Jessica Jones Shares her Frameworks for Reading Native American Literature

Enjoy this video which guides viewers through a chronological exploration of important moments in Native American Literature from 1492- the present. Please feel free to post this link on your own website if you wish, or to add it to your list of resources for educators.  You can also listen to or watch the interview with Jessica Jones on the Writers on Writing Podcast with host Anthony L. Manna on Podbean or your favorite Podcast channel. 

Jessica Jones has been teaching Art and English in K-12 and college settings for over 15 years. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Journal of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning (2014), the Ohio Journal of Language Arts (2014), Poems Across the Big Sky II: An Anthology of Montana Poets (Many Voices Press, 2016), Bright Bones (Open Country Press, 2018) and NCTE’s English Journal (2018). She also presents at regional and national conferences and has served as Writer in Residence for Calcutta Mercy Hospital in India, and with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. She is currently full-time faculty at Kent State University at Stark, where she teaches poetry, creative writing, and composition courses that focus on diversity and social justice. She can be reached at her website.

Wake Up to Poetry

Wake Up to Poetry

Funny, hilarious, wild, upbeat, zany, bizarre, weird, peculiar poems for kids and tweens to read and share aloud, perform, revisit, memorize, move to, and, best of all, ENJOY!

Why is Poetry Essential for Skill Building

Listen up! Kids and tweens listen to poems read aloud and foster their listening skills by becoming alert to words they hear and their meaning.

Words, words, words! When they read and listen to rhyming words, they learn to attend to the sounds of letters by discovering how words rhyme. Poetry supports their understanding of the sounds of words and the pronunciation of words.

Language Works! Poems introduce kids and tweens—and anyone else—to parts of speech and language conventions such as spacing, margins, and punctuation. ELL kids can build awareness of these conventions.

New words, words, words! Poems introduce new words or demonstrate the use of familiar words in new ways—in new contexts. In particular, ELL learners can add to their emerging vocabulary treasury. Synonyms, antonyms, word play, invented words—these, too, can be introduced by exploring the language of poems.

Let’s write! Different poems=different structures, forms, and formats. When young readers explore simple poetry forms, pointing out and discussing the components of these forms, they can begin experimenting with writing their own poems. Helpful books for introducing writer-friendly poetry forms and techniques: Leap Into Poetry: More ABCs of Poetry, Fly With Poetry: An ABCs of Poetry, by Avis Harley; A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms, edited by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Chris Raschka, and Poetry From A to Z: A Guide for Young Writers, by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Cathy Bobak.

Imagine this! Poets express themselves with unique images that stimulate young readers’ and writers’ imagination. Imagination awakens interest, fascination, attention, passion, and curiosity—mental states that empower young readers to lead rich lives.

Social Emotional Learning! Poetry invites kids and tweens—and all other readers—to experience deep feelings and deeply felt moments. Poets explore both supportive and harmful relationships, empathy for others, and responsible and caring decisions as well as actions that cause personal pain such as bullying. A poem may put feelings and thoughts into words that children may not know how to express otherwise.

Human diversity! Many poets write about issues and concerns related to social justice through their descriptions of people deeply affected by bias, discrimination, and other forms of destructive social habits. They make young readers aware of racism and other forms of bigotry and illustrate solutions that can transform hatred to kindness and acceptance.

Poetry for content learning. Poems can help to foster content learning throughout the curriculum. Math and science concepts, historical topics and themes, national and international settings and cultural habits and values are found in many good poems for young readers and writers.

Refreshing Poetry Books

And now, let’s cheer for amusing, wacky, entertaining poems that are both appealing and fun to read! Encourage kids and tweens to move with the rhythms—and stories—they hear. Motivate them to add actions and other dramatic elements.

(By the way, for two great books with inspiring plans for acting out poems and many more suggestions for making poems come alive, try The Poetry Friday Anthology: Poems for the School Year with Connections to the Common Core (Pomelo Books, 2012) and The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School: Poems for the School Year with Connections to the Common Core (Pomelo Books, 2013)— both compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.)

A Hatful of Dragons and More Than 13.8 Billion Other Funny Poems, by Vikram Madan. ISBN 978-1-68437-150-1. “In this funny book, Vikram Madan’s ingenious poems take many forms, from limerick to rebus to a fill-in-the-blank poem that offers more than 13.8 billion funny combinations. All feature clever wordplay, impeccable rhythm and rhyme, and riotous punchlines. This is a quirky collection of poems that readers will laugh their way through again and again.”

The Bubble Collector: Poems and Drawings by Vikram Madan. ISBN 9781482397611. “By combining playful, rhyming language with exuberant, cartoon-like drawings, tongue-in-cheek humor, and surprise twist-endings, Vikram Madan has created a fun and funny collection that is as clever as it is varied, and certain to delight readers of all ages over and over again.”

Lord of the Bubbles: And Other Funny Poems, by Vikram Madan. ISBN 978-1986885355. “Whether you’re making monsters in your backyard, shopping for doomsday machines, struggling with your boring homework, or just trying to go to sleep, the outlandish and everyday situations in this romp of a collection will have you in splits.”

No More Poems!: A Book in Verse That Just Gets Worse, by Rhett Miller, illustrated by Dan Santat. ISBN 978-0316416528. “In the tradition of Shel Silverstein, these poems bring a fresh new twist to the classic dilemmas of childhood as well as a perceptive eye to the foibles of modern family life. Full of clever wordplay and bright visual gags–and toilet humor to spare–these twenty-three rhyming poems make for an ideal read-aloud experience.”

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups, by Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith. ISBN 978-0316427104.  “Harris’s hilarious debut molds wit and wordplay, nonsense and oxymoron, and visual and verbal sleight-of-hand in masterful ways that make you look at the world in a whole new wonderfully upside-down way.”

It’s Raining Pigs & Noodles, by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by James Stevenson. ISBN 978-0060291945. “The master of mischievous rhyme, Jack Prelutsky, and his partner in crime, James Stevenson, have whipped up a storm of more than one hundred hilarious poems and zany drawings. Grab your umbrella—and make sure it’s a big one!”

A Pizza the Size of the Sun, by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by James Stevenson. ISBN 978-0688132354. “Discover and enjoy a dozen duhduhs, a puzzled python, and the coolest teenage hippopotamus you’ll ever meet. Meet Miss Misinformation, Swami Gourami, and Gladiola Gloppe (and her Soup Shoppe), and delight in a backwards poem, a poem that ever ends, and scores of others.”

Boom! Bellow! Bleat!: Animal Poems for Two or More Voices, by Georgia Heard, illustrated by Aaron DeWitt. ISBN 978-1620915202. “These poems for two or more voices explore the myriad sounds animals make–from a frog’s jug-o-rum to a fish’s boom! to an elephant’s bark. Laced with humor, the poems are a delight to read aloud and cover all major classes of animals: mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects, even a crustacean!”

Messing Around on the Monkey Bars: and Other School Poems for Two Voices, by Betsy Franco, illustrated by Jessie Hartland. ISBN 978-0763631741. “Throughout this collection of nineteen poems — ideal for reading aloud in pairs, but just as much fun with one or many — words, pictures, and voices erupt in an irresistible invitation to join an exhilarating ride around school. So hop on the bus! The pencils are tapping, the clock is ticking, and reports are due…tomorrow?”

HOP TO IT: Poems to Get You Moving, compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. ISBN 978-1937057299. “This is an anthology of 100 new poems by 90 poets—with STEM and social studies connections, thematic mini-lessons, read aloud tips, and extensive back matter featuring useful activities to help maximize student learning and social-emotional development. You can share a new poem or two each week of the school year and get kids thinking and moving as they read aloud their favorite poems using pantomime, sign language, and whole body movements—including deskercise! You’ll also find poems on current topics, such as life during a pandemic, wearing masks, virtual learning, staying connected with friends, and standing up for what you believe in.”

Do Comics Count as Real Reading?

Do Comics Count as Real Reading?

You bet they do, and here’s why

Stop right there! What do you mean by “comics?” Comics are graphic novels that incorporate both text and images to pass information to learners.

Wait a minute! Confusion!! Are comics and graphic novels the same thing?

To find an answer to that question, click the link in the paragraph above and you will come to a great article by Nathan Chandler who explains the differences and similarities between comics and graphic novels.

Here are a few of Mr. Chandler’s ideas about the differences and similarities:

“Pinning down an exact definition is difficult because there’s no consensus on what constitutes a graphic novel, but there are some noted differences. For starters, graphic novels are typically much longer than the average comic book. Secondly, most comic books are part of a series, issued monthly, while graphic novels are often one story per book, sometimes spread over multiple volumes. Graphic novels are also typically square-bound like books.

Beyond these disparities, though, comics and graphic novels are strikingly similar. They both have illustrations, rely heavily on fonts to drive the stories, and are usually laid out in boxy frames that resemble comic strips. Like their comic kin, graphic novels are a type of sequential art.”

And now, back to the topic of the day: Do Comics Count as Real Reading?  Answer: You bet they do, and here’s why:

  • Start reading a comic book, and at once you’re experiencing a story revealed to you with both words and pictures. To make sense of the comic’s story, you—the reader must explore the story’s plot, characters, conflict(s), theme(s), cause and effect, and other story elements—just as a reader of a traditional story must do to comprehend the experience. The text—the words—and the visuals—drawings, pictures, illustrations—work together to reveal these elements,.
  • You, the comic book reader, move from pictures to words and words to pictures to understand the text—fictional story, informational/nonfiction text, biography,poetry—any comics text where words support pictures and pictures support words.
  • What if you’re a reader who struggles with reading? Will you be able to handle a story that has two ways of asking for your attention—words and pictures? Well, guess what? You’ll use the visual images to help you understand words and the connections among them. The layout, structure, and format of comics have the power to engage you, the reader who has a difficult time staying interested in traditional stories and nonfiction books. Think of the electronic devices you use daily that attract you with loads of visual images and keep you busy deciphering—figuring out—what’s going on in the games, videos, reports, news, and groups you’re observing. You are a visual learner online and with comics.
  • The nice thing about comics is that they enliven all sorts of subjects you can read about while you’re improving your reading skills.

Science

Do you like science topics and enjoy exploring STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects? Well, then go to your library and look for the many books that make up the Science Comics Series (published by Macmillan). The series includes:

Science ComicsDinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers by MK Reed and Joe Flood

“In Dinosaurs, learn all about the history of paleontology! This fascinating look at dinosaur science covers the last 150 years of dinosaur hunting, and illuminates how our ideas about dinosaurs have changed–and continue to change.”

Robots and Drones: Past, Present, and Future by Mairghread Scott and Jacob Chabot

“From tea-serving robots in feudal Japan to modern rovers exploring Mars, robots have been humanity’s partners, helpers, and protectors for centuries! Join one of the world’s earliest robots, a mechanical bird named Pouli, as he explores where robots came from, how they work, and where they’re going in this informative and hilarious new book! Ever dreamt of building your own best friend? It might be easier than you think!”      

Solar System: Our Place in Space by Rosemary Mosco and Jon Chad

“Get up close and personal with Earth’s nearest neighbors―Venus with its acid rainstorms, Saturn and its rings of ice, and the heart of it all, the Sun. Humans have always been fascinated by outer space and we’re learning more about our solar system every day. Did you know that our Solar System was born from a cloud of cosmic dust? That Jupiter’s red spot is really a raging storm? Join Sara, Jill, and their space-faring pets on a quest to learn more about the wonders of our Solar System―and beyond!”

History

Comics also spotlight historical events. In a comic, dramatic pictures and lively texts emphasize fascinating facts, discoveries, tragedies, recovery, and human resilience.

Books in the History Comics series offer fascinating well-designed graphics and captivating writing. A few History Comics books:

History Comics: The Challenger Disaster: Tragedy in the Sky by Pranas T. NaujokaitisHistory Comics

“What caused the mid-air explosion? In Pranas T. Naujokaitis’s imaginative tale, set in a far-off future, a group of curious kids investigates the hard questions surrounding the Challenger explosion. Inspired by the legacy and sacrifice of the Challenger seven, they continue in their footsteps, setting out toward the stars and into the great unknown!”

History Comics: The Great Chicago Fire: Rising From the Ashes by Kate Hannigan and Alex Gaudins

“A deadly blaze engulfs Chicago for two terrifying days! A brother, a sister, and a helpless puppy must race through the city to stay one step ahead of the devilish inferno. But can they reunite with their lost family before it’s too late?”

History Comics: The Roanoke Colony: America’s First Mystery by Chris Schweizer

“Over a hundred years before the pilgrims, the very first English settlers arrived on Roanoke Island. But without warning, these colonists abandoned their new home and disappeared without a trace.

What happened to the colonists? To figure it out, we’ll need to investigate how these missing settlers got to Roanoke in the first place, and what the people already living there thought about these strange foreigners. It’s a case filled with brutal battles, perilous pirate ships, ruthless queens, scheming businessmen, and enough skeletons to fill a graveyard.”

Biography

Brief biographies presented in comics format fill the pages of Before They were Authors: Famous Writers as Kids by Elizabeth Haidle

Biography“What makes a writer?  What inspires them? Where do their stories come from? Striking illustrations and a popular graphic novel format bring to life this anthology of literary legends and their childhoods. Featuring beloved authors such as Maya Angelou, C.S. Lewis, Gene Luen Yang and J.K. Rowling, these stories capture the childhood triumphs, failures, and inspirations that predated their careers.”

The Life of Frederick Douglass by David F. Walker, Damon Smyth, and Marissa Louise

“A graphic novel biography of the escaped slave, abolitionist, public speaker, and most photographed man of the nineteenth century, based on his autobiographical writings and speeches, spotlighting the key events and people that shaped the life of this great American.”

Memoir

March: Book One, March: Book Two, and March: Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Illustrated by Nate PowellMemoirs

A heartfelt, emotionally moving three-book memoir by Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and key figure of the civil rights movement presented in comics. Follow his commitment to justice and nonviolence from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Relationships

RelationshipsWhat about a comic book that gets you thinking about relationships and how to keep them strong and happy? That’s the topic Sonica Ellis explores in The Mindful Ninjas: A Growth Mindset Comic Book for Boys and Girls. This fun comic teaches children that by sowing seeds of kindness and love they help others, and by helping others they in turn help themselves.

 

Racism & the Klu Klux Klan

RacismSuperman Smashes the Klsn by Gene Luen Yang. Illustrated by Gurihiru

“It’s 1946. Teenagers Roberta and Tommy Lee just moved with their parents from Chinatown to the center of Metropolis, home to the famous hero, Superman.  One night, the family awakens to find their house surrounded by the Klan of the Fiery Kross! Superman leaps into action, but his exposure to a mysterious green rock has left him weak. Can Roberta and Tommy help him smash the Klan?”

Comics for Young Readers

Minecraft Volume 1(Graphic Novel) by R. Sfé Monster. Illustrated by Sarah Graley.

Tyler, along with his Minecraft friends Evan, Candace, Tobi, and Grace have been going on countless adventures together across the expanses of the Overworld and are in need of a new challenge. They decide to go on the Ultimate Quest–to travel to the End and face off against the ender dragon!

Comics for Young ReadersYoung Justice Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis. Illustrated by Patrick Gleason

“When the nightmare dimension known as Gemworld invades Metropolis, Wonder Girl, Robin, and Impulse answer the call to face the threat as a reborn Young Justice joined by new heroes Jinny Hex (a seeming descendant of legendary bounty hunter Jonah Hex) and a new emerald warrior reluctantly called Teen Lantern. But they’re shocked to discover the battle may be the key to the return of Conner Kent, a.k.a. Superboy! But where have these heroes been? And how much do they remember of their shared pasts in a universe that has been reshaped while they’ve been apart?” It’s a Wonder Comic.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Complete Collection by Hergé

“To celebrate Tintin’s 90th anniversary, the original 23 adventures have been collected together for the first time …. Join the most iconic character in comics as he embarks on extraordinary adventures and solves thrilling mysteries! From the Land of the Soviets to America, to outer space and the depths of the ocean, there are over 1,600 pages of delight in these eight volumes.”

