Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book #207: This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt, Illustrated by R. G. Roth

Image from
Set to the classis children’s song, This Old Man, this book features 9 iconic and legendary jazz musicians. From Louis Armstrong to Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie to Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the jazz men in this book tap, scat, and jam their way across the pages in a musical and rhythmic celebration of their lives and music:

“These jazz men, they play ten,
We beg them to play again,
With an ‘Encore! We want more!’
Give them all a hand,
These jazz men make one great band!”

Ehrhardt’s text is rhythmic and playful; each verse of the song features a number and a line of scat. The illustrations, created with mixed media collage and printmaking techniques, are a riot of colors, patterns, brush strokes, and shapes. Like jazz, the illustrations combine clean, crisp lines and shapes with free and loose brush strokes and paint splatters. Each two page spread features the musician playing, singing, or tapping with panache. Curling around each musician are hand-drawn words that provide a scatting version of the music of that man, “Ticka-tocka-ticka-tucka! Slap! Pop-pop!”

At the end of the book a brief biography of each of the 9 musicians is provided. Information includes place of birth and major songs played/composed. As per the title, all the musicians are male. Although the feminist in me wishes the book featured a few women, I know that there weren’t nearly as many female jazz musicians during jazz’s formative years.

This book holds up well with or without discussion of the musicians in the book. You can simply read or sing the book, great for a group of preschoolers. If you have older kids you can read the book and then spend some time talking about the musicians and then read the book again. Try singing the original version of This Old Man before you read the book to refresh everyone’s memory.

Pair this book with The Three Swingin’ Pigs, Jazz on a Saturday Night, Jazzy Miz Mozetta, How Do You Wokka-Wokka? or Rap a Tap Tap:Here’s Bojangles – Think of That! for a jazzy storytime. It also makes a great addition to a Black History Month storytime or book display.

Put together a playlist of songs performed by the musicians in the book and play it as kids are coming into storytime. You might also want to play short clips of some of the musicians as you read the book or before you read. Display jazz CDs for parents and kids to check out after storytime.

You can also write all the different sounds the jazz men make on a whiteboard. Then when you get to the last verse have the entire group repeat all the sounds.

Cut kitchen sponges into the shapes of musical instruments to make stamps to use with paint. Have kids stamp a few instruments on a piece of paper and then draw the musicians, the curtains, and anything else they can think of around the stamps. Ask the kids what song their musicians are playing and have them write the title on their drawing. Kids can also make up a line of scat and write that on the page too. You can also use scrap paper if you want to incorporate collage elements like Roth does in the book.

For more activities and ideas, check out the curriculumguide written by Ehrhardt and Susan B. Katz.



  1. Thanks for the mention!
    -Karen Ehrhardt, author of This Jazz Man

    p.s., I've written a jazz WOMAN picture book too -- just need to find a publisher!

    1. Thanks, Karen!

      I can't wait to sing/read about some jazz women! They are legends in my book and truly deserve to be celebrated.