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Mysterious Thelonious

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Matches the tones of the diatonic scale to the values of the color wheel in presenting a portrait of the work of the Afro-American jazz musician and composer of "Mysterioso"

32 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1997

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About the author

Chris Raschka

128 books119 followers
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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5 stars
35 (26%)
4 stars
52 (39%)
3 stars
29 (21%)
2 stars
14 (10%)
1 star
3 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews
Profile Image for Linda .
3,708 reviews42 followers
March 21, 2014
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 who both love music and creating outside the box, as Thelonious Monk did! Perhaps for younger students, your judgement!
Profile Image for Joshua.
Author 2 books29 followers
November 23, 2017
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:

12 reviews
June 6, 2015
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, and it is seemingly disorganized while in fact the structure is thoroughly planned and executed. However, I think that small illustrations that accompany each page are a little bit monotonous, because each time we see just a pianist (in some pose or in motion) and his piano. The author could have provided some other pictures related to jazz music. On the other hand, that could divert child's attention from the music and Thelonious Monk... I liked the way Thelonious was presented - we can see emotions on his face, we can see how he enjoys his music, and how he literary rules the music as "there were no wrong notes on his piano".

As for the story, it is also commanded by the music. The number of syllables matches the number of notes in Monk's composition and the sentences look as if they were lyrics. There is no plot at all - we just read how awesome Thelonious Monk was.

I think that it might be an interesting experience for a kid to read the book and to listen to the song simultaneously. The kid could see that different arts can merge and interpenetrate, and that the result of the mixture of them may be astonishing and entertaining.

When I started to write this review, I didn't expect it to be so long. I thought that I just have to mention some similarities between the real song and the book. Now I see how fascinating this picture book is - both for a parent and for a kid. Personally, I read the book following the music three times, and each one was great fun.

You can listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=919Gl...
Profile Image for Paul.
1,801 reviews
August 19, 2019
[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 my favorite of Raschka books. [Let the music keep playing after you put the book down.] (First read September 4, 2012; second reading March 4, 2015)
Profile Image for Beth.
2,915 reviews196 followers
April 5, 2016
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 experience.
Profile Image for Britney Thomas.
50 reviews
December 7, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Carolyn Jeziorski.
552 reviews4 followers
December 7, 2018
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 syllables and written up and down on the page (it took a second to figure out how to read the book). Along the side is a scale. I would be curious to listen to someone with more musical ability than I read this book and "sing" the syllables according to the scale. Honestly, the four stars are all for the illustration. I'm a fan of Raschka's style.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13.1k reviews271 followers
May 10, 2013
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 had no wrong notes on his piano, but it can be challenging to read as, in some cases, the first syllable of a word is on one page, and the second and third syllables are on the next. I like it for its originality and celebration of a musical genius, but this one is not one of my favorite Raschka books because I am not a musician, which made me feel as though I must be missing something important as I read it.
Profile Image for Samantha.
4,985 reviews58 followers
June 25, 2013
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 English language are used to. It is written across the page the way notes might be written on a staff. Watercolor artwork benefits from the strong backdrop of colors that subtly change throughout the story. I liked this detail because it reflected the change in tone a musical piece showcases. PreK-2.
Profile Image for Shannon.
2,135 reviews53 followers
February 21, 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.
Profile Image for Sandy Brehl.
Author 8 books131 followers
July 14, 2012
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!
Profile Image for Crystal.
2,187 reviews112 followers
February 7, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Tiah Keever.
179 reviews3 followers
April 27, 2009
I am fairly certain it is the most awesome children's book on Thelonious Monk that is available.
Profile Image for Sarah Ziskend.
106 reviews4 followers
January 17, 2013
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
Profile Image for Alaina Sloo.
687 reviews8 followers
December 14, 2013
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.
Profile Image for Jen.
2,396 reviews41 followers
July 3, 2013
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.
Profile Image for Amanda Schwind.
779 reviews10 followers
January 28, 2014
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.
Profile Image for Jeffrey.
819 reviews17 followers
December 26, 2014
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
658 reviews
June 25, 2015
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
129 reviews1 follower
March 21, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Vickie.
152 reviews9 followers
November 22, 2019
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. Someone left a YouTube link. It has now been removed (as private), however I found another link to the suggested song, Misterioso. Here are 2 links (a shorter version and longer one):
https://youtu.be/0Zz-7Jo2YCM https://youtu.be/7te1syRAYO0
Where have I been? This music is so great. I love it and yes, it is definitely a perfect accompaniment to the book. Now, I want to read more books by the author, learn more about the musican, and listen to more of his music. I highly recommend this book ~ short, simple, yet not simple ~ fun to read and experience.
Profile Image for Kris.
2,938 reviews70 followers
June 13, 2019
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 text working together to create a new work. Raschka has a distinct art style, and it works better here than in most of his books. It is lively and full of movement and captures the feeling of joyful song.
1 review1 follower
October 31, 2019
Great children's book for kids. Great for parents who love jazz. You have to really like jazz to appreciate Theloneous Monk!
Profile Image for Jeimy.
4,539 reviews32 followers
January 15, 2022
This book is a colorful, lyrical symphony that more than does justice to the life of one of jazz music's most prolific talents: Thelonious Monk.
Profile Image for Jo Oehrlein.
6,275 reviews9 followers
April 25, 2017
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.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews

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