Monthly Archives: May 2015

Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane

Weatherford, Carole Boston.  Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane.Illustrated by Sean Qualls. Henry Holt and Company, 2009. 32 pages.  ISBN-13: 978-0-8050-7994-4

What’s the story?

This non-fiction children’s book is creative biography of the childhood of John Coltrane, of one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, who first had to listen to great music before he could write and play music of his own.


This Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People of 2009 in the category of biography presents the childhood of Jazz great John Coltrane with a primary focus on the musical sounds of his childhood. The book explores some of the inspirations for his desire to be a musician and the people, things, and music that influenced him. Each page is filled with beautiful, mostly abstract images in muted shades and limited colors. An author’s note at the end of the book provides a more detailed biography that parents, teachers, and librarians can use to answer questions from children who want to know more about Coltrane. There is also a list of some of Coltrane’s music available on CD and a list of books and a website about Coltrane’s life.

 Awards and Recognition

American Library Association Notable Children’s Books
Coretta Scott King Honor, Illustrator
Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year
Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
Golden Kite Honor Book for Picture Book Text
CPL: Chicago Public Library Best of the Best
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