Marilyn Nelson and Jerry Pinkney
Dial, 2009. Unpaged. Juvenile nonfiction.
Jerry Pinkney won the 2009 Caldecott Award for his book The Lion & the Mouse but he could easily have been a runner-up to himself for his illustrations in Sweethearts of Rhythm . . . , the perfect jazzy, swingin', forties volume of Americana where Marilyn Nelson gives poetic voice to the instruments of the band and Pinkney paints what music felt like and did for America during the Dust Bowl and World War II. Each poem bears the title of a hit song from the swing era. In "It Don't Mean a Thing" Pauline Baddy's drum set recalls that "she'd lash my bass home like a jockey;/on some all she did was high-hat tickle the beat , . . . ./The jitterbug was one way people forgot/ the rapidly spreading prairie fires of war. . . ." With "Tiny" Davis on trumpet, "taking the 'A' train was a form of prayer." Sweethearts of Rhythm is a book for young people that will be much more evocative for old people, but what a great place to start talking about the history and the music of hard times.