Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow by Gary Golio

jimiCindy: Young readers who hear music in street noises or other environmental sounds will appreciate this look at the formative years of guitar legend, Jimi Hendrix. The first thing readers may notice about  Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow (Clarion, 2010) is the stunning artwork by Javaka Steptoe. He walked in the legendary steps of Jimi through the old Seattle neighborhoods and purchased reclaimed plywood there to use as his canvas with bright, vibrant colors bringing Jimi’s story to life along with Golio’s words. Starting with a one-string ukulele and then graduating to a $5 used guitar purchased by his father, Jimmy (later, Jimi) began making music and trying to make the colors from his instruments paint the pictures he saw in his head. “Music is magic,” said Jimi. Art and music teachers everywhere will agree.

Lynn: Here is a picture book that had me saying WOW!  The vibrant illustrations have an electric quality that makes the pages buzz with energy and at first I just wanted to look.  When I turned back and read the text I was even more impressed.  Golio doesn’t just give us a factual biography of Hendrix – he captures his spirit.  Hendrix had astonishing gifts both as a musician and an artist and Golio uniquely utilizes both mediums to bring Hendrix to young readers.

I was eager to get our focus group’s reaction and we read the book in galley which is a bit of challenge.  I was startled by the boys’ reactions though.  They were fascinated by both the illustrations and the idea of painting pictures with sound.  They pointed out to me that the people were painted in white and pale tones and the brilliant colors were in the background.  Hmmm – I may need to step aside and let them take over!

This outstanding book just seethes with curriculum connections.  It’s wonderful for art and music teachers of course and I think it would make a terrific writing prompt.  Ask children to write about what sound a color might make.  Or use this book with older students studying biography as an illustration of an inspiring way to convey the essence of the subject to the reader.

The end pages of the book are excellent too and provide additional information about Hendrix, websites and resources on Hendrix, an author’s and an illustrator’s notes and resources on discussing substance abuse with youngsters.

nonfictionmonday1In Need of Chocolate is hosting Nonfiction Monday this week so check there for more great books.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

3 Comments on "Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow by Gary Golio"

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  1. pwbalto@gmail.com' :paula says:

    I have to admit, I was skeptical when I heard about this one… I was worried we’d get some sanitized gloss on a visionary musician’s life.

    But the book is excellent – it’s full of texture and color, captures the visionary thing but gives it context and emotional depth too. I cannot wait to storytime this thing to a middle grade class and play them some Jimi.

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