Controlled Vocabulary


Books that are "Just for Fun"

Here are some books that will help you regain that sense of fun, rhythm, etc in your life (or those of your loved ones).

Charlie Parker Played Be Bop
by Chris Raschka

hardcover, 1992
It would seem a riddle worthy of the sphinx: how do you give children a sense of jazz music without playing a note? Chris Raschka answers loudly and clearly with the illustrated, syncopated Charlie Parker Played Be Bop. This sparse, rhythmic, repetitive text (inspired by a recording of Parker's "A Night in Tunisia") embraces and reflects the sound and feel of jazz when read aloud: "Charlie Parker played be bop. / Charlie Parker played saxophone. / The music sounded like be bop. / Never leave your cat alone." Whether in complete phrases or in nonsense refrains that taste like music in your mouth ("Alphabet alphabet, alphabet, alph, / Chickadee, chickadee, chickadee, chick, / Overshoes, overshoes, overshoes, o, / Reeti-footi, reeti-footi, reeti-footi, ree."), Raschka brings melody to the page, and rhythm to eager ears.

Mysterious Thelonious
by Chris Raschka

hardcover, out-of-print
In this brilliantly conceived tribute to the jazz composer and musician, Raschka has captured the music and the man in a picture book as original as Monk himself. Using the provocative "Misterioso" as his inspiration, Raschka set his words to the melody and let them fall on the page just as they would if you were listening to the music. But his "notes" are the 12 values on the color wheel matched to the corresponding 12 tones on the chromatic scale.

John Coltrane's Giant Steps (Richard Jackson Books (Atheneum Hardcover))
by Chris Raschka

hardcover, 2002
This innovative visual deconstruction of one of jazz saxophonist Coltrane's most beloved compositions may be Raschka's (Mysterious Thelonious) most ambitious picture book yet. After a playful introduction ("Good evening. And thank you for coming to our book"), the unseen narratorconductor introduces the performers a box, a snowflake, some raindrops and a kitten a tongue-in-cheek nod to Coltrane's version of "My Favorite Things"). The book does not require previous awareness of the jazz great's work, however. Each performer (representing percussion, bass, piano and sax) appears in a different color and shape (Raschka riffs on primary red, yellow and blue, and the basic square, triangle and circle). The performance begins, only to be interrupted when the kitten ("the melody on top of everything") takes steps a little too large ("People, people! What happened?"). Some coaching finally produces what Coltrane called "sheets of sound." Raschka's transparent watercolors layer colors and shapes the way a musician would notes and harmonies. Stunningly simple, the concept provides a compelling introduction to Coltrane's genius. Those who possess a little musical knowledge will delight in such arch references as "remixed by Chris Raschka" on the title page and the conductor's hilarious critique ("First of all, raindrops, you were rushing on page 19"). Even the jacket repeats the book's central conceit: a clear plastic wrap featuring the kitten, painted in thick black outline, overlays the other elements. A must for jazz enthusiasts and, for first-timers, a clever introduction to this wildly creative musical genre. Ages 4-7.

You may be surprised
at the tricky music
a box,
a snowflake,
some raindrops,
and a kitten
can make.

Right before your eyes.
And on the pages
of this book.

There is someone
watching, encouraging
our performers
but keeping them
under control.

Why not
listen along?

Cruel and Tender: The Real in the 20th Century Photograph
by Emma Dexter, Thomas Weski

Hardcover, 2003
A must have

On Bullshit
by Harry G. Frankfurt

Hardcover, 2005
Not a traditionally funny, "joke book" but a philosophy book with a degree of intellectual humor uncommon in academia.

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