“The three stories that started it all–gathered together in one beautiful volume! Asterix the Gaul introduces us to our indomitable hero and his friends, who try to defend one small Gallic village from the surrounding Romans. In Asterix and the Golden Sickle, he, Obelix, and Lutetia try to buy a new sickle for Getafix. But somehow the sicklesmith has disappeared without a trace. And Asterix and Obelix have to ride to the rescue when the Goths kidnap Getafix in Asterix and the Goths.”5-Minute Spider-Man Stories (5-Minute Stories) by Marvel Press Book Group”

5-Minute Spiderman Stories by  Marvel Press Book Group

“New York’s favorite spider Super Hero is back to battle his biggest villains yet! Each of these twelve stories is the perfect length for reading aloud in about five minutes, making great quick reads. This treasury not only contains old favorites, such as Peter Parker’s origin story, but also new friends like Miles Morales. With action-packed full-page and spot illustrations, Spider-Man’s 5-minute Stories are perfect before bedtime, on the go, or any time of day!”

As we come to the end of our blog, let me introduce you to Jennifer Marshall, a middle school reading teacher who loves comics and praises the success she’s had motivating her students—some of them non-readers or struggling readers—to enjoy comics. She writes about comic books and her success with getting her students to read them in “The Power of Comics.” Find the article here: https://bit.ly/3gz3JRf.

Many thanks to Ms. Marshall for a list of her students’ favorite comics:

  • Dog Manby Dav Pilkey (Graphix)
  • The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag (Graphix)
  • SmileSistersGhost, and Drama all by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic)
  • Marvel Volume 1: No Normalby G. Willow Wilson (Marvel)
  • Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds (Marvel)
  • Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke (First Second)
  • The Amulet Series by Kazu Kibuishi (Graphix)
  • Bone by Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books)
  • Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld (First Second)
  • Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (Dial)
  • Real Friends by Shannon Hale (First Second)
  • Quarterback Rush by Carl Bowen (Stone Arch)
  • The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (First Second)
  • Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani (First Second)
  • Angelic by Simon Spurrier (Image Comics)
  • Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel (Graphix)
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell (Harry N. Abrams)
  • Anya’s Ghostby Vera Brosgol (Square Fish).

 

Goodbye for now, readers and writers, and remembereveryone is a reader quote

 

Find Your Character’s Voice & Listen to Your Character’s Voice

Find Your Character’s Voice & Listen to Your Character’s Voice

Find Your Character’s Voice & Listen to Your Character’s Voice

When you find your character’s voice, you’ll begin to know how you want your character to act, speak, sound, talk, react, dream, and so much more.

Think about this:

When you hear a story character say: “Howdy, pardoner. What cha’ doin’ in these here parts?”

From the way this character talks, what do you think you know about this character? What might this character be wearing? In what part of the USA might this character live or work? Do you have an idea about the work this character does for a living? Give the character a name. WHEW!

Let’s try to begin understanding another character from the way they talk: “Alas, thou dost besmirch my honor with your loathsome regard for my command.”

No way am I, Professor Tonio, gonna repeat the questions I asked you to answer above. Sooooo, answer those questions about this “Alas, thou dost…” character. And give HIM or HER a name. [What fun, thinks Professor Tonio.]

Hey, ho, I made up another character for you to think about~~ but are you still thinking? Sure hope so.

This character says, “Eye shore do wont ta speak ma mind to that feller.”

That’s right. Answer those same questions and give the “Eye shore” character a name.

Ready to hear another character? Good. ‘Cause this one is from a story I wrote. The minute this character came into my mind, my life, my story, I named him Keeper of the Forest. At once, he talked like this:

“Ah, ah. Destiny, Destiny,” Keeper cried. “Oh, har favor not so easily gained dah. Mortal upon mortal have passed thees way desperate for Destiny’s cure,” continued Keeper. “Just as many have returned more, oooh, more and more wretched than when they set out tah. Crestfallen wahr they for having failed to receive Destiny’s guidance to change the course of thar tormented lives sah.”

I wanted Keeper of the Forest to have a drawl, to speak in a slow, lazy way with prolonged vowel sounds. His way of talking seemed so right for the kind of character I made him become? What kind of character is he? Ah, you need to read the story to find out about him and all the other characters that live in my story.  My story is called Loukas and the Game of Chance, and it will be published in 2019. Stay tuned.

Here you go again. Answer those same questions. You already know the name.

Another character speaks. Actually, two characters speak. A father and his son. The author of the story is Neil Gaiman. You may know him as the author of Coraline (https://amzn.to/2RJbVl0)The Graveyard Book (https://amzn.to/2PV3vty). and The Sandman series of graphic novels.

