Title: Bird & Diz
Author: Gary Golio
Illustrator: Ed Young
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN Number: 978-0-7636-6660-6
Type of Resource: Hardcover Picture Book
Where to find it: Amazon
Themes: Jazz, Biographies, Musical piece, Feelings
An award-winning author and a Caldecott Medalist improvise a playful tribute to the creators of bebop—Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
When sax player Charlie “Bird” Parker and trumpeter John “Dizzy” Gillespie make music together, they toss notes back and forth like a game of tag and chase each other with sounds. As Dizzy’s cheeks puff out like a frog with glasses, the two friends beep and bop and push each other to create a new kind of music—a thrilling fast jazz full of surprises. Blending a playful, rhythmic narration with expressive illustrations as fluid and dynamic as their subjects, this tribute to the masters of bebop by acclaimed biographer Gary Golio and beloved artist Ed Young will have readers hankering to listen for themselves.
This book stands out for its ability to capture the essence of the Bebop piece, “Salt Peanuts” in a variety of ways: The prose is written in free verse, capturing the rhythms of the music and rolling off the tongue in back and forth patter, echoing the “call and response” style of the music. The characters featured in the book are Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, both acclaimed jazz musicians who often played together and purportedly composed “Salt Peanuts” in 1942. The book focuses on the close partnership, the fast listening and responding, and sometimes competitive exchanges that occur between the two friends in the piece. The art work of the book itself is full of textures and colours that flow across the pages, much resembling the intricacies of the music itself. Readers can unfold the accordion style pages into a long sheet and then flip it over and read it backwards the other way, allowing for the art to drift on in a continuous stream from beginning to end.
I particularly love the way this book works as a launchpad into other related activities or areas of study and satisfies different learning styles. For one, the Afterword at the end of the book informs kids what Bebop is and its influence on Western music. It discusses some of the musical elements of the original recording of, “Salt Peanuts”, thereby prompting kids to listen to the piece and perhaps creating their own “Salt Peanuts” inspired artwork themselves. I also love the unique accordion style pages of this book. This design will please kinesthetic kids as they flip forwards and backwards and pull the pages out and fold them in; the book is truly an interactive experience. I also love the fact that the book specifically references the original recording where one can hear Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie playing together on “Salt Peanuts” as well as on a few other choice tracks. There’s also a lovely black and white photograph of the musicians so kids can see that the characters of the book were real people who lived in another era. I think it’s incredibly important that the Afterword also mentions that Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie were black men, “whose leadership in this new style of music brought them importance and respect at a time when there was widespread discrimination and racism”. This prompt can lead kids into studying social issues of the 1940s and discussions revolving around equality and human rights.
My only “vice” about this book, (if we can even call it that because it’s a very small critique!), is a bit of clarification about historical facts: Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie were not necessarily the “main creators” of bebop music, as suggested by the book. Rather, they had an influence on the evolution of Bebop music, as did many other musicians not named in the book. When reading the book with kids, it’s perhaps important not to oversimplify this fact as it is inaccurate information.
Overall, I think the strength of this book lies in its emphasis on “feeling the music” and its ability to capture some of those feelings in a tangible way for kids to see. I love the way the Afterword encourages kids to “smile, laugh or just bop to the beat” and to “Give it a listen and see what it does to you!” It suggests to kids that listening to and making music is a pleasurable and energizing experience and may even encourage them to love music. After all, isn’t that what music education is all about?
I highly encourage parents and teachers to get on the internet and look up Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Bebop music, listen to their recordings, and take out the art materials.
Here’s a youtube video of “Salt Peanuts” played by Charile Parker and Dizzy Gillespie at Carnegie Hall:
Click on the image below to link to free structured lesson plans created by the folks at Curriculum Connections based on the book: