Saturday, April 4, 2015
Elvis:The Story of the Rock and Roll King. Written and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2015. $20.50 ages 6 and up
Jazz floating between
blues chugging up both sides
of the tracks,
spirituals and gospel
pouring out of churches."
Despite the many differences that were a part of the culture of Tupelo, Mississippi when Elvis was born there in 1935, the one thread that spoke to all residents was the music. 'Elvis was born into that music.'
He loved to sing in church. He was very shy, often clinging to his mother. An only child, he and his extremely destitute family had only each other. When things got worse, Elvis and his mother had to sell their house and move, and keep moving. Eking out a living was a very difficult thing to do. Despite their troubles, Elvis continued to love all music, and was encouraged to share his talents.
His mother gave him a guitar for his 11th birthday and he taught himself to play. He was shunned at school, and able to ignore most of it. Once again, the family had to pull up roots and move so that his father might find a job. Memphis was their new home.
"New apartment, new school, new jobs.
Elvis' heart and soul were beating
to the rhythm of Beale Street -
and better things to come."
Suddenly, he had friends. When the other students heard him sing, they were astonished. A further chance came when Sam Phillips of Sun Records asked him to make a record.
"That's All Right" was a Delta blues song,
and Elvis was singing it a whole new way -
ragged, raw Delta blues, with bits of country
and moments of gospel.
Black and white music all mixed up together.
A whole new sound!"
Elvis was on his way ...
Bonnie Christensen does a terrific job of telling Elvis' story with compassion, verve and a genuine admiration for the man and his prodigious talent. From his early childhood to his first record, she offers a clear picture of the young Elvis Presley, who was so loved and admired by so many. Her paintings, rendered in photo collage, then scanned, printed on paper, and painted with oils is a compelling portrait of a vulnerable and extremely talented young man. The verse text says only what it needs to say to help young readers understand the allure and talent of the 'King'.
An author's note and an extensive timeline follow in back matter.
Sadly, Ms. Christensen died in January this year after a battle with ovarian cancer. Her award winning books and her dedication to bringing the best to her readers will be a continuing legacy in the world of children's literature.