Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell

HarperCollins. Feb. 2020. 48p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062671295.
PreS-Gr 3–Canadian author-illustrator Alko offers an homage to fellow countrywoman Joni Mitchell. This portrait delves into the experiences that influenced her career, spotlighting the heartfelt, poetic lyrics that spoke to and defined a generation. Even today, long after she first gained a devoted international following in the 1960s and 1970s, Mitchell’s albums—showcasing her impressive vocal range, quirky melodies, and driving piano and guitar riffs—still appeal to nostalgic listeners. This is an admiring, fact-filled, though not entirely successful book. The author aims for lyricism but sometimes the descriptions seem vague. The targeted audience is far removed from Mitchell’s heyday. Therefore, young readers will likely not have heard her songs or even heard of her. Some may believe the appeal of Mitchell’s music to young children is questionable except, perhaps, for bouncy classics like “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Chelsea Morning.” Regrettable omissions are QR codes and/or links in the back matter to Mitchell’s tunes, though a discography is included. Alko employs collage, acrylics, found objects, and wildflowers to create the colorful illustrations, which are are appealing and inventive. Numerous snippets of Mitchell’s lyrics playfully drift through the pages.
VERDICT Nonessential. Recommended for school and large public collections. Use in units on music appreciation and women recording artists.

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