You say you never heard of these books? If you like strange, weird, mysterious, frightening happenings, you’ll love Mr. Gaiman’s stories.

Alright, back to a character’s voice. The characters speaking here are in Gaiman’s novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane (https://amzn.to/2PNtovt):

“Dad? Where’s the car?”

“In the drive.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“What?”

Pretty ordinary, right? I mean, the way these two characters talk sounds like so many people—fathers and sons—you may know. Except that there’s so much to think about—so much suspense—in so few words. Answer the same questions. Remember? From the way these characters talk, what do you think you know about them? What might these characters be wearing? In what part of the USA might these characters live or work? Do you have an idea about the work this character does for a living? Give the character a name. WHEW!

Go ahead now: Get together with a friend and have a conversation about how the two of you answered the questions.

That’s enough, Professor Granpa Tonio! Gotta life? Gotta go.

WRITERS, CALLING ALL WRITERS. DO THIS: Here’s a writing idea:

The way a character handles disappointment reveals a great deal about what is important to him or her.

Write a story or a short scene or simply write down some notes that show what happens when your character faces a disappointment. How does she or he act? What does he or she say? Ah, yes: How does your character speak?

My grandfatherly advice: Make sure you store your writing in—TAH DAH—your WRITER’S NOTEBOOK. What’s that? On my website, there’s a blog titled “Tween and Teen Writing Tips.” That’s where I introduce a writer’s notebook.

*******************

Calling all teachers, parents, advocates. Do you want to encourage your readers and writers to create characters who have a distinct way of speaking? Search google.com: dialect in children’s literature and dialect in literature. Wow! You’ll find a lot there.

You’ll find useful examples like these:

This list provides examples of children’s books on dialect variation.

And for high school readers and writers:

Happy Reading.

Happy Writing.

Visit my website: www.anthonymannabooks.com

#Read. #Write. #Act. #Draw. #Play. #Explore.

It’s all happening at Professor Granpa Tonio’s website: www.anthonymannabooks.com.

Kids, teachers, parents, grandparents, partners~~oh, that’s anyone who’s wild about books for kids, tweens, teens, and beyond. Come on over and hang out. You’ll find a very special place for watching funny videos, acting out stories with friends, writing like a pro, making story art, going deep inside different kinds of literature with really cool questions and reading guides. See you there. Don’t forget to tell me what you’re reading and writing these days. And, hey, be sure to leave your comments and suggestions and interests about—you got it—reading and writing.

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa Book Review

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa Book Review

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, 2002. Ages 5-9.

What’s this book about? “Let me tell you Ella’s story./‘Cause, you see, I was there. From the get-go.” That’s the voice of Scat Cat Monroe, the cool dude narrator-guide who pays homage to Ella’s grit, determination, and remarkable talent in four “Tracks:” “Hoofin’ in Harlem,” “Jammin’ at Yale,” “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” and “Carnegie Hall Scat.” Scat Cat Monroe tells of the contest seventeen year-old Ella wins at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre, an early breakthrough that helped secure her popularity among Harlem audiences who were “eating out of her hand” in the 1930s. Ella then gets noticed by Chick Webb, jazz drummer and band leader, who quickly recognizes her talent and mentors her in the swing style of jazz, an entertainment she and Webb’s orchestra bring to Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom for an extended stay. Later, Ella’s bebop vocals accompany Dizzy Gillespie’s “…ping-pong rhythms that gave bebop its sound.” With Gillespie’s band, she moves into scat singing—“abandoning the lyrics of a song to use nonsense syllables to carry the rhythm”—one of her most famous vocal styles. In the 1940s she joins “Jazz at the Philharmonic,” a traveling troupe of jazz musicians that played to racially integrated audiences, particularly uncommon at that time. The rest, as they say, is history. Ella wins thirteen Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award, and a National Medal of the Arts.

Why is this a good book? This biography rocks with a writing style that’s hip, musical, and jazzy-poetic, and scratch-board illustrations that keep the story moving with characters that dance, swing, twirl, and soar across electric pages.

Next read: Pair this biography with Ella Fitzgerald singing some of her most famous songs. Try: Ella 100: Ella Fitzgerald: 100 Songs For a Centennial, Verve, 2017.