Bird and Diz, by Gary Golio, illustrated by Ed Young; Candlewick Press; $19.99, 26 pages, ages 4-8.
Saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker and trumpet-player John “Dizzy” Gillespie were great friends whose style of music revolutionized jazz., and Bird and Diz is a stunning tribute to their achievements. Award-winning author and New York Times bestseller Gary Golio’s flowing, rhythmic text explains how Bird and Diz crafted bebop through fast-playing and complicated rhythms. Golio uses the 1945 recording “Salt Peanuts” as his point of reference, describing the crashing of cymbals and thumping of bass notes mixing with the wailing of Gillespie’s now iconic trumpet playing and Parker’s squealing saxophone. The author’s free-verse mimics the improvisational nature of the music, and manages to explain music that is so difficult to put into words. Like jazz, this book’s physical layout isn’t standard either – it opens accordion-style, with the front explaining Bird and Diz’s friendship, “who play together just like kids” tossing notes back and forth, like a baseball. The backside riffs on how this surprising music is made. Caldecott-medal winner Ed Young captures jazz’s elements of fluidity and abstraction with illustrations composed of pastel, gouache and sumi-ink. The art is, by turns, explosive and fluid, appearing completely spontaneous yet bears the mark of a master at work, much like the book’s subjects. Children will run to their art sets after reading the final lines “Get out your crayons and draw!” A tour de force that will enthrall jazz lovers and no doubt encourage a youngsters to feel the beat.