Picture Book Biographies: Performing Arts

beforejohn
Before John was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by Sean Qualls
This lyrical picture-book biography of John Coltrane focuses on his childhood and how he interpreted sounds before he made his music.
Before John Was a Jazz Giant is a 2009 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book.

cbsr
The Cosmo-Biography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy is Enlightening by Chris Raschka
A one-hundredth birthday tribute to the late jazz artist explores his observations about humanity’s discriminatory and violent behaviors as well as his efforts to forge world peace through music with the Sun Ra Arkestra.

hlb
Harlem’s Little Blackbird by Renée Watson; illustrated by Christian Robinson
“A tribute to lesser-known Harlem Renaissance performer Florence Mills includes coverage of her youth as a child of former slaves, her singing and dancing performances that inspired songs and entire plays, and the struggles with racism that prompted her advocacy of all-black theater and musicals.” – (Baker & Taylor)
This title is also available as an ebook.

iras
Ira’s Shakespeare Dream by Glenda Armand; illustrations by Floyd Cooper
“A biography chronicling the life of Ira Aldridge, an African American actor who is considered to be one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of the nineteenth century. Includes afterword and author’s sources”– Provided by publisher.

jaj
Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter; illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
A tribute to the life of the iconic jazz entertainer depicts her disadvantaged youth in a segregated America, her unique performance talents, and the irrepressible sense of style that helped her overcome racial barriers.

jimi
Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix by Gary Golio; illustrated by Javaka Steptoe
Before he became one of the greatest guitar players of all time, Jimi Hendrix was a boy who loved to paint and listen to records, and who asked himself an unusual question: could someone paint pictures with sound?

lp
Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by Raul Colón
An introduction to the life and career of the African American opera singer.

lmbt
Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown; illustrations by Frank Morrison
“A biography of African American musician Melba Doretta Liston, a virtuoso musician who played the trombone and composed and arranged music for many of the great jazz musicians of the twentieth century. Includes afterword, discography, and sources”– Provided by publisher.
Little Melba and Her Big Trombone is a 2015 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book.

mjw
Mahalia Jackson: Walking with Kings and Queens by Nina Nolan; illustrated by John Holyfield
“A picture book introduction to the early life and achievements of the iconic gospel artist traces young Mahalia Jackson’s disadvantaged youth through her history-shaping performance during the March on Washington.”  – (Baker & Taylor)

msmd
My Story My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey by Lesa Cline-Ransome; illustrated by James E. Ransome; with a foreword by Robert Battle
A boy discovers his passion for dance and becomes a modern hero in this inspiring picture book biography of Robert Battle, artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

psh
Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum by Robert Andrew Parker
“Despite being nearly blind, young Art Tatum’s passion for the piano and incredible memory in learning music kept his dream of becoming a pianist alive, making him a virtuoso at a young age with skills that were highly respected by many others in his field.” – (Baker & Taylor)
Piano Starts Here received a Schneider Family Book Award.

sseeker
Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane’s Musical Journey by Gary Golio; paintings by Rudy Gutierrez
“Tells the story of the legendary jazz musician, from his deeply religious childhood to his career as a boundary-breaking musician who found inspiration in his own unique approach to both spirituality and music.” – (Baker & Taylor)

ts
Trombone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews; pictures by Bryan Collier
Hailing from the Tremé neighborhood in New Orleans, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews got his nickname by wielding a trombone twice as long as he was high. A prodigy, he was leading his own band by age six, and today this Grammy-nominated artist headlines the legendary New Orleans Jazz Fest.
Trombone Shorty received a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award and a Caldecott Honor this year.

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