How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz

by Jonah Winter and Keith Mallett

There’s a tall-tale feeling to this picture-book biography, and not just because... read more

There’s a tall-tale feeling to this picture-book biography, and not just because it opens with a godmother/voodoo queen putting a spell on a newborn baby. It’s also written in second person, building on a “let’s say…” construction. This technique works in an accounting of Jelly Roll Morton’s early life, since he was a bit of a braggart who “tooted his own horn” and claimed to have invented jazz (both the music and the word) in 1902. He’s not the only musician to have made that claim and certainly there were a lot of creative hands in that jazz stew in New Orleans back then. What can be documented is that Jelly Roll was the first musician to publish a jazz composition. The playful text is complemented by appropriately whimsical illustrations that give a strong sense of the early New Orleans jazz scene. (Ages 5–9)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2016

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