Hey, this is one Good-Lookin’ book

h1 September 6th, 2006 by jules

honky-tonk.gifI could just mention this wonderful book in the picture-books-about-music thread that is going in the comments section of the “Never leave your cat alone” post. A few of us started discussing picture books about jazz, but Eisha also mentioned picture books about the blues, opera, and salsa. So, I could just throw in another comment about Honky-Tonk Heroes & Hillbilly Angels: The Pioneers of Country & Western Music (2006), but then you might not see it. And this is one swingin’ book, ya’ll, that you won’t wanna miss. And, yes, the title of my post is rather lame, as I’m trying to work in a Hank Williams lyric. Humor me here.

This book by Holly George-Warren — which includes 14 profiles of the pioneers of country and western music, including The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Roy Acuff, Patsy Cline, and many more — is not only informative, but its artwork is downright fun to look at. Laura Levine’s homey and unaffected folk art paintings are created via mixed media/masonite and placed in vintage frames (an example of her mixed media being the King Korn trading stamps highlighting Buck Owens’ slick ‘do). Levine captures the personality and charm of her subjects, one of the stand-out illustrations being Tammy Wynette and George Jones as “The King and Queen of Broken Hearts,” sitting in their thrones with crowns atop their heads and joining hands with their guitars to their sides. This illustration can be seen here on Levine’s wonderful site (scroll down some to see), as well as the superb one of the dignified Man in Black, standing in his vintage-stamps-ring-‘o-fire.

George-Warren and Levine are the duo that brought us Shake, Rattle & Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll in 2001. (Levine’s first children’s book was Wig!, based on the B-52s song of the same name. Gotta dig that). As with Shake, Rattle & Roll, we get in this new title profiles of these artists that manage to be both pithy and illuminating at the same time. And the best part is that — along with the usual information we get in such books (date of birth and death and the salient moments of their careers in between those dates) — the author imparts some fun facts about the musicians’ lives and careers. For instance, George Jones loved his guitar so much as a child that he always carried the instrument with him and hid it in the woods before entering school. Kitty Wells (whose real name was — get this — Muriel Deason) was ever-so close to giving up touring and performing altogether and was about to, from then on, stay at home to raise her children when she suddenly, almost overnight, became a big star in country.

And one of the best things about the author’s work here is that — for any intermediate-aged or high school readers who would otherwise turn their noses up at country music legends — she includes in her profiles the musicians’ links, if any, to contemporary rock music. For instance, she mentions Loretta Lynn’s recent collaboration with Jack White of The White Stripes and Johnny Cash’s wholehearted cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.”

Once again I’m taunted by the category game. Technically, this book is aimed at intermediate-aged readers. But young children and adults and everyone in between, honestly, can enjoy this great book.

Excuse the pun, but you knew it was coming: This book rocks.

4 comments to “Hey, this is one Good-Lookin’ book”

  1. ooh, i’m glad you did give this one its very own post. i saw a review of it a while ago, but since we don’t have a big country/western fan base here in new england, i didn’t order it for my library, and promptly forgot it. it looks really cool – reminds me of the cool musician posters by yee-haw (www.yeehawindustries.com).

  2. yes, the illustrations brought Yee Haw Press to my mind, too. and i just went to their site (thanks for the link), and even they have a wynette/george jones poster, “the first family of country music.” isn’t Yeehaw a Knoxville-based co. or at least started out that way? Yay for Knoxville…. — jules

  3. yup, they are. and i still have my “james brown inflatable sex-machine” poster. hah! good god!!

  4. and we still have our Yeehaw open-up-a-can-of-whoop-ass poster, featuring Buford with a club, that was funny way back before saying “i’m gonna open up a can of whoop-ass” wasn’t all hackneyed. — jules

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