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Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

by Andrea Davis Pinkney Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

The story of one of America's greatest composers, Duke Ellington, is lavishly told here in jazz-inspired prose. The young Duke, born Edward Kennedy Ellington in Washington D.C., in 1899, is introduced as a smooth talkin,' slick-steppin,' piano playin' kid with his "fine as pie looks and flashy threads" — thus earning him the name "Duke," by which he would be known his entire life.

First hearing ragtime, the music that would inspire him to return to the piano — after briefly abandoning it for baseball — Duke produced his own made-up melodies: "one-and-two-umpy-dump." As a young man, Duke founded a small band called the Washingtonians. Eager to experiment with livelier forms of music, the band soon split for New York City when they were invited to play at the famed Cotton Club in 1927.

Readers learn of other key milestones in Duke's life. For example, in 1939, Billy Strayhorn joined Duke's band, penning what is perhaps the orchestra's biggest hit: "Take the A Train"; and in 1943, Ellington's symphonic masterpiece celebrating the life of African Americans and their heritage, "Black, Brown and Beige," debuted at Carnegie Hall.

The almost breathless accounts are illustrated with lush, swirling illustrations created from a rainbow pallet. Dancers at the Cotton Club, for example, seem to fly off the page, colors trailing from their feet. A stunning introduction to Duke Ellington's life and work, the book includes a bibliography, videography, and list of museum exhibitions dedicated to Ellington.

Ages
8, 9, 10
Interest Level
Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent
5.5
Lexile Measure
800L
DRA
20
Guided Reading
L
Publisher
Jump at the Sun
Number of Pages
32
Genre
Biography, Biography and Autobiography

About the Author and Illustrator

Andrea Davis Pinkney Get to know New York Times bestselling children's author Andrea Davis Pinkney, who is famous for her biographies of extraordinary African Americans.
Brian Pinkney Acclaimed artist Brian Pinkney is the illustrator of several highly-praised picture books including The Faithful Friend, In the Time of the Drums, and Duke Ellington. He is a graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and holds a master's degree in illustration from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife Andrea, with whom he often collaborates, and his two children.

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