Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson: Taking the Stage as the First Black and White Jazz Band in History

Ransome, James (Illustrator)
Holiday House 2014. 32 pages
First published: 2014
ISBN: 9780823423620 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Dewey: 781.65
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

point of view

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Told chronologically, this story traces the early lives of jazz musicians Benny Goodman, who was white, and Teddy Wilson, black, from their childhoods in the 1920s until they formed their own groundbreaking interracial band. For despite their different backgrounds, they both learned to play instruments and became musicians, with a particular fondness for “Cool, mellow jazz.”

By following the musical paths of these two men, the book provides a window into the history of jazz music, in particular the race relations of the time, which dictated that black and white musicians could only play separately, or secretly. And yet eventually, Benny and Teddy defied convention by playing publicly together – for they “were thinking with the same brain” when it came to jazz – thus helping to launch a new era in music.

The text reads like a song, with short punchy sentences and minimal punctuation: “they blew/they tapped/they banged/they strummed/The stage was hot/The dance floor was hotter/The music was the hottest.” There are multiple references to people such as Gene Krupa, “Fats” Waller and Duke Ellington, and places of jazz, all of which are explained in greater detail at the back.

Watercolour paintings bring to life the vibrancy of the jazz age through action-filled scenes of people dancing in the streets, the fields and the concert halls.

A timeline and short biographies of Goodman and Wilson round things off.

  •  

    Listen to a teacher-selected sample of music by Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson from the 1930s. Does your appreciation of the music change after learning their story?

  •  As you read, compare and contrast the paths Benny and Teddy took to becoming musicians.
  •  

    Experiment with different ways to read the text aloud. Prepare a dramatic reading of one page and present it to the class.

  •  

    Why is this an important story to tell, even though it started over 100 years ago?

  •  Listen to teacher-selected music by the Benny Goodman trio. Draw what you hear. Discuss how you react to this music.
  •  

    Go for a picture walk and list the instruments you see. What instrument(s) do you play? How can you improve? 

  •  

    As the book is read aloud, note words related to music. With a peer, find a way to sort the words using a graphic organizer. Compare with others.

  •  

    Discuss how Goodman and Wilson get better at their instruments. How are their strategies similar to those for learning a language?

  •  

    Research other musicians portrayed in the book. Listen to their work and create a short text to describe it. How is it similar to or different from the music of the Benny Goodman Trio?

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Personal and Career Planning