- Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Tim Bowers
- Library Binding: 32 pages
- Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press (September 1, 2011)
- ISBN-13: 978-1585366880
Back-of-the-book blurb: A bass-playing rooster searches for just the right band to perform with in the upcoming barnyard talent show. From their swing to their scat, these jazzy animals drive the barnyard wild in this rollicking, rhyming, and rhythmic story.
She Is Too Fond of Books’ review: Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band looks like an innocent children’s picture book, but it’s really a great way to get everyone – children and the adults who read with them – tapping their toes and learning about the history of jazz as they read this tale of music, friendship, and can-do spirit.
Acoustic Rooster has practiced his bass guitar all summer, gearing up for the big Barnyard Talent Show. When the contest is announced, Acoustic Rooster sets out to find a band to join – he meets Thelonious Monkey, Mules Davis, Ella Finchgerald along the way:
Mules Davis led an orchestra
that featured three cool cats.
Ella Finchgerald had a trio
but Rooster couldn’t scat.
Rooster was feeling kind of blue,
then heard a baby grand.
“I have a great idea,” he said.
“I’ll start my own jazz band.”
Never discouraged, he heads to the riverbank to visit his piano-playing cousin, Duck Ellington. Duck takes him to the Cotton Club where Bee Holiday buzzes a swinging tune. Rounding out the band – literally – is a porcine Pork Chop on percussion. The group practices for their big debut, and play with all their souls at the talent show. Although Rooster’s band doesn’t win top prize at the talent show, he is buoyed by the friendships of his bandmates, heart-felt compliments from the other musicians, and a love of music that lifts his spirits.
Kwame Alexander’s simple A-B-C-B rhyming cadence is catchy and fits well with the musical subject. Vibrant painted illustrations by Tim Bowers add further dimension to the characters, with fun details like the shades on Mules Davis and the Hawaiian print shirt that Pork Chop wears. I was pleased when my younger daughter recognized Tim Bowers as the illustrator of Memoirs of a Goldfish.
Appendices list a musical vocabulary/glossary, give brief bios of the real-life counterparts to some of Acoustic Rooster’s friends (Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday, and offer a jazz timeline from the 1700s to the present day.
Not only is Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band a smart addition to any home, school, or public library, it’s also a fun “coffee table” type book for adults interested in jazz – sure to be picked up and passed around when guests are over.
I hope you enjoy this video of Kwame Alexander talking about Acoustic Rooster and his visit to a bookstore on publication day – he’s got quite a personality! He also reads the first few pages of the book, so you’ll get an idea for the rhythm of the words.