Perfect Picture Book Friday – Sonny’s Bridge

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, and this week I have a legitimate perfect picture book to share with you (after last week’s falling down on the job 😊)

Wait until you see this book, due out in May, so you’ll have to wait just a little to read it, but you can pre-order your copy today or request it from your local library!

Sonny's Bridge

Title: Sonny’s Bridge

Written By: Barry Wittenstein

Illustrated By: Keith Mallett

Charlesbridge, May 21, 2019, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: music (jazz), finding yourself

Misty night.
Summer night.
East River New York City night.
You hear that?
     Hear what?
That.  THAT!
     Somebody’s playing the saxophone.  So what?
So that’ Sonny Rollins, that’s what.
     Wait.  WHAT? That’s Sonny Rollins? The Sonny Rollins?
     What the heck is Sonny Rollins doing on the Williamsburg Bridge
     this time of night?
Nobody knows, man.  Nobody knows.  ‘Cept Sonny, and
He. Ain’t. Sayin’.

Brief Synopsis: The 1950s was a great time to be a jazz musician.  Sonny Rollins began playing saxophone as a kid in Harlem and rocketed to fame at a young age.  But the demands of two shows a day every day for ten years took their toll, as did the pressure of people’s expectations of greatness.  Sonny took a break from performing, but he couldn’t take a break from music – it was who he was.  He had to find a place to play where he could feel the music and it wouldn’t bother anyone else.  Williamsburg Bridge was the perfect place for Sonny to restore himself, practice and play to his heart’s content, find his own music, until he was ready to return to recording with new self-confidence.

Links To Resources: the back matter of the book is a wealth of resources.  The author tells  about his own experience with jazz; there are “Liner Notes: About The Bridge Album”; there is a timeline of Sonny’s life; quotes from Sonny: and resources for learning more.

Additional information from a conversation with the author (thank you, Barry 😊): when asked how he’d come to “write in jazz”, Barry answered that he had written and performed poetry in college and always loved the Beat poets.  That combined with his acquired love of jazz made the vibe come naturally.

Why I Like This Book: I loved this book for the history – the information about Sonny’s life and music, the way the title page looks like a vinyl record album with the needle dropping to play, the message that even great artists can succumb to pressure and moments of self-doubt –  but even better was the way the story was told.  Barry literally wrote in jazz.  You can feel it in the opening lines above.  And some of my favorite lines:

Painting rhythms with colors nobody ever seen before.

Now Sonny’s gotta find a place no one goes.
Where he can make notes cry and squeak, beg and plead, 
bend ’em up, bend ’em sideways.


Dark shades on to keep the inside from getting out
and the outside from getting in.

All of those lines could just as easily pertain to writers, or artists of any kind – looking for new ways to express themselves, the privacy to experiment, feel and perfect, and a way to hold onto creativity without distraction or doubt creeping in to ruin it.

In addition, Keith Mallett’s art is amazing and absolutely perfect for the book.  Deep blue and purple nighttime scenes, deep orange sunset behind building silhouettes, and brighter day time scenes.  I love this page:


text copyright Barry Wittenstein 2019, illustration copyright Keith Mallett 2019

I apologize – my iphone photo doesn’t do it justice!  The blues and purples are much better than this in real life!

Overall this is an amazing book with a lot to offer educationally and artistically.  A great addition to any classroom, library, or kids’ room shelf!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂


16 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday – Sonny’s Bridge

  1. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    Love this review! Love the looks and sound of this book! Will put in a request at the SFPL. I’m interested to see how many they have on order, and if anyone else has it on hold. Just read a bit from Barry’s website. He’s a later bloomer! Going to have to read more of his work.

  2. Sue Heavenrich says:

    This book looks way cool, like it will sing the minute you crack open the cover. I love the image of Sonny bending the notes as he plays on the bridge. Thanks for sharing this one. (though I really liked last week’s almost-a-picture book, too)

  3. viviankirkfield says:

    Love nonfiction pbs…so of course, I need to check this one out. Thanks for shining the spotlight on it, Susanna…and thanks also for keeping us on track with your Perfect Picture Book Friday link up.

  4. Angela Brown (@ALBrownwrites) says:

    I realize that PBs have been great venues to share a world of information with younger readers. I hadn’t considered jazz a topic that could really be used for a PB (I’ve wrapped myself up in the fantastic idea of jazz as for “grown folks” lol!), but this review has definitely given me new perspective. Thank you for sharing about this book.

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