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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Jazzy Picture Books

February 13, 2007

Poetry is music in words, and what better way to seam them together than in picture books? Even better, books are a great way to warm cold February days with the sounds of jazz.

Award winning author, Walter Dean Myers and his artist son, Christopher, took a look at jazz in art and poetry – and how it reflects the African American experience – in a book entitled Jazz (Holiday House) which was awarded a 2007 Coretta Scott King Honor for illustration.

And just like jazz, Jazz conveys the power in this uniquely and truly American music form. You can listen to Christopher Myers and his father talk about jazz, their work, and Blues Journey at the National Book Festival on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

Try reading a couple of poems in Jazz, then launch into writing jazz poetry, or maybe jazzy poetry (why else would we call something jazzy, after all?). Think about how language evolves. How do kids today say that something is cool or hip? What words – or sounds – make the meaning clear? Can a word be written to demonstrate its meaning -- like "coooool"?

Poetry can be about the moment, about feelings; it is personal and it is universal. Just take a look at how one poem reflects Kelly Herold's feelings. I like sharing "Honey I Love" as a jumpstart to get children to share their favorite things poetically. Honey I Love by Eloise Greenfield is available as an individual illustrated poem and in a collection (both HarperCollins).

And for more ideas related to jazz, PBS Kids has developed web-based activities so you can actually hear different jazz musicians; and for adults, Ken Burns has taken an in-depth look at jazz.

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"The things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who'll get me a book I [haven't] read." — Abraham Lincoln