Reviews for Travels With Louis

School Library Journal Reviews 2012 November

Gr 5-9--As with Carlon's Riding on Duke's Train (Leapfrog Press, 2011), this novel is based on the life of a legendary American musician. It imagines a young boy, 12-year-old Fred, who is both a friend and student of Louis Armstrong. In late 1950s Queens, New York, Freddie and his father struggle to come to terms with the untimely death of the boy's mother. Fred and Louis have a special relationship; the great trumpeter dotes on the boy who resembles his grandfather, a talented musician who squandered his gift because he was an alcoholic. The novel tries to incorporate a lot into the narrative: the boy's first experience with racism; puberty; his father's forays into dating after his wife's death; peer relations. These scenarios often feel contrived and almost unbelievable (Freddie stumbles onto a Civil Rights march and is immediately arrested), while the language sometimes veers into caricature, especially when Armstrong speaks. While Carlon tries to throw a few curves into the story line, it still wraps up neatly and predictably. Although this novel fails to deliver an engaging story, it might encourage readers to explore Armstrong's life through other books. Suggested only for deeper collections in need of historical fiction.Carol Fazioli, Barth Elementary School, Pottstown, PA

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