Books Are Pretty

Monday, October 31, 2005

Charlie Parker Played Bebop.

Christopher and I were in his room, putting together a puzzle of the ABCs, and he was doing a reasonably good job for a just-turned-three'er, confidently slapping down the A, B, and C in their places, along with the X, Y, and Z, then turning to me for assistance with the whole blurry middle section. When we had finished, and were staring at the completed puzzle with the pride of a job well done, Christopher abruptly decided to move on to the next fun activity. An activity, he apparently decided, that he didn't need me for.

He grabbed a book off his bookshelf and handed it to me.

"Here you go!" he chirped. "Here, Mommy, read this book now!" and he shot off downstairs into the kitchen, an area off-limits to my children and if I had my way, off-limits to my husband, too, because FOR THE LOVE OF GOD I WANT ONE PLACE IN THE WORLD THAT BELONGS ONLY TO ME.

His knowledge of his mother's habits was impressive. Put a good book in her hand and she may not notice that we're coloring on the walls or spilling a gallon jug of apple juice on the floor. (The rose-colored glasses viewing of this is that he wanted to make sure my feelings weren't hurt when he wanted to go play without me, but I think I know better.)

The book he chose to distract me with was Chris Raschka's Charlie Parker Played Bebop. Written as a small jazz piece, the small board book is a child's introduction to jazz music, with a snappy rhythym and non-sensical sentences that, when read aloud, have a scat-like sound to them.

Raschka wanted to distill the essence of Charlie Parker down to two facts: Charlie Parker played saxaphone, and Charlie Parker played bebop. The bluesy illustrations show what a saxaphone is, and the rest of the book is devoted to showing a child what bebop sounds like. Read flat, the book makes no sense at all: there is no story line, and many of the sentences leap out at the reader from absolutely nowhere - "Barbeque that last legbone!" "Never leave your cat alone!" along with words "Bus stop!" and "Alphabet!" that seem to be wedged in at random. Read aloud, however, the melody becomes so clear and strong that the reader can't help but make some bebop of her own. And toddlers, given their love of all things music, shriek with delighted laughter. Both of my children loved Charlie Parker played bebop, and perhaps coincedentally, both love jazz music.

Downstairs, I heard the refrigerator door open. Still, I lay there on Christopher's bed and read the book anyway.

Charlie Parker Played BeBop
by Chris Raschka
Orchard Press, 1992
ISBN: 053-1059-995
Ages 18 months to 3 years

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