In

Hello Dolly (live)

Hello, Dolly (movie)

Now You Have Jazz

High Society

A Kiss to Build a Dream On

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


DesLily said...

can you hear me groaning??? this will go on my wish list.. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great review. Frequently movies and shows will play some recording of Louis Armstrong singing. These always grab at my kids, even though they still quite young. I'm familiar with some of the facts of his life and its nice to see that there's an excellent book to use to help introduce my kids to this great and inspiring man.

I was reading your review here this morning before the rest of the family was up and showed it to the family when they came down for breakfast. I had some bit of trouble getting them to stop watching and start eating so we wouldn't be late for school.

Anonymous said...

I'm very happy to know about this biography. As an ESL teacher, it's a challenge finding books that are easy to read but relevant to adult students. Biographies bridge that gap beautifully, and I'm definitely going to use it with my students.

Marcia Calhoun Forecki
Better Than Magic

Becky said...

Deslily, one more can't hurt, right?
Dan, I'm glad you enjoyed the post! I loved including all those clips. I just love Louis Armstrong and it's a joy to watch him and to hear him.
Marcia, I think that's a fabulous idea! I think the biography is definitely relevant to adults. And it's just a fascinating read.

Anonymous said...

When I read your review the other day, I starred this as one for my list. In the reader, though, I missed all this great music. What a beautiful job, Becky. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I starred this in my reader the other day when I read your review. But I'm sure glad I stopped by in person. What a wonderful collection of music. Thanks, Becky!

Brimful Curiosities said...

"What a Wonderful World" is one of my favorite songs. The DJ played it during the dance at our wedding. Thanks for a great post.