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Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra
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Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  1,326 ratings  ·  114 reviews
Hailed as the "King of the Keys," most people called his music jazz, but Duke Ellington said it was "the music of my people." A most fitting tribute to a great man who proudly celebrated the history of African-Americans, from slavery to civil rights struggles. Brian Pinkney's artwork swings and sways in a reflection of Ellington's music.
Paperback, 32 pages
Published September 1st 1999 by Scholastic, Inc. (first published March 3rd 1998)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,859)
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This is fabulous! The words and the illustrations are as musical as Duke's own compositions, which are "smoother than a hairdo sleeked with pomade" and "spicier than a pot of jambalaya!" I would love to see a Reading Rainbow-type production of this book with snippets of Duke's actual music.

I thought it was interesting that Duke didn't like piano when he was young. He thought it was boring "umpy-dump" music. When he was older, he heard ragtime for the first time and then taught himself to play h...more
Lisa Vegan
It took me awhile to get used to the writing style but it never felt as though it wasn’t a perfect fit for the story. This is a terrific picture book biography about Duke Ellington’s life and music. The illustrations are wonderful; I particularly loved how the music coming out of the instruments is shown via pictures. If readers/listeners aren’t familiar with it, I highly recommend that Duke Ellington’s music be played as an accompaniment. Even 30 second long snippets from iTunes would enhance t...more
It's no wonder this book was recognized as a Caldecott Honor book; the
illustrations are beautiful. They complement the rhythm of the text
very well. This biography is written in a jazzy tone using upbeat
sentence structures and hip language. "He was a smooth-talkin',
slick-steppin', piano-playin' kid."

umpy-dump, left-handed hops and right-handedslides

We learn of Duke Ellington's life in an interesting and entertaining
manner. From his desire to impress the ladies in D.C. to ruling the
roost at the Co...more
Davina Cuffee
1. Junior Book-Biography

2. This books details the musical life of Duke Ellington. This jazzy read takes you all the way back to his childhood and lets you know how he got started with piano and became “The Paino Prince.”

3a. Illustrations; Language

3b. The scratchboard technique used to create the illustrations were AMAZING! I know it took the illustrator a long time to do these pictures, and I think it was a great way to do illustrations for this biography because it gave an older feeling while k...more
CH_Emily Scholnik
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH; 1st edition (March 3, 1999)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0786801786
ISBN-13: 978-0786801787

"He was a smooth-talkin', slick-steppin', piano-playin' kid," "writes master wordsmith Andrea Pinkney in the rhythmic, fluid, swinging prose of this excellent biography for early readers."

Duke Ellington tells of a young boy and his rise to fame in a time of racism. He was a huge part of the "evolution" of Jazz music, which "originates...more
I loved this picture book biography of Duke Ellington. The illustrations were great--and I'm not alone in thinking that, the book was honored with a Caldecott Honor in 1999. The text was great too. The style was very original--smooth, jazzy, rhythmic. The facts were all there, yes, but they were dressed up nicely by the language, the words she chose to use to tell her story. She's a natural storyteller and it shows.

Here's how it begins,

You ever hear of the jazz-playin' man, the man with the cat...more
Jan 14, 2013 Dolly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This book offers a fascinating look into the life of Duke Ellington. The biography provides lots of interesting details, without being overwhelming or boring and the illustrations complement the story nicely. I liked the lyrical, jazz-laced narrative and the flow of the story.

After we read this book, we checked out a few videos of Duke Ellington and his orchestra so our girls could really get a feel for the music of the era and the timeless popularity of some of his songs. We really enjoyed rea...more
Emily Holter
This historical fiction book tells about the life of Duke Ellington, a famous jazz musician. Although the book is based on a real person, the stories involved in the book are not all accurate. The young readers will fully enjoy this book as it covers all aspects of music.

All throughout the book, you see and read about multiple instruments, for example; saxophones, drums, pianos, trombones, guitars, and trumpets. This could entice children to get involved more in music. The book really highlights...more
Lis Ann
See more @ The Indigo Quill . blogspot . com

First I'd like to point out what a fine-looking couple the author and illustrator are! You know you're blessed when your soulmate's calling in life coincides with your own. That is just so darn precious.

