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Rent Party Jazz

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Miller's (Night Golf) spryly narrated, uplifting story set in New Orleans in the 1930s springs from an intriguing tradition informal musical fund-raising parties that originated in the South in the early 20th century to help neighbors in financial need. When his mother loses her job in a fish-canning factory, Sonny (who works daily for a coal vendor before school) is determined to do something to help raise the rent money so that they won't be evicted. "You stay in school and learn everything you can everything, so things will be better for you," cautions Mama when he suggests he get a second job and quit school. Day after day, the worried boy listens to the music of Smilin' Jack, who plays his trumpet on the street to an appreciative crowd. When Sonny confides his problem to the musician, he tells Sonny about the rent-party custom and offers to play for the benefit of the boy and his mother. As supportive neighbors toss coins in a bucket and happily move to the strains of Smilin' Jack's horn, Riley-Webb's gaily hued acrylic paintings seem to keep time with the music. Composed of swirling, broad strokes, the art evokes the mood of the jazz riffs as it depicts the streets of the French Quarter. Newcomer Riley-Webb is an illustrator to watch. Ages 6-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Gr 1-5-In 1930s New Orleans, Sonny works every day before school and on weekends to help support himself and his mother. One morning, Mama tells him that she has been laid off from her job at the canning factory. The African-American child knows they will be evicted from their home if they can't pay their rent and offers to quit school and get a second job. His mother rejects the idea. Then, in Jackson Square, he hears the great Smilin' Jack playing his trumpet. On the third day, the musician notices the boy's demeanor and asks what's wrong. Upon hearing about Sonny's situation, Smilin' Jack comes up with a solution: they will throw a rent party to raise the money and he will play his horn. The affair is an overwhelming success, and the trumpeter decides to "play at least one rent party" wherever he goes. Sonny realizes that problems can be solved when people work together. The bold acrylic illustrations on two-page spreads are dramatic, lively, upbeat, and colorful, and have a flowing style that is almost musical. An afterword tells about the origin of rent parties and their link to the development of jazz. A universal, rewarding story of people reaching out to others in need.-Sheilah Kosco, Rapides Parish Library, Alexandria, LA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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