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Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane's Musical Journey
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Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane's Musical Journey

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  79 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Growing up, John was a seeker. He wondered about spirit, and the meaning of life. And whether music could be a key to unlocking those mysteries. Like his grandfather’s preaching and his parents’ songs, could John’s music bring people closer to God?
Told in moving prose and powerfully illustrated, this is the story of a shy, curious boy from a deeply religious family who gr
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published October 23rd 2012 by Clarion Books
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Dec 28, 2012 Betsy rated it it was amazing
Is there any complicated hero with a past so full of darkness that their life cannot be recounted to children? This is the conundrum of any author who takes it upon his or herself to tell the stories of people who didn't grow up happy, live lightly, and die laughing in their beds. The most interesting stories are sometimes the ones about folks who look into the eye of the devil and walk away the wiser. Trouble is, it can be hard to figure out whether or not theirs is a story kids need to know. ...more
Richie Partington
Oct 05, 2012 Richie Partington rated it it was amazing
Richie’s Picks: SPIRIT SEEKER: JOHN COLTRANE’S MUSICAL JOURNEY by Gary Golio and Rudy Gutierrez, ill., Clarion, October 2012, 48p., ISBN: 978-0-547-23994-1

“After joining the high school band, John took his horn everywhere. Music made him happy, and it seemed like what he was meant to do with his life.
“As he listened to Johnny Hodges – a musician in Duke Ellington’s band with a sound soft as velvet – John felt the sax become more a part of him. He loved the clicking of the keys, the feel of the m
Margo Tanenbaum
In this new book by author Gary Golio, he adds John Coltrane to his growing collection of picture book biographies of musical greats. Earlier books profiled Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan. While these musicians might not seem like typical fodder for children's picture books, this format, with its striking and inspirational illustrations, is in fact ideal for stimulating young people's interests in these iconic musicians.

The book's title page features the following quote from Coltrane: "My music is
Nov 16, 2013 Jill rated it really liked it
This biography of the great jazz musician John Coltrane (also known as "Trane") jumps out at you from the shelves because of the spectacularly arresting illustrations by Rudy Gutierrez. The mixed media pieces combine actual pictures of Coltrane with vibrant swirling lines and colors that ably convey music and mood.

The focus of the story is on Coltrane’s struggles on the one hand, and his spiritual devotion on the other. Born in 1926, John “had a very sweet life.” But when he was 12, his father,
Rudy Gutierrez's stunning mixed media illustrations flow and swirl across the pages-- evoking the fluid beauty of Coltrane's music. An outstanding biography about an influential musician unknown to many children.
Abby Johnson
May 06, 2013 Abby Johnson rated it really liked it
Gorgeous, deep and colorful artwork brings the evocative words to life in this biography of jazz musician John Coltrane. Artfully done. Don't let the kids miss this one.
Jim Erekson
May 04, 2016 Jim Erekson rated it liked it
It was Gutierrez' manic fauvre illustration that made this book move--my son sat and looked at pp 32-33 for a long time. The pictures prompted me to get online and listen to something new. I looked at the Expression album, and the music is just wildly abstract--"Offering" and "To Be".

The text delivered a fairly straight biography, with an unwavering line toward Coltrane's religious enlightenment. That was what Golio chose as the story to tell. He chose to do the full life from childhood up. Hm.
This picture book for older readers is a powerful illustrated journey into the heart and soul of John Coltrane. Unlike some other works, this book does not shy away from either his religious side or his substance abuse. It puts both in context in his life, and talks about some of the reasons why people turn to substance abuse after personal tragedies.
More importantly, though, it talks about his life story, and the paths that led him from home to the peak of stardom, down to the bottom and back a
Filled with memorable acrylic and mixed media illustrations created with colored pencils, crayons, and acrylics that swirl about the pages in mesmerizing fashion, this picture book biography traces the influences on jazz musician John Coltrane. Music and religion were important throughout his life, and the author describes his struggles with alcohol and drugs, and how he lost his way after the deaths of many family members and later as a professional musician. But through it all, Coltrane has ...more
Sep 06, 2012 Robert rated it it was amazing
This is a gripping biography picture book about the life of John Coltrane's musical journey from childhood through adulthood. Amazingly told and beautifully illustrated. The mixed media paintings that illumine the text bring to life the dulcet tones of Coltrane's music and improvisations that made hime famous. The colors employed by Rudy Gutierrez reflect the joyful and dark times of Coltrane's storied career. The combination of text and illustration make this a picture appropriate for children ...more
Jan 03, 2016 Becky rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pb-bio, read-in-2013
This book is a truthful picture book biography of John Coltrane. It does not shy away from the bad things in his life (loss of father and grandparents at an early age as well as the drug and alcohol abuse of his later years), but it does not dwell on them either. This book shows the trials and the triumphs of Coltrane's life, and it focuses on the triumphs - the loving childhood, the passion of his music, the hard work, the learning, the strength to overcome his addictions, his spirituality ...more
Mar 27, 2013 Kifflie rated it it was amazing
Wow. This is absolutely gorgeous. The art just sings. It's a synesthetic experience -- the colors, the movement, the framing all have a melody and rhythm. And it's joined perfectly with the text to fuse a terrific telling of the story of jazz great John Coltrane.

