Biographies are a great starting place to learn how to integrate social studies and art. Last year we had a great splash of outstanding biographies about jazz musicians hit the market. The early history of jazz music is sure to spark discussions about racial and gender issues in this country. Relating these topics to discussions about point of view or individuals and cultures engages students in exciting ways. Using media to show video and sound clips is another great way to connect. So jump in and enjoy!
Shown Above: Bird and Diz by Gary Golio and Ed Young (9780763666606).
Blasts of color and texture in the chalk illustrations show how sax player Charlie “Bird” Parker and trumpeter John “Dizzy” Gillespie made music together.
The Cosmo-Biography of Sun-Ra: The Sound of Joy is Enlightening by Christopher Raschka (9780763658069).
Explore the life and work of jazz musician Herman “Sonny” Blount, known as Sun Ra, through brightly colored modern illustrations.
Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Frank Morrison (9781600608988).
This book introduces 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.
Swing Sisters: The Story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm by Karen Deans and illustrated by Joe Cepeda (9780823419708).
Acrylic and oil illustrations capture the energy of the music made by the all-girls band. It was formed by Dr. Laurence Clifton Jones who operated an orphanage named Piney Woods Country Life School.
Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson: Taking the Stage as the First Black and White Jazz Band in History by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James Ransome (9780823423620).
Cool blues and hot yellows capture the power of the first widely seen integrated jazz performance with Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson in 1936.
If you can’t get your hands on these current biographies, here are some great jazz biographies from years past:
Charlie Parker Played the Bop by Chris Raschka (9780531085998).
Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney (9780786801787).
Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa by Andrea Davis Pinkney with Scat Cat Monroe and illustrated by Brian Pinkney (9780786805686).
Jazz by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Christopher Myers (9780823415458).
Play, Louis, Play!: The True Story of a Boy and His Horn by Muriel Harris Weinstein and illustrated by Frank Morrison (978159990370).
Rachel L. Wadham is the department chair of social sciences and education, and juvenile literature librarian of the Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library.