Feel the music with ‘Louis’


Published: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 8:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 8:13 p.m.

Children have some crazy thoughts.

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“Play, Louis, Play! by Muriel Harris Weinstein, illustrated by Frank Morrison, c. 2011, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, $15.99, 128 pages.

They're convinced monsters live under their bed. They think they can somehow gain superhero powers. And they wish their toys could talk.

In the book, "Play, Louis, Play!" by Muriel Harris Weinstein,a boy's musical instrument talks about a long-time friendship.

Growing up in the Back O'Town – the roughest, toughest part of New Orleans – little Louis Armstrong didn't have much to call his own. He didn't have shoes, so he walked the streets of New Orleans barefoot. He didn't have much of an education because the books at his African-American school were old and tattered. Louis barely even had a home; he lived with his grandmother because his Mama worked.

But Louis didn't complain. He had friends, his family and he had music. He loved music more than anything in the world. He paid attention to sounds all around him. He looked forward to Sundays so he could sing at church, and his body jiggled with music for the rest of the week. Louis even dreamed of owning a battered old horn in a pawnshop window. One day, that horn would be his.

The horn knew, down deep, that it would belong to Louis someday, too.

Louis wasn't afraid of a day's work, and he carefully saved his money. With hard work and a little help from a friend finally bought his horn, Soon, he was making music all over New Orleans.

Years later, when Louis Armstrong was famous and had fancy, expensive horns, the one he loved the most was his first. It traveled the world with him, and it never let him down. I loved the feel of Weinstein's story; in fact, "Play, Louis, Play!" practically hops with a skittly-skat spirit that young jazz fans will really enjoy. Add in a few jumpin'-jive illustrations by Frank Morrison, and you've got a book that's the cat's pajamas, Jack. Got a child whose fingers and feet never stop tapping a tune? Then he'll make joyful noise whewn you hand him a copy of this book.

Terri Schlichenmeyer never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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