Friday 28 April 2017

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 28th April 2017 - "Ella Queen of Jazz" by Helen Hancocks (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

This week's second book of the week is SO cool and hip, the fabulous story of a legendary singer - here's "Ella, Queen of Jazz" by Helen Hancocks...
Books like this are so needed right now. In a climate everyone thought was firmly consigned to the history books, now more than ever it feels like the world has regressed 60 or 70 years when race issues boiled so close to the surface that the most horrible things took place on a daily basis.

In "Ella, Queen of Jazz" Helen Hancocks, storytelling superstar, turns her attention to the early career of a songstress par excellence. Ella Fitzgerald and her "fellahs" ruled the roost in many of the smaller jazz clubs they often played.

But life on the road was a struggle, and despite a fantastic reception wherever they played, they just couldn't crack the big time.

Most of the bigger clubs had a strict exclusion policy for black performers - and as crazy as that sounds, it was pretty much the norm in 40s and 50s America, and in some places the policy continued right into the latter part of the 20th century (and, sadly, recent events unfolding since the last US elections seem to echo a return to those horrible times).

Sad times in Ella's early career but thankfully her big break was just around the corner...

But we're not here to talk politics, we're here to celebrate Ella Fitzgerald and the utterly fascinating story of how a Hollywood starlet befriended Ella, and petitioned for her to play at one of the biggest clubs in town.

One of the delights in reviewing children's books is finding out something we hadn't previously known. I was familiar with Ella Fitzgerald's fantastic music but I had no idea that her friendship with Marilyn Monroe was key to such an amazing story...

Marilyn Monroe made good on her promise to be front and centre at Ella's gigs in the biggest club in town
In fact their friendship and mutual respect for each other lasted years, and Ella even helped Marilyn Monroe to carve out her own musical career in many films.

Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe
We love the way this book fuses an utterly compelling (and extremely timely) real-life story with fabulous illustrations (as ever, from Helen) and a really immersive feeling of what it must have been like to hear Ella Fitzgerald's music for the first time, and her amazing voice.

(in fact if you haven't heard her sing before...get that rectified right now!)

A fabulous book in every way, "Ella, Queen of Jazz" deserves all the plaudits and praise it's undoubtedly going to get.

Charlotte's best bit: Listening to Ella's music, and finding out more about both Ella and Marilyn Monroe as a result of reading this story

Daddy's favourite bit: A fabulously illustrated re-telling of a legendary story. Once again Helen Hancocks proves that she can really draw the reader in.

(Kindly supplied for review).

"Ella, Queen of Jazz" by Helen Hancocks is out now, published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books.