NONFICTION

Sonny's Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Finds His Groove

illus. by Keith Mallett. 40p. notes. Charlesbridge. May 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781580898812.
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RedReviewStarGr 1–4—The life of jazz legend Sonny Rollins pulses with the rousing spontaneity of his music in Wittenstein's free verse biography. Readers witness Rollins's career as an acclaimed musician followed by his explosive success and the subsequent reincarnations of his art. When Rollins feels like his career is one out-of-control improvisation, he ducks out of the limelight, devoting days and nights to playing his sax on the Williamsburg Bridge. On that bridge, he does some soul-searching; after two years, he returns to the spotlight as a more confident, grounded musician. Wittenstein's verse replicates the swift tempo of bebop, interspersing rhyme and combining informal vernacular with a sense of extemporization in the rhythm. Some words, such as "per-co-lat-ing," are punctuated at every syllable, each striking like a staccato note. Others are emphasized in all caps and are onomatopoeic ("BOOM BOP BEBOP!"). Mallett's smooth, bold illustrations are rendered in dusky purples, moody blues, and earth tones: colors suggesting notes of jazz swirling through a thick night sky. An author's note, liner notes to Rollins's seminal album, The Bridge, a time line, and additional content provide an opportunity for further exploration.
VERDICT Pair with Rollins's music to introduce children to this legendary musician and to the rhythmic exuberance of jazz.–Melissa Williams, Berwick Academy, ME

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