Rent Party Jazz

by William Miller and Charlotte Riley-Webb

Sonny works for the coal man, shoveling coal down the chutes and earning ten cents... read more

Sonny works for the coal man, shoveling coal down the chutes and earning ten cents a day to help at home. Every morning, as part of his job, he travels into the French Quarter of New Orleans, where Sonny hears musicians playing. After Sonny’s mother loses her job at the fish canning factory, Sonny shares his worries about paying the rent with Smilin’ Jack, one of the trumpet players. Smilin’ Jack tells Sonny about the rent parties they used to have in Mississippi, when neighbors would gather with good food and music, and all the money donated went to the family in need. When Smilin’ Jack offers to play at a party for Sonny and his mother, Sonny eagerly rushes home with the news. His mother is skeptical, but the generosity of Smilin’ Jack and their neighbors is overwhelming. This book set during the Depression celebrates African American community and music. An author’s note provides additional information on rent parties, and their particular link with jazz music in some parts of the country. The acrylic paintings brim with energy and color. (Ages 7–11)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2002

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