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*When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat* by Muriel Harris Weinstein
When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat
by Muriel Harris Weinstein
Ages 4-8 32 pages Chronicle December 2008 Hardcover    

Take a touch of sophistication, add a large dose of wit and whimsy, and the result is When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat.

The jazz term "scat" could be pretty hard to explain to a child of picture-book age, but Muriel Harris Weinstein has found a novel, illuminating way to make "scat" both fun and simple - the child's "Momma" in the book explains it as "sounds you make up" when singing a jazz tune.

The tale takes flight when a young girl dreams of meeting Louis Armstrong, and in the fantasy he guides her through a scat rhyme about bubble gum. As the unnamed child and Armstrong build the words, the verse reaches epic proportions. "Rippety wrapper/glittery new/Pinkety sweet/ stickety chew," the enthusiastic girl sings as Louis accompanies her on his trumpet.

Weinstein explores every possible word and sound to make the scat a rollicking success. The words fly off the girl's tongue and float through the air. She revels in the sounds she can make: "Cricket's Throne/puppy's bone/bug's umbrella/mozzarella." Children will want to chant along and make up sounds of their own. It is a neat way to encourage creativity.

And, thanks to illustrator R. Gergory Christie, the neon-colored pictures glow with bubbly pink splashes. Christie, a three-time Coretta Scott King Honor Award recipient, makes use of the skills he has honed as a New Yorker magazine contributor. He takes advantage of Weinstein's words to create a surreal world where gum becomes the centerpiece of the universe. That is laughable, of course, and eventually the pink bubble is bound to burst, after becoming a hot-air balloon.

Weinstein is obviously influenced by her own familiarity with Louis Armstrong, able to roll words off her characters' tongues with facility and rapidity. Her own scat in this book might well be Armstrong's.

She is currently working a on a biography called Play Louis, Play. And she has, not suprisingly, worked as a teacher in numerous elementary settings.

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