This children's book comes not only with funky artwork, but the language is also set to its own beat. You learn cool new metaphors like "spicier than a pot of jambalaya!" or slang terms like "swankiest." You and your child(ren) can have fun together en...more
April Poulter
The best way that I can describe this book is colorful and I don't mean that in a derogatory or crude way. This is a fabulous book with bright, bold artwork and rich, poetic words. The words alone are enough to create a vivid picture in your mind but there are actual illustrations that do the author's words justice. My favorite part about the book was the way that it described things. Some of my favorite phrases were:
"Left-handed hops and right-handed slides."
"Curling notes like a kite tail."
Rashanda Ravenel
So, I took piano my first year in high school;I thought it would be so much fun because I love music. It turned out to be the worst mistake ever as a freshman just entering school. My teacher was so mean and so strict, with no patience. I definitely had those feelings of frustration and anxiety that we associated with Dual Language Learners. So, I ended up dropping the class. I still have little knowledge of playing the piano, but at least my desire to learn is still present. I would use this as...more
Kate Reilly
Edward Kennedy Ellington, otherwise known as "Duke" was one of the forerunners in the evolution of jazz music. He composed and played swing music, which is a form of jazz music. He started with the piano and at first the music didn't sound good, but after a while, he became good and started to make up his own melodies. At 19 he started playing at various clubs and parties. He went on to form a band that played all over DC but soon began playing in NYC. His band, the Washingtonians was soon asked...more
Caitlin Carver
I loved the feel of this book. The pictures were enthralling, especially after realizing how difficult it was to make them. They seemed very indicative of the type of music the book was discussing. The language made me feel like I was back in that time period. Things like "folks," and "sit pretty," and "daddy-o" made me laugh and really get into the theme of the work. The phrases that described Duke's music were beautiful and fun! The music itself in the story practically came to life as another...more
Musical, colorful, wonderful, beautiful! This story of Duke Ellington and his band captures the sounds of jazz right on the page with color color color and oh so many marvelous words. Full of onomatopoeias, you can't help but hear the beat and pizazz streaming from the page to inside your head.
Duke can inspire any child with a dream; he gives up piano, takes it back up, teaches himself to be a master the way he wants, calls himself Duke, and becomes famous doing what he loves with his pals. His...more
The picture Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra creates through its illustrations and its catchy, descriptive phrases is beautiful. The story of Duke Ellington is a great teaching aid. The story itself was just missing a tiny bit of something. I didn't get sucked into it. Maybe the flowery language overshadowed the plot line, but I didn't have any form of attachment to Mr. Ellington. I didn't really care if he succeeded or not. Maybe it's just me though. I loved the illustrations...more
Non-Print Review of Book on CD with picture book

From Kirkus Reviews
Addressing readers directly``You ever heard of the jazz-playin' man, the man with the cats who could swing with his band?''the Pinkneys embark on a cool and vibrant tour of Duke Ellington's musical career, from the pool hall ragtime that ``set Duke's fingers to wiggling,'' to his 1943 Carnegie Hall concert, also giving some of the soloists that played with him, and songwriter Billy Strayhorn, a chance to step forward. Translated...more
Grade Level-1st-4th
Genre-Picture Biography

This book is a Caldecott Honor Book. This book is about Duke Ellington and his journey to become the King of the Keys or the Piano Prince. When he was younger, he preferred baseball over the piano, but when he heard ragtime he started playing again. He formed his own band at age nineteen once he moved to Washington, D.C. This book introduces others in his band such as Sonny Greer and Otto “Toby” Hardwick and mentions several of his well-known songs such...more
Duke Ellington. Weston Woods
(1998). Retrieved July 21, 2008, from

What a nice introduction to Duke Ellington! This book is best when viewed in its video form on united streaming because of the music that accompanies it. This way, kids are learning about Ellington's music, and they get to hear it, too.

