Song for Jimi: The Story of Guitar Legend Jimi Hendrix

Holiday House/Neal Porter. Oct. 2021. 56p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780823443338.
Gr 2-6–This lengthy picture book bursts with psychedelic color and rhythmic verse. Smith focuses on Hendrix’s childhood: his parents fighting, his mom’s abandonment, his musical obsession, his progression from a broom to a one-string ukelele to a secondhand acoustic “git-tar” to an electric guitar. Five long verses, an outro, and an interlude describe Jimi’s arc from birth to the success of the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, ending the bio-poem on an upbeat note. Free verse structured like one long song with repeating motifs is an effective choice for conveying Hendrix’s creative and musical journey; the verses are full of onomatopoeia as Hendrix develops his unique guitar sounds. Rodriguez’s art, created with oil-based woodblock on paper combined with digital media, uses variations of primary colors—turquoise, sunshine yellow, and red—with pops of pale green and saturated magenta. Music radiates from Jimi in swirls, rays, and zig-zags, and he is rendered in a different dynamic pose on each page. Readers familiar with the musician will learn something new, while those just learning of him may seek out his music. Back matter includes an author’s note, time line, author’s personal playlist, discography, and references. Along with fairly spelled-out domestic violence, the verse includes, “But buried deep beneath his beat-up family tree were roots made strong by the blood of Cherokee, warrior roots from his grandmother,” a connotation that some may find offensive or which may need discussion or context.
VERDICT For a straightforward narrative biography, look elsewhere, but those who enjoyed the style and rhythm of Chris Raschka’s Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop and are ready for a more in-depth biography will find this a rich and rewarding read.

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