Little Rosetta and the Talking Guitar: The Musical Story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Woman Who Invented Rock and Roll

Doubleday. Feb. 2023. 40p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780593571071.
Gr 2-6–This recounting of Rosetta Tharpe’s life sets itself apart by focusing on the period in her early childhood when she learned to play guitar, and the close relationship she had with her mother, both of which greatly influenced her larger life story. Tharpe’s mother gave her the gift of a guitar at age four, and so began her passion. With a goal of playing at the church anniversary, the young girl persevered through the sore fingers, broken strings, and ear-splitting sour notes all fledgling players endure in order to master their craft. And master it she did, with the support and love of her mother and community. The author’s note picks up where the picture book story leaves off, briefly recounting the trajectory of Tharpe’s career, and the influence she had on rock and roll and American music, in general. Spreads of cut-paper collage in muted earth tones are punctuated with musical notes and notations in blues and purples, a combination that gives great depth and interest to the illustrations.
VERDICT An overdue narrative of one of early rock’s most influential figures, and an additional purchase for most biography collections.

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