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.

Odes to Odd Creatures

“A Strange Place to Call Home: The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats & The Animals That Call Them Home,” by Marilyn Singer, illustrations by Ed Young; Chronicle Books, $16.99, 44 pages, ages 6-10. 

Mudskippers, snow monkeys and limpets are three of the fourteen remarkable animals profiled in this poetry collection by award-winning author Marilyn Singer. This book would be an exciting introduction to poetry for the young reader who may not yet  understand that poems can take many forms. A compact lexicon explains the types of poetry found in the book, and which poems are examples of them, such as free verse, sonnet, and villanelle. “Well-Oiled,” for instance, is a cinquain homage to insects born in petroleum.  (Thousands/of them are born/in carrion, water, /or soil. But not this crew. /They hatch/in oil.)  A second glossary details the animals described in verse. Collages of land and seascapes by the unstoppable Ed Young (“Nighttime Ninja;” see our review here) capture perfectly the essence of these dangerous dwellings.