Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka shares his love of jazz great Sun Ra, just in time to mark the centennial of the musician’s birth.
Jazz musician Sun Ra (1914–1993) always said that he came from Saturn. Being from another planet, he was naturally intrigued by everything earthly — especially music, because music is the one thing on Earth most like the stars. Earthlings themselves confused Sun Ra, the way they sorted themselves by color and fought wars against one another. So he made music. And he traveled with other musicians and singers, calling themselves the Sun Ra Arkestra, playing, singing, and dancing for people all over the planet. Because music, he said, is what holds us all together. Join acclaimed author-illustrator Chris Raschka in celebrating a legend of the jazz world who was truly one of a kind.
Chris Raschka has received the Caldecott Medal twice, for The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norman Juster and for A Ball for Daisy, which he wrote and illustrated. He is the acclaimed illustrator of many books for children, including the Caldecott Honor Book Yo! Yes?; I Pledge Allegiance by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson; Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales; The Grasshopper’s Song by Nikki Giovanni; and A Poke in the I, A Kick in the Head, and A Foot in the Mouth, all edited by Paul B. Janeczko. Chris Raschka lives in New York City.
This tribute to the innovative jazz keyboardist and band leader synthesizes brilliant paintings with a narrative that strikes just the right chords for its audience. ... Incorporating musical notation sheets into luminous watercolor-and-ink pictures, Raschka repeats their horizontal lines in piano strings, library bookshelves, city blocks and the very rectangularity of many compositions. The joyful palette—yellow, red, blue-green, sienna—and wildly gestural black ink celebrate Sun Ra’s unique spirit. Unequivocally stellar.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A fantastical tribute. ... This is not the first time Raschka has captured jazz in imagery, and here his trademark loose gestural style is especially effective in reflecting both the subject’s untethered spirit and impenetrable persona. The images themselves are dense and dynamic, painted on a variety of textured papers and musical notation sheets and full of brilliant color and heavy black. ... In the end, readers get a bright, impressionistic portrait that follows its subject’s refusal to play by the rules.
—The Horn Book
Raschka’s chief metaphor is a rich one: Sun Ra (born Herman P. Blount) fancied himself as Saturn born, and thus his quizzical questioning of the world is depicted extraterrestrially... As an experience... [this book] definitely swings.
Raschka pictures Sun Ra and his Arkestra orchestra in chromatic gouache daubs and silhouette-black lowlights, bringing to mind Romare Bearden’s sultry palette and mellifluous collages. Raschka acknowledges the social and musical influences on the innovative artist... [and] provides a selective list of recordings, encouraging readers to consider Sun Ra’s nonconformity and genius alongside a first listen to his polyphonic music.
Highlighting Sun Ra's peculiar claim of origin is a wonderful way to capture the openhearted weirdness of the musically precocious Herman P. Blount... Mr. Raschka's messy, moody, exuberant watercolors look like Sun Ra's music transformed into paint—a gloriously cacophonous unity of subject matter, text and illustration.
—The Wall Street Journal
[An] inventive opening scene of a roughly outlined Sun Ra crashing down to Earth and a few views of the full Arkestra in their dazzling garb... [V]iewers find cityscapes and contemporary musicians, which are skillfully rendered in Raschka’s signature explosion of thick, freewheeling line and splashes of vibrant watercolor...
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
The idea of a picture-book biography of out-there jazzman Sun Ra for kids is a delight. ... Raschka's colorful, impressionistic illustrations are like bits of jazz on the page.
—The New York Post