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Inside The Classroom Bookshelf

Trombone Shorty

Trombone Shorty
Written by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Published in 2015 by Abrams Books
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1465-8
Grades K-8
Book Review
“Where y’at?” –  a New Orleans style greeting opens this picture book autobiography of accomplished musician Troy Andrews, known best as Trombone Shorty. Speaking directly to an audience of kid readers, Trombone Shorty provides a compelling invitation to listen: “Lots of kids have nicknames, but I want to tell you the story of how I got mine. Just like when you listen to your favorite song, let’s start at the beginning.”  And for Andrews the story begins with place and heritage. The grandson of a New Orleans musician, Trombone Shorty grew up in the neighborhood of Tremé, where “any time of day or night you could hear music floating in the air.” Emulating his trumpet playing older brother, Trombone Shorty got his hands on a trombone at the age of four. Diligent practice lead to early achievement; he even had an opportunity to play on stage with the great Bo Didley at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Although his story concentrates primarily on his early years, Trombone Shorty brings readers to present day, noting that although he plays his music round the world, he always makes his way back home. Providing perfect accompaniment to this lyrical story, accomplished artist Bryan Collier employs his signature collage and watercolor style to make Trombone Shorty’s music and the sounds and feel of the streets of Tremé rise from the page. In one particularly powerful image, Andrews and his band of friends, faces reverent, stand tall holding homemade instruments. Although they are surrounded by dilapidated buildings, Collier has adorned them with crowns, symbolizing music’s power to transcend. An author’s note offers readers additional detail about Trombone Shorty’s musical style, training, and accomplishments and two included photographs provide strong visual support for his nickname. The back matter also includes an illustrator’s note, in which Collier describes his use of symbolism throughout the book. This compelling story will hold appeal for readers of all ages, offering a ‘shout out’  to the power music has to propel, to connect, and to reach beyond.
Teaching Invitations: Ideas for Your Classroom

Grades K and Up
Listening to Trombone Shorty. Prior to reading Trombone Shorty, play audio recordings of his music for your students. Invite them to guess what instrument is featured in the music – let them move to the music, exploring this unique musical style. You may also want to offer students the opportunity to respond to the music with art, providing materials and asking students to draw what they hear. This introduction will ground a reading of Trombone Shorty is music and image and enrich students’ aesthetic experience and comprehension.
A Homemade Band.Trombone Shorty and his friends used whatever they could find to create homemade instruments to play in their band. Gather a collection of recycled materials that hold potential for creating interesting sounds. Invite your students to create their own instruments and to compose original music to perform for each other. Hold a live concert for families or create a series of music videos to be shared on your classroom website.Grades 2 and Up
A Musical Collage.Invite your students to explore their own musical identities either through sound or visual image. Students can create ‘mash ups’ of their favorite songs and musical styles to share with their classmates and/or create visual collages that include an image of themselves surrounded by images that represent their musical preferences and the musical styles and sounds that they experience in their homes and communities.
Duet Model Reading.Read Trombone Shorty along with Little Melba and Her Big Trombone in a Duet Model reading. Construct a comparison chart to record details about the lives of these two musicians who shared an early passion for the trombone. Compare their trajectories toward recognition as a musician and discuss the influence of time period and gender stereotypes. Expand this study of artists’ lives and career paths by reading additional life stories of artists. Search for biography in the Classroom Bookshelf and peruse the titles for biographies of artists.
Jazz Text Set.Use a text set to lead your students in an investigation of the history of jazz in the United States. Read Trombone Shorty along with other picture book biographies of Jazz greats (see Further Resources for some suggestions). Divide your class into small groups, assigning each group a biography/autobiography. Groups should create a timeline for the life and accomplishments of the subject of their book. Arrange the individual timelines chronologically and then use online resources to create an overview timeline that illustration significant milestones in the history of jazz.
Illustrator Study.Launch an illustrator study of Bryan Collier’s work with a close examination of the images in Trombone Shorty. Read the illustrator’s note in the back matter and revisit the images of the book to explore Collier’s use of symbolism throughout the book. Guide students to notice the Fleur de Lis images throughout the text and explore the history of this symbol, including Troy Andrews’s reinterpretation of the image as a Horn de Lis. Follow with a deeper examination of Collier’s work and his discussion of his artistic process. See our Classroom Bookshelf entries on I, Too, Am America and Dave the Potter, Artist, Poet, Slave.
Transmediation / Representing Music with Words and Images. How do you capture the essence of music in the form of a picture book? Ask students to consider this question and offer a range of picture book examples, such as Chris Raschka’s books about jazz greats, Gary Golio’s Bird and Diz, Wynton Marsalis’s Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: A Sonic Adventure, Muriel Harris Weinstein’s When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat and Barb Rosenstock’s The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art. Invite students to select a favorite piece of music and have them try out creating prose, poetry, or an illustration that represents the music. Create a museum display in the classroom to share their work or create a slide show that includes the music each piece represents.
The Art of Autobiography. Read Trombone Shorty along with a collection of autobiographical works, including books such as, Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life Song, Long Walk to Freedom, A Boy and a Jaguar, Stompin’ at the Savoy, The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life, Drawing From Memory and Firebird (which is autobiographical fiction). Discuss the authors’ choices across this book. What aspects of their lives did they choose to emphasize? How do they highlight the people, places, and ideas that influenced their lives, careers, and accomplishments? How does the writing reflect the sensory material of their lives? The sounds, sights, smells and textures of the communities that shaped their development? Students can use these texts as mentors as they write autobiographical pieces.

Grades 4 and Up
Critical Literacy
Access to Music Education. To ensure that more children have the opportunity to pursue a passion for music, Troy Andrews has established the Trombone Shorty Foundationto “preserve the rich musical history of New Orleans.” Invite your students to investigate access to music education in your community. How is music taught in the schools? At what age are the majority of children in your community offered the opportunity to learn a musical instrument? How much do lessons cost? How do children have access to musical instruments? Are they available to rent? How much does this cost? Is there a band or choral music program in your school system? How is this funded? Consider inviting range of local musicians, including vocalists, and instrumentalists, to speak with the class to discuss their early musical education.  Seek out and read research that links music and academic achievement. Guide students to synthesize their research and to write opinion pieces about the role of music education.
Further Explorations:
Online Resources:
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue
Bryan Collier: Illustrator’s Website
Book Trailer: Abrams Books
NPR Music: Trombone Shorty
National Association for Music Education
Scholastic Teacher: History of Jazz Music
PBS: Jazz, Great Depression
Jazz at Lincoln Center
Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns
Books
Bryan, A. (2009). Ashley Bryan: Words to my life’s song. Ill. by B. Meguinnes. New York: Atheneum.
Copeland, M. (2014). Firebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland shows a young girl how to dance like the firebird Ill. by C. Myers. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Ehlert, L. (2014). The scraps book: Notes from a colorful life. New York: Beach Lane Books.
Golio, G. (2015). Bird and Diz. Ill. by E. Young. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Mandela, N. (2009). Long walk to freedom. Ill. by P. Bouma. R.B. Flashpoint.
Marsalis, W. (2012). Squeak, rumble, whomp! whomp! whomp!: A sonic adventure. Ill. by P. Rogers. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Marsalis, W. (2005). Jazz ABZ: An A to Z collection of jazz portraits. Ill. by P. Rogers. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Miller, N. & Govenar, A. (2006). Stompin’ at the Savoy: The story of Norma Miller. Ill. by M. French. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Orgill, R. (2010). Skit-Scat raggedy cat: Ella Fitzgerald. Ill. by S. Qualls. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Pinkney, A.D. (2006). Duke Ellington: The piano prince and his orchestra. New York: Hyperion.
Powell, P.H. (2014). Josephine: The dazzling life of Josephine Baker. Chronicle Books.
Raschka, C. (2014). The cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The sound of joy is enlightening. Somerville, Candlewick Press.
Raschka, C. (2002). John Coltrane’s giant steps. New York: Atheneum.
Raschka, C. (2000). Mysterious Thelonius. New York: Live Oak Media.
Raschka, C. (1992). Charlie Parker played be bop. New York: Orchard.
Rabinowitz, A. (2014). A boy and a jaguar. Ill. by C. Chien. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Richards, K. (2014). Gus & me: the story of my granddad and my first guitar. Ill. by T. Richards. New York: Little Brown.
Russell- Brown, K. (2014). Little Melba and her big trombone. Ill. by F.Morrison. New York: Lee  Low.
Say, A. (2011). Drawing from memory. New York: Scholastic.
Weatherford, C.B. (2008). Before John was a jazz giant. Ill. by S. Qualls. Henry Holt.Weinstein, M.H. (2008). When Louis Armstrong taught me Scat. Ill. by G. Christie. New York: Chronicle.
Winter, J. (2015). How Jelly Roll Morton invented jazz. Ill. by K. Mallett. Roaring Brook Press.
Winter, J. (2012). Jazz-age Josephine. Ill. by M. Priceman. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Erika Thulin Dawes About Erika Thulin Dawes

Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.