Perfect Picture Book Friday – Jimi Sounds Like A Rainbow

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

Let’s jump right in, shall we?  I’m in a rush today because I’m going to be pretty busy this morning being nervous for my interview on the Take Your Talent To The Bank Virtual Conference – being nervous is incredibly time-consuming and I only have a few hours! 🙂
I have a great book to share today!
Jimi Sounds Like A Rainbow: A Story Of The Young Jimi Hendrix
Written By: Gary Golio
Illustrated By: Javaka Steptoe
Clarion Books, October 2010, Fact-based Fiction
Suitable For: publisher says ages 6 and up, I think maybe 7 or 8 and up
Themes/Topics: music, art, creativity, perseverance, pursuing dreams
Opening: “Seattle, Washington 1956.
Electricity ripped through the air.  A lightning flash lit up the room.  Thunder rocked the house.
     Jimmy’s hand jumped, and a rainbow of colored pencils went tumbling to the floor.
     Outside, the rain began trickling off the roof and plinking into the metal gutter.  Drops bounced onto the windowsill.  A breeze rippled the glass chimes on the porch.
     For a moment, Jimmy thought he head a woman’s name being blown on the wind.”
Brief Synopsis: Jimmy Hendrix (before he was Jimi :)) grew up in a boarding house in Seattle with his father.  In everything around him, Jimmy heard music – children’s laughter sounded like a squealing clarinet, a truck backfiring sounded like a bass drum, a rake on the sidewalk sounded like a snare.  “With every sound, a color glowed in Jimmy’s mind.”  He wanted to reproduce the things he heard and saw as music – to paint with sound – even though he owned nothing musical but a one-string ukelele and his voice.  He heard and saw the world differently from everyone else, and he wanted to color the world with his music.
Links To Resources: the back of the book has a list of resources about substance abuse (really only appropriate for older readers) and a fascinating illustrator’s note about how the illustrations for the book were researched and created which everyone can enjoy.  There is also a bibliography and a list of selected discography, CDs, videos, and DVDs.  Again, much of this would be appropriate only for older readers than the usual picture book audience.  Younger readers could try drawing what they think the sound of a song or piece of music looks like, or how it makes them feel.  You could discuss what color a tuba, a flute, or a guitar (or any other instrument) sounds like to you.  Why?  What instrument or group of instruments would be a good choice to represent bird song? Traffic?  Water? (or anything else you’d like to try :)) Why?
Why I Like This Book:  To be honest, I picked up this book because I was wondering how the author would manage to turn the Jimi Hendrix experience into a children’s picture book 🙂  The answer?  Very well indeed!  He focused on Jimmy’s early years, his creativity and passion, how his humble beginnings didn’t stop him from pursuing his dreams.  The story is very inspiring.  The language is lyrical and musical, conveying beautifully the way Jimmy saw and heard the world.  “Notes spun from the strings, flickering in the air like fireflies.”  And the art is the perfect match for this story – wild and kaleidoscopic and colorful – the visual representation of Jimmy’s difference and creativity, and with young Jimmy very much in the forefront of every illustration.  The book ends with the lines: “Dressed in the colors of the rainbow, he played for audiences far and wide, joining fiery sounds with tender feelings and painting the world with his songs.”  It does not address his drug addictions or his tragic end, but the back matter of the book does.  So while the story is appropriate for younger readers, much of the back matter is really only suitable for an older audience, but for more mature readers, it’s good that it’s there.  The illustrator’s notes are fascinating for everyone.  The combined text and art make this book a terrific read!
For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.
Now, I have some serious being nervous to do, so I will wish you all a happy weekend!  PPBF bloggers, please add your post-specific link to the list below.  I can’t wait to see what everyone else picked this week!  So many great books out there! 🙂

47 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday – Jimi Sounds Like A Rainbow

  1. pennyklostermann says:

    I would've wondered the same thing? “How would an author turn the Jimi Hendrix experience into a children's picture book?” For that reason, I may have passed it up thinking it couldn't be done very well. Sounds like I would've missed out on a really great book with a perfect ending. I'll have to check it out!
    Good luck with the interview!