I had to read this twice. And I may have to actually buy a copy of it to savor at my leisure. And do this while enjoying a glass of good wine and listening to Coltrane's music.
Kris Odahowski
Apr 05, 2013 Kris Odahowski rated it really liked it
Spirit Seeker wows with illustrations that speak to the reader, I wish the format could be smaller to attract an older readers. The book has a powerful message about finding a spiritual path and the difficult process of recovery from addiction. The illustrations are some of the most beautiful illustration I have seen in a Children's book. This books is available or check out from the Gadsden County Public Library.
Jarrett Bell
"John watched papa turn feelings into sound... Shy and quiet, he let his horn become his voice." This book is beautifully written, and is probably for an adult audience, as the themes of darkness, depression, addiction, and hopelessness are heavy but real and poetically, emotionally written. The book is very much a mixture of meta-spirituality and music. The artwork is wonderfully colorful and strangely wild and abstract.
Dec 25, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
John Coltrane was called to heights of faith, raised to mountaintops by music, and driven to depths by loss and addiction. His life swirled like the notes of his saxophone in the chaotic birth of jazz. This book, in a spare forty pages of tight language and lush illustrations, will make you FEEL the man and his music.
Nov 29, 2012 Shelli rated it liked it
While I found this picture book/biography on John Coltrane entertaining and informative I don't know if most kids would relate to this, or enjoy. From a resource book report standpoint for students, this would be an easy to follow, not overwhelming with facts format. This book should have come with a cd with at least 1 of Mr. Coltrane’s songs.
Jan 24, 2013 Ryan rated it really liked it
Incredibly beautiful illustrations. Good overview of Coltrane's life and music in 39 pages. Does not shy from the drug use in Coltrane's life, but also doesn't dwell on it. I would have liked a bit less of his early life and a bit more of his Giant Steps to Ascension development. Solid thumbs up overall.
Oct 28, 2013 Christina rated it really liked it
Gorgeous art: mixed media, very "jazzy", which reflects Coltrane's moods with vibrant color, bold abstract shapes, and words flowing together. Has great author's note filling in details of his life and also a "note on musicians and drug use" which explains that topic well for children; doesn't apologize for or excuse him.
Elizabeth Finney
Jun 08, 2013 Elizabeth Finney rated it liked it
Not a typical bio - focuses on one or two aspects of Coltrane's life - primarily his search for the Spirit in his music. Honest about his use of alcohol and drugs and his detoxing at home. An afterward discusses his alcohol and drug use as well. The art not my style, but interesting layered pictures that attempt to convey the feel of the music.
Many times these types of picture books are mediocre text surrounded by inspirational art-work. In this case the art is fantastic and the storyline is well done in a creative and truthful way...job well done!
Liz Murray
Dec 29, 2015 Liz Murray rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous book that soulfully captures Coltrane's life and work. The illustrations are incredible and I had to admit that although I knew a lot about his music I didn't know a lot about his life. This is perfect for classroom sharing and works just as well for adults.
Dec 30, 2012 Nativida rated it it was amazing
Didn't know anything about Coltrane's life, only his music. This book brings a new depth and richness to listening to his recorded work.
Mar 10, 2014 Robert rated it it was amazing
Truly inspired artwork portrays the nadir and zenith of one of jazz music's most influential icons.
Sharon Lawler
Sep 12, 2013 Sharon Lawler rated it really liked it
Besides being an immensely moving story about the life of jazz musician John Coltrane, the complexity of the illustrations is astounding.
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
Loved the illustrations in this biographical picture book about John Coltrane - definitely a fave of the year.
J. Jefferson
Feb 16, 2015 J. Jefferson rated it really liked it
Very jazzy book about the life of John Coltrane. Nice artistic illustrations. Appropriate for second grade readers and above. There are no headings or chapters for easy reference.
Joan Marie
Jan 26, 2016 Joan Marie rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, richly illustrated story about John's search for spirit, meaning, comfort and joy through music.
Brent rated it really liked it
Jan 31, 2016
Christian McKay
Christian McKay rated it really liked it
Feb 03, 2013
Katie N
Katie N rated it liked it
Sep 30, 2016
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Gary Golio is the author of several best-selling and award-winning musical picture-book biographies, including Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow, When Bob Met Woody, and Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane’s Musical Journey. Gary Golio lives in Hudson Valley, New York.
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