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Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum by…

Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum

by Robert A. Parker

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This Caldecott Honor Winner picture book is an autobiographical account of jazz legend Art Tatum. The author, also a jazz musician, both wrote and narrated the book. The book takes us from Tatum's childhood in Toledo to success in the local cafes, bars and radio stations to international stardom. As big as Tatum was in his day and as much has his music has persevered through the years, he always seems to me to be one of the lesser known jazz giants. With that said, people often don't know that he was born with terribly limited vision which only worsened throughout his life. The book tells us how Tatum never let this bring him down at any time in his life. If anything, he sharpened his other senses around this, especially his auditory. Tatum was known to be able to masterfully play basically anything that he heard. Everything I've ever read about Tatum, including this picture book, always tells of what a kind, generous, great human being that he was, and his friends and family always supported him in everything that he did. For me, this book tells more than just the story of Tatum's life. It speaks on qualities like humility (even with giant success), perseverance, and achieving your dreams no matter what. I think that it would also be a good way to introduce autobiographies to students. The illustrations are as great as the text. All of the pictures are a style that I really like, where watercolor is used as a sort of base for figures and then ink is used to outline and fill in the images to provide detail. It's exactly what I love about jazz-fuzzy, at times blurry improvisation accompanied by more finite structure, creating that beautiful offset balance. ( )
  J.Davidson | Jan 25, 2015 |
I liked this for a few unique reasons! The first reason I liked this book is for the point of view. Although the book is a biography, the author used the word “I” to make the book read like it was from the point of view of Art Tatum, the person in which the book is about. Because it read like an autobiography, it made me feel like I was closer to the story because I read “I” as if it related to me, not the character, making the book feel more engaging than if it was written from the author’s perspective on Art Tatum. I also liked this book for its creative, child-like illustrations. All of the illustrations of the book were drawn to resemble the drawings of a high level elementary student, and because the story followed the life of Art Tatum as a child growing up to become a piano playing prodigy, the illustrations matched the point of view in which the book was being told in, making Art Tatum’s experience more realistic to me because I got to see what he remembered rather than what the actual event entailed. Finally, I liked this book for the time period it covered in the main character’s life. In my experiences with books read like autobiographies, the person detailing their lives are older, making it difficult for me to connect to the text because of the lack of connections I have with the person telling the story. These books seldom detail the younger years of those older individuals, whereas with this book it is told from a child’s perspective, and because it is filled with vivid details of events I can relate to such as his first musical performance and first playing a piano, I can connect to how Art Tatum felt when he played his first venue and when he first began playing the piano. Overall, the big idea of this book was to engage the reader in the life of Art Tatum, giving them facts and life events of the piano prodigy by telling the story from his perspective. ( )
  mspisa1 | Mar 25, 2014 |
This book discusses Art Tatum's issues with sight and how this never interfered with him achieving his dream of playing the piano. It would be very important in the classroom because it helps to demonstrate the fact that even if you have a disability, it does not need to get in the way of your goals and dreams, especially if you have people that love you and support you. I think that this book has a powerful message and is also informative without coming across as being dry. ( )
  L_Cochran | Mar 10, 2014 |
So many of the biographies of jazz musicians take on such a far-fetched artistic approach that they lose some of their gravity. This book didn't fall prey to that classic mistake. It was a biography in the truest sense. I enjoyed this. I know that I have no business speaking on the members of the jazz community, but I felt comfortable reading this anyway. The first person point of view was an interesting choice that gave the text a subtle humanized quality. Rather than reading about this musician as though he were someone in a portrait on a wall, he was approachable and identifiable. When the author chose to reference other jazz greats as acquaintances of Art Tatum, I read without knowing who I was reading about, but I didn't feel as though I lost a sense of what the story was expressing. This is a great addition to any children's biography collection. The watercolor paint illustrations were distorted and difficult to make out, but I suppose it went with the overall jazzy tone of the story. Though I'm not a big fan of that particular style, there is a fan base for it since Robert Andrew Parker is a Caldecott Honor Winning illustrator. The text was really the strength, with strong word choice and evident research throughout. ( )
  matthewbloome | May 19, 2013 |
Art Tatum, a young black boy who can't see the difference between night and day, lives in humble upbringings with his mother and father in Ohio. Even though he can't see the keys of the piano, the first time he stokes them, the sound fills his heart with joy. Even though he can't see the keys, he knows that piano; he knows the keys, the pedals, the sweet sounds of music that people sing to when he plays. The music that young Art Tatum makes with the piano please everyone. He plays at home, church, school, at the cafe around the corner, and even at a neighborhood bar. Tatum's music spreads from town to town and he is soon playing his piano for people around the country. But even as Art Tatum becomes famous and travels all around to delight people with the stroke of the piano key, he thinks about his family and friends back home that were the first to hear his sweet sounds. ( )
  Pangle | May 18, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375839658, Hardcover)

Regardless of whether they’ve heard of jazz or Art Tatum, young readers will appreciate how Parker uses simple, lyrical storytelling and colorful and energetic ink-and-wash illustrations to show the world as young Art Tatum might have seen it. Tatum came from modest beginnings and was nearly blind, but his passion for the piano and his acute memory for any sound that he heard drove him to become a virtuoso who was revered by both classical and jazz pianists alike. Included in the back matter is a biography and bibliography.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:16 -0400)

The story of the young Art Tatum, who became one of the all-time greats of jazz piano.

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