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by Katheryn Russel-Brown
Illustrated by Frank Morrison
Published September 1, 2014
Lee and Low Books
Nonfiction Picture book
Coretta Scott King Honor book
Melba Doretta Liston loved the sounds of music from as far back as she could remember. As a child, she daydreamed about beats and lyrics, and hummed along with the music from her family s Majestic radio. At age seven, Melba fell in love with a big, shiny trombone, and soon taught herself to play the instrument. By the time she was a teenager, Melba s extraordinary gift for music led her to the world of jazz. She joined a band led by trumpet player Gerald Wilson and toured the country. Overcoming obstacles of race and gender, Melba went on to become a famed trombone player and arranger, spinning rhythms, harmonies, and melodies into gorgeous songs for all the jazz greats of the twentieth century: Randy Weston, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and Quincy Jones, to name just a few. Brimming with ebullience and the joy of making music, Little Melba and Her Big Trombone is a fitting tribute to a trailblazing musician and a great unsung hero of jazz."
I love learning about lesser-known, but important people. Melba discovered her musical talent at a very young age. Children can learn a lot about determination and perseverance during difficult times from Melba's story. They will also learn about the time period and the discrimination that was prevalent at the time. Frank Morrison's illustrations are absolutely wonderful. It is easy to see why Melba's story earned a Coretta Scott King 2015 honor award.
Russel-Brown uses several idioms throughout the book like: "piece of cake" and "rock bottom". She also uses some of the language of the period like "swell" and "kinfolk".
Little Melba and her Big Trombone would make a great addition to a biography picture book collection. It could also be used during a unit on American History 1940's-60's I would recommend it for grades 1-5.
The Girls in the Band-more info about Melba and her career.