Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sonny Rollins Plays the Bridge by Gary Golio, illustrated by James Ransome

Sonny Rollins Plays the Bridge 
written by Gary Golio, illustrated by James Ransome
Nancy Paulsen Books. 2021, 32 pages

Imagine being a jazz musician and not being about to practice playing your saxophone every day in your own apartment because the beautiful sounds you make disturbs your neighbors.

Well, that was exactly the situation Sonny Rollins found himself in. So, Sonny leaves his house, taking his saxophone with him, and walking down Delancey Street, he heads straight  to a place where he knows he can play to his heart's content, and as loudly as he wants/needs to. Sonny continues walking until he reaches the Bridge, taking the walkway to the highest point of this long suspension bridge, he pulls out his sax and begins to play.  But "is that a/ strange/ place/ to play his/ horn?" No, not when you need to do it, not when you are compelled to play. 

There, standing mid-Bridge, Sonny can practice playing his saxophone as loudly as he wants against the background noise of the city, the busy East River below, including squawking seagulls, the passing subway trains, and all the car traffic by his side. It is the perfect spot for this talented jazzman to freely hone his skills without disturbing anyone.

You're probably thought that Sonny found what he needed on the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, but no, indeed. At the end of Delancey Street, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where he lived is the Williamsburg Bridge and that Bridge and this Musician were perfect together.

Gary Golio is a picture book biography Meister with an already impressive oeuvre, and now, with the inspirational Sonny Rollins Plays the Bridge, he has once again proven this to be true. His poetic text reads like a jazz performance, by which I mean that instead of classical poetic forms, readers can feel the rhythmic beat and syncopation. It almost makes you want to snap your fingers as you read because of its musicality that capture's all of Rollins' moods and emotions throughout. 

Harmonizing with Golio's jazzy text are James Ransome's equally jazzy watercolor and collage illustrations. The illustrations range from detailed full color two page spreads to simple spot images, catching the busy streets of the Lower East Side as Sonny walks to the Bridge. I particularly liked the way Ransome represented the music from Sonny's horn - as various shapes of golden notes.

I love picture book biographies. They can be so inspiring and they are a wonderful way to introduce young readers to people and their achievements they might not otherwise learn about. And often, their stories show readers that problems and obstacles are solvable - and Sonny Rollins' is a prime example of that.

Back matter includes information about Sonny Rollins as well as the Williamsburg Bridge and Sonny's Words about how this book came to be.

FYI: In 1962, Sonny Rollins recorded an album simply called The Bridge. It was his first album after taking a 3 year hiatus from music during which time he practiced his saxophone on the Williamsburg Bridge. 

This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was gratefully received from the author.

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