  2. Kirsten Larson says:

    Susanna, this sounds like a great nonfiction book. I will have to check it out for my class. We have to read 5 nonfiction books for kids a week.

  3. Clarike Bowman-Jahn says:

    Thanks so much for picking this important book up even though you had your doubts, Susanna. I am so glad the author was able to write about young Jimi and leave his overdose out of the book. This is a book I am definitely going to look for bc as you know I saw him preform at Woodstock NY and saw how he turned music into colors and art.

    Don't be too nervous about your talk. Just imagine you're talking to us. We love you! 🙂 And you can do no wrong. In fact, you walk on water. 🙂

  4. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    This one's too old for my kiddo, but as a writer this sounds fascinating how the author handled this subject in the story and the back matter. Thanks for pointing this one out. Good luck!

  5. Joanna Marple says:

    I just love the text you have shared with us, this is awesome writing. I like the challenge of making someone like Hendrix' life appropriate for young kids.

  6. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    He did a GREAT job! The writing is very suggestive of Jimi Hendrix, and the focus really on his creativity and what a unique person he was – very inspiring without going into the darker bits. But definitley a book for slightly older readers.

  7. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Yes, Enzo's got a ways to go before he's ready for this one 🙂 But you're exactly right – as a writer it's a great book to read to see how to handle a difficult topic and make a person accessible to younger audiences.

  8. Amy Dixon says:

    wow, I am super-impressed that the author was able to do this. I am actually researching picture book biographies right now, as I have one I'd like to write but have no idea how to approach it. So thanks for a great resource!

  9. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    It's a great example of how to tackle a difficult person/subject/topic for a picture book. Definitely worth reading if you get a chance! How cool that you got to see him perform at Woodstock!!!!!!! Thanks for the morale support 🙂 As for doing no wrong, if only that were true! 🙂 But I'll do the best I can and hope it's okay 🙂

  10. Peggy Eddleman says:

    I loved your “Why I liked this book.” It sounds like the author did an incredible job! I love when someone takes a subject that doesn't seem like it'd work, and then makes it work so well.

  11. patientdreamer says:

    Yay! Have google chrome, one can do anything…. oops even post my link twice….lol. I to love biography picture book or ya, so this was very interesting. I also loved those first lines, very poetic. Great choice Susanna. (can't believe I made it here all by myself…*chuckles*)

  12. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    DIANE!!! Hurray for google chrome! I'm so happy you're here and able to comment! 🙂 And I'm glad you like the Jimi Hendrix book – it's really great – I highly recommend it if you get a chance to read it! And YAY some more! 🙂

  13. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    You're welcome, Janet! It's definitely worth the read! And I'm guessing the reason you've never seen one on Jimi before is because he's a tough topic to handle gracefully in PBs, but Gary Golio has done it masterfully!

  14. Patricia Tilton says:

    Absolutely loved your selection Susanna. I always enjoy hearing stories about how musicians hear, write and compose music. Jimi was gifted at a very young age, if all the sounds he heard were music in his head. Reminds me of the movie “August Rush.” This is one I want to read! Great choice today.

  15. Carrie Finison says:

    This sounds like a great story, Susanna! I, too, would have picked this up wondering how in the world the author would pull it off.

  16. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    I wouldn't have either, Barbara! That's half the reason I picked the book up in the first place! But he really did a good job with it, I think. And though the text, in my opinion, is a little above the average 5 or 6 year old, the story is well written and certainly appropriate for young audiences.
    Susanna Leonard HillChildren's AuthorWebsiteBlogFace Book PageTwitter

    Subject: [susannaleonardhillblog] Re: Susanna Leonard Hill: Perfect Picture Book Friday – Jimi Sounds Like A Rainbow

  17. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    It is very well done. I always like to see how authors handle topics that I wonder how I would possibly write – it's very educational. Thanks for your good wishes, and since I'm so behind in replying, thanks for listening and getting in the queue to say hi, and for all your support! 🙂

  18. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    The book is very well done, Erik, because it focuses on the positive aspects of Jimi Hendrix's talent and creativity. It's very inspiring. And then the back matter tells about what happened to him, but you don't have to read that part if you're not ready for it. It is very sad. My husband and son both love Jimi Hendrix's music!

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