The story chronicles Ellington's rise to success, starting with how Ellington learned to play piano. From a pedagogical standpoint, I like th...more
Joan Innes
I loved this colorful autobiograhical story of the great musician, Duke Ellington! I totally enjoy this era and genre of jazz music and Duke Ellington was such an enigmatic personality. This book is written by a husband and wife team. The wife is the illustrator and the husband is the author. The illustrations and lively wording echo the theme of action, lively music and festivity. With swirling shapes and unusual action-type angles the pictures come to life with bright colors outlined distinctl...more
When Edward Kennedy Ellington was a boy he didn’t think much of the piano lessons his parents forced him into. He thought they were boring and he was much more interested in baseball. Then one day he heard the sounds of ragtime music and knew that was the sound for him. As he learned how to create the rhythms of ragtime he began creating sounds all his own and soon became pioneer in the world of jazz music. Under the nickname “Duke” Ellington he formed a band called The Washingtonians. They late...more
Linsay Piersawl
Andrea and Brian Pinkney work as a dynamic duo when creating this vibrant biographical picture book. Andrea Pinkney writes a descriptive and factual tale of Duke Ellington’s life. We are introduced to a young Duke that much rather play baseball than play piano. We watch him blossom after his first encounter with a ragtime piano player as a young man, to him finding his “Cats” and playing in the Carnegie Hall in 1943. Brian Pinkney adds his “scratchboard” technique when he creates illustrations f...more
1. Genre: Biography
2. Summary: This picture book is about the life of Duke Ellington, one of the most famous African-American jazz band players. It also talks about the other players in his Orchestra.
A. Area of Comment: Style (Text)
B. The author writes this book in such a way it almost sounds like the slang and lingo of the height of the Jazz era. Pinkney decides to write this way to get the readers’ attention and get them in the swinging mood for Jazz, America’s biggest musical invention. At th...more
1. Biography-Picture Book
2. This book focuses on the career of piano player Duke Ellington; however, it also features members of his orchestra.
3. A. Illustrations
B. Brian Pinkney uses luma dyes, gouache, and oil paint to create illustrations that compliment the text as well as the underlying subject matter at hand, music. So much movement is seen within the illustrations of this book as the reader’s eyes are guided across each page. Just about every color is found within this book, allowing add...more
Rhiannon Hubble
1. Genre: Biography
2. This biography is about the jazz legend Duke Ellington.
3. a) Area for Comment: Tone/Style
b) The style of this biography fits perfectly for the person for which it is written: Duke Ellington. The author, Andrea Pinkney, uses the tone of the Jazz era to really make this book stand out among the other biographies that I have read. Her word choice and style makes the reader feel as though they are witnessing the music themselves. Her style and tone provide an almost auditory ex...more
Lacey Luce
Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra
By Andrea Davis Pinkney
Davis Pinkney, A. (1998). Duke ellington: The piano prince and his orchestra . New York: Jump at the Sun.

1. Biography Junior Book

2. This is a picture book about the life of the famous African American Jazz artist Duke Ellington. It is all about his band and his music and will make you feel as if you stepped back in time into the 1940’s Harlem.

3. Illustrations

b. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful in this book. The...more
I thought this was an awesome book. It had so many descriptive words and it really was interesting to hear about the life of Duke Ellington. The pictures in this book were so amazing. One awesome activity that goes along with this book is, buy the paper that has the color on the bottom and black on top and you can take a tooth pick and draw pictures and this shows students what it took to draw each of the pictures in this book. But overall awesome book for children.
Kendra Hurst
The thing that captivated me the most about this book was the illustrations. They were interesting to me because they were fuzzy in a way, but still had so much detail within them. I also loved all the vibrant colors that went with the outfits and music. It made the book more upbeat-- just like that time was. The biography was interesting too, but it didn't really catch my attention that thoroughly-- mainly just the pictures. Overall, it is a good book to read though
I read this one to first graders and it was a very fun read. Written with lots of slang and jazz terminology which I explained as I went. There is a reference to Duke's "Take the A Train" and some of the students asked about it so I played them a video from YouTube of Ellington performing it. This book is SO worthy of the Caldecott that it received, the colors and images serve to represent the sound of the music in such a vivid and vibrant way that some of the students were able to make the conn...more
Paul Farbman
Mar 04, 2014 Paul Farbman rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Second or third graders
Recommended to Paul by: Terry Benton
This book is a Caldecott Honor.

The unique technique used by illustrator Brian Pinkney is scratchboard, a clay-based technique. By scratching away black clay and exposing white, he adds light to the illustrations. This makes the illustrations pop by imitating depth and shadows. Pinkney often uses lines to make the illustrations flow. Most of them move in the same direction.

Pinkney's illustrations in this book utilize a wide variety of color.
I loved this book the entire time! I liked the bright colors and jazzy illustrations throughout. The African American jargon and words helped give the story a unique and cultured feel. I liked how the author used the words and syllabics to create a nice beat and rhythm-just like Duke Ellington's piano playing. This author completely took me to hearing and feeling Duke's music and seeing the couples swing dance to his jazzy tunes. Very fun read!
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Andrea Davis Pinkney is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 books for children, including the Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book Duke Ellington, illustrated by Brian Pinkney; Let it Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and winner of the Carter G. Woodson Award; and Alvin Ailey, a Parenting Publication Gold medal winne...more
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