Reviews for I See the Rhythm

Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 February 1998
Gr. 5^-8. Igus' prose poems and Wood's evocative paintings combine to give a succinct overview of African American music. A useful time line sets the social context, and brief paragraphs describe the various types of music, from African origins and slave songs through ragtime; the blues; big band, bebop, and cool jazz; gospel; rhythm and blues; and the contemporary sounds of rock, hip-hop, and rap. Igus effectively uses snippets from song lyrics to communicate both a feel for the music itself and a sense of how the various styles played to the emotions of the musicians and their fans ("From the basements to the rooftops, / I see the cool tones of modern jazz / escape the city heat"). Wood's paintings are equally suggestive. Mixing modernist and primitive styles and using color nicely to communicate musical style and tone, her art not only complements the text but vivifies it. Audience may be a problem: the supportive text is too sophisticated for younger readers to grasp themselves, and the format may alienate some older readers. Perhaps best used in a junior-high classroom with audio accompaniment, this striking book, in the hands of a creative teacher or librarian, could give kids a feeling for the majesty, creativity, and continuity of African American music. ((Reviewed February 15, 1998)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

Horn Book Guide Reviews 1998
Although the book's paintings and poetry provide vivid images of the music of Black America--including slave songs, blues, ragtime, gospel, different jazz genres, rap, funk, and soul--the historical information provided in the text consists almost entirely of a too brief and disconnected chronology. The book will be most effective if used with other, more informative books on the subject.Copyright 1998 Horn Book Guide Reviews

School Library Journal Reviews 1998 June
A pictorial time line of African-American music from the 1500s to the 1990s. The text, made up of free verse and music lyrics, incorporates different font sizes, shapes, and colors to underline the mood of each genre. A chronology gives a historical perspective and a context for young readers. It invites them to learn more, mentioning parallel historical events and the well-known singers, songwriters, and recording artists of the time. The first three double-page spreads, "Origins," "Slave Songs," and "Birth of the Blues," seem purposely more subdued and somber. With ragtime, the joy of music predominates. Through the eras of jazz, swing, bebop, cool jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, rock `n' roll, funk, rap, and hip hop, the music is the message. The repetition of "I see" to open each genre gives the book an action and a rhythm particularly apt to its subject. The colors of each full-page scenario underline the mood. Golds and blues dominate the stained-glass scene from the gospel pages. A green-hued patchwork underscores the scenes of rhythm and blues and soul music of the `60s. For cool jazz, broad stroked, defined skyscrapers fill the deep blues of a night city sky as white or black text flies at various angles against a gray-blue page. This book celebrates music with art and words and successfully blends all three. Jane Marino, Scarsdale Public Library, NY Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews