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Mysterious Thelonious
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Mysterious Thelonious

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  129 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Audacious and extraordinary, this picture book is not a portrait of the great pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. Imagine, instead, that the music of Mr. Monk were to sit for a portrait. It might look something like this -- enticing and unexpected, richly colored and patterned, brilliantly executed. Inspired by one of Monk's best-loved compositions, "Mysterioso", Mr. Ras ...more
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published September 1st 1997 by Scholastic (first published 1997)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  129 ratings  ·  30 reviews

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I’m not sure I can describe this book, but if you like jazz, and Thelonious Monk, you will love it! Chris Raschka has combined the 12 musical tones of the chromatic scale with the 12 color values of the color wheel to attempt a harmony between the two. The book’s words are arranged like jazz, and when reading, I found I needed to relax and go with the flow, which is unusual, yet brilliant. I could almost hear the piano in the background! You readers will have to see the book, for older students ...more
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The reader should take care to play the song "Misterioso" by Thelonius Monk while they read the opening pages. Trust me. It'll help.

This little book is a beautiful portrait to my favorite jazz pianist, and I can't wait to read it to my own children or nieces or nephews so I can introduce them to:

Jun 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
The book is based on the song "Misterioso" by Thelonious Monk. This is some kind of experiment, as the story and visual concept of the book are subjected to this composition.

At first glance, the book might seem chaotic, but in fact it is meticously organized. Twelve musical tones were combined with a scale of twelve colors, so each note (a syllable, in this case) has a different color. In the result, "Mysterious Thelonious" looks like a printed version of a jazz song - it is colorful and bright,
[First, play Monk while reading this book.] I don't know how many children will enjoy this book, but it is very visceral. ! maybe more so because of its small format. Every syllable is a different colored square on the grid, like notes on a staff. And on every 2-page spread, Monk is in some pose, whether in motion, stretching, paused, or at the piano. The colors throughout are so rich, whether backgrounds of strong red or blues and greens, or the syllable-notes of every imaginable color. One of ...more
Mar 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Just like Thelonious, this book is a bit mysterious, but in a fun and whimsical way, not a spooky way. Chris Raschka has attempted a rather ambitious feat, which is to try to translate the feeling of jazz in words, lines, colors, and drawings. The way the words and syllables dance on the page is indicative of notes on a scale. Musically inclined readers are likely to hear a beat and occasional jazz riff in their minds as they read this book. Mysterious Thelonious not so much a story as an experi ...more
Britney Thomas
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Imagine if you could paint music. That is what inspired Mysterious Thelonious’ amazing illustrations. Raschka matched the twelve musical tones with the twelves colors of the color wheel to pay tribute to the great composer Thelonious Monk. It is a very creative book that will fuel the imagination of many kids.
Carolyn Jeziorski
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I honestly am not sure what to make of this little book, or for whom it's intended. It's a gorgeously illustrated book that obviously took a lot of time and effort to create--that's my four stars. The color palette used is just beautiful, and I love the squares in the background. The text is very simple; it doesn't say much more except that it's a story about Thelonius Monk and his music, which is jazz, the music of freedom. The layout of the text is unique--the words are broken down into syllab ...more
May 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Brilliant concept to create a portrait of the musician's notes and sounds, this book simply must be read while being accompanied by Thelonious Monk's "Misterioso." The author/illustrator uses music, text, and color to represent the sounds created by Monk. The watercolor illustrations feature words or syllables that hop from place to place on various colored squares on each page. Intended with someone with some musical acuity, the picture book may inspire young readers to learn about this man who ...more
I really like the concept of this book from an artistic perspective. It is written in such a unique style so as to reflect the music Thelonious played, each word being a note in his story and no note being a wrong note. Readers will benefit the most from reading this book while playing some of the subject's music softly in the background so as to immerse themselves in the experience.

That being said this is not an easy book to read because it isn't written from left to right as readers of the Eng
Feb 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
Easily my favorite Raschka book. The book is designed so the words fall on certain colors, which represent notes on the scale. Neat idea; I'm just waiting to get my hands on a keyboard to figure out the tune. ...more
Sandy Brehl
This small format picture book about Thelonious Monk plays out syllable by syllable on a multi-color grid which is a visual score of jazz. This will be fascinating to anyone with a musical background- and those who don't! ...more
This is a tricky one to read aloud without having practiced. The text bounces around the pages. It totally fits the subject though. It feels like jazz in words. I enjoyed the bright colors and unique format even though it made reading more of a challenge.
Tiah Keever
Apr 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I am fairly certain it is the most awesome children's book on Thelonious Monk that is available. ...more
Sep 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Interesting book- the words are set to the music staff
Sarah Ziskend
Good for:
- working on syllables
- learning about music
- might be hard for kids to follow the way the words are
- creative work
- good for teaching music slash beats
Alaina Sloo
Jan 20, 2013 rated it liked it
This lovely and playful illustration of Monk's music isn't a picture book for young children. it's more a book for any child who will be intrigued to see music represented as color.
Jul 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pb
This is a really really beautiful book with little substance. I would give it a better rating if it was a larger size. Hard for a beginner reader because of the layout and script font.
Amanda Schwind
Jan 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Beautiful to look at, but a challenge to read and impossible for a good read aloud. The cursive only adds to the confusion of the word set up.
Very cool, but not really a kids book hence the 2 stars.
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Not quite as amazing a picture book as his John Coltrane book but simply delicious in terms of how Raschka uses words and text to explore jazz great Thelonius Monk
Jun 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books, art
Incredibly fun visual interpretation of Thelonius Monk's music. Also the cd that comes with the book includes a few different readings of the book's text in relation to Monk's music ...more
Chantelle Janelle
Mar 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Because of the way the text bounces it's a little jarring - but it's such a good metaphor, so creative, and so well-illustrated, had to give it four stars. ...more
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children
Without knowing much about Thelonious Monk, I read this book and loved it. It is very unique and creative. The way the book is read is different than our normal, left to right, top to bottom pattern. The words follow the meaning and feel of the jazz artist, Mr. Monk's style "no wrong notes" and "Jazz is the music of freedom".
Afterward, I read more about his life and music and then read other's reviews here. It was suggested that listening to his music while reading the book would be key. Someon
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
This unique picture book is not a biography of Thelonious Monk, but rather a portrait of a piece of his music, “Misterioso”. The words are set to the melody, with the notes depicted as different colors and scales in the text. It is a singular reading experience, and most children will need some help interpreting how to read the text, although it is very short. Reading it while listening to the composition is a surround-sound experience unlike any other. It is immersive, with sound and art and te ...more
Neelum Arya
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
While pretty, this book is hard to read.
April Marano
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great children's book for kids. Great for parents who love jazz. You have to really like jazz to appreciate Theloneous Monk! ...more
So creative in how it captures the essence of jazz using the division of words and placement on the page (which could be confusing to some readers) the colors and layout of the pages also adds so much to the context.
Jo Oehrlein
Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: music, picture-books
Hard to read because every word is broken into syllables, written in cursive, and must be located vertically on the page.

Would be fun to read with a group by playing the book -- getting chimes or bells or boom whackers, assigning each to a color and playing the music that goes with the words.

Really, these are lyrics more than they are words to a book.
Dec 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s
Wonderful collages; Law liked this as much as I did.
Chelsea Bashore
May 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I am looking forward to figuring out how to play this on my piano this weekend :D
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Chris Raschka is the illustrator of The Hello, Goodbye Window, which was awarded the Caldecott Medal. He is also the illustrator of the Caldecott Honor Book Yo! Yes?; Charlie Parker Played Be Bop; Mysterious Thelonious; John Coltrane’s Giant Steps; Can’t Sleep; and The Magic Flute. He lives with his wife and son in New York City.

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