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The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy is Enlightening

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  238 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka shares his love of jazz great Sun Ra, just in time to mark the centennial of the musician’s birth.

Jazz musician Sun Ra (1914–1993) always said that he came from Saturn. Being from another planet, he was naturally intrigued by everything earthly — especially music, because music is the one thing on Earth most like the stars. Earthlings them
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Candlewick Press

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Yo! Yes? by Chris RaschkaCharlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris RaschkaA Ball for Daisy by Chris RaschkaArlene Sardine by Chris RaschkaEveryone can Learn to Ride a Bicycle by Chris Raschka
Best of Chris Raschka
41st out of 64 books — 2 voters
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Picture Book Biographies: Creative Souls
33rd out of 42 books — 16 voters

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Community Reviews

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Monica Edinger
May 26, 2014 Monica Edinger rated it it was amazing
I'm a Raschka fan from way back. The range and variety of his work is astounding. Among my favorites are three featuring jazzmusicians: Charlie Parker Played Be Bop , John Coltrane's Giant Steps , and Mysterious Thelonious . Now along comes Raschka's appreciation of Sun Ra and it is as marvelous as the others. Sun Ra was one wild dude and Raschka captures his originality in words and images. Not just his life, but the sense and feeling of his music. Gorgeous.
Sep 11, 2016 jo rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books, music
Gotta say, I know very little about Sun Ra, but I *love* Chris Raschka's approach to this biography:
"Sun Ra always said that he came from Saturn.
Now, you and I know that this is silly. No one comes from Saturn.
And yet.
If he did come from Saturn, it would explain so much.
Let's say he did come from Saturn."
For the rest of the book, Raschka takes Sun Ra's claim at face value. The whole book is a joyful celebration of music and individuality. Loved it!
Jun 09, 2014 Michelle rated it it was amazing
You will remember Chris Raschka from Yo! Yes?, one of the best read-alouds of all time. You will remember Sun Ra from your time on Saturn. Or will you? His music is prodigious and prolific. His persona is mystical and mysterious. Can this picture book begin to plumb the depths of THE Sun Ra? Yes. The joyful illustrations and willingness of the author to let us go along with the idea that Sun Ra hailed from Saturn, by way of Birmingham, Alabama, will set the stage for play and experimentation. Th ...more
Marjorie Ingall
May 14, 2014 Marjorie Ingall rated it really liked it
This book is absolutely gorgeous -- most beautiful thing Chris Raschka has ever done, and that's saying something. The visuals fit the subject: The paintings are super-bright, crazy, Basquiat-y, unexpected and jazzy. The text is funny, which also fits:


Sun Ra always said that he came from Saturn.
Now, you and I know that this is silly. No one comes from Saturn.

And yet.
If he did come from Saturn, it would explain so much.


I'd give this to every jazz fan I knew. But I have no clue whether ac
Picture book bio of Jazz legend Sun Ra who was known for making up the rules that he would follow concerning his craft.

The storytelling is creative in an out-of-this-world way here and it really works for discussing this particular subject. Watercolor and ink illustrations have a dreamy essence to them.

Back matter includes a brief bio about Sun Ra and a list of his selected recordings.

Edward Sullivan
A vibrant, affectionate introduction to the genius musician who claimed to be from Saturn.
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
The illustrations are amazing in this book. And wow, what a quirky story.
I am not usually a fan of Raschka’s art (A Ball for Daisy being the exception), but I think his sketchy, spotty, messy style fits perfectly with jazz. There is color everywhere on the pages of this book in splotches, washes, and swipes. There are also pieces of musical staff paper incorporated into the art.

The writing itself is perfect for a young audience . One of my big complaints is that a lot of picture book biographies are directed toward older readers (fourth or fifth grade and up) and the
Jul 21, 2014 Tasha rated it it was amazing
Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka has both written and illustrated this picture book biography of the jazz musician Sun Ra. Sun Ra claimed that he came from Saturn. He came to earth in 1914 in Alabama and he was named Herman and called Sonny. From the very beginning, Sonny loved music. He learned to be a musician as a young child and also studied about philosophy. As a teen, Sun Ra was already a professional musician. When World War II came, he refused to become a soldier and instead was labeled ...more
Jun 11, 2014 Beth rated it really liked it
Sun Ra (born Herman Blount) claimed he was from Saturn. Since he was from another planet, the things of earth intrigued him, especially music. But he was also confounded by earthly traditions, such as that of earthlings insisting on "sorting themselves into two varieties: the white variety and the black variety."

Sun Ra was a talented musician who marched to the beat of his own eccentric drum. He was one of the first people to ever play an electric piano, and he released all of his music independ
Sun Ra always said he came from Saturn.
Now, you know and I know that this is silly. No one comes from Saturn.

And yet.
If he did come from Saturn, it would explain so much.
Let's say he did come from Saturn.

So opens this book :) And I like the choice -- it feels like an appropriate way to do a biography of Sun Ra. Plus, I'm a fan of taking people at their word about their identity -- and I imagine the playfulness of identifying as being from another planet would be appealing to a lot of little kids
I see I forgot to note this book down, since I read it at work. This is a fascinating short look at a musician not many have heard of. I wouldn't have even bothered getting the book if it hadn't been by Rascha. I doubt it'll go out much, although if it is kept on display so the cover can be seen, it'll go out a bit more. The jazz musician claimed to be from Saturn. His music apparently was pretty far out there, perhaps from Saturn indeed. Or at least that is more or less Rascha's attitude. He ma ...more
Jan 20, 2015 Kifflie rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure that anyone but the wonderfully wild and colorful Chris Raschka could have done justice to the subject of the unique jazz musician known as Sun Ra.

Trust me, you just have to go with what is happening in this book, or it will just sail off over your head.

Sun Ra was not going to be nailed down by his ordinary "Earth" name (Herman Blount), nor by growing up Black in the segregated South. He made himself into a fascinating musical philosopher by studying hard and by following his inner
Cassidy Gilbride
Jun 23, 2015 Cassidy Gilbride rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Twin Text:
Gordon, G. (2013). Herman and Rosie. New York, New York: Roaring Book Press.

The two of these books are about jazz. These could easily be used in a music class. One is a fiction book about a crocodile who plays the oboe and a deer who sings that find each other in New York and make jazz music together. The other is a non-fiction about a famous jazz musician named Sun Ra. He wanted to create music that could resonate across every skin color, language, race, culture. In a classroom settin
This week I finally got to read The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra by Chris Raschka. Wow! Sun Ra, or Herman Poole Blount as he was named at birth, was a very interesting individual. This picture book biography is a great blending of music, art, and facts about an imaginative and creative man. I was glad to find some recordings of his music online. Jazz was inventive and left a lot of room for experimentation. Sun Ra was all over that. I was happy to find this great article/author interview over at the ...more
Aug 18, 2014 Annie rated it it was amazing
A wonderful biography of Sun Ra (Herman "Sonny" Blount) a jazz musician that takes the perspective that Sun Ra did in his life-- that he was from Saturn. This makes Sun Ra more understandable and engaging as a "character" for young children as his unique life "makes sense" this way. As the first page says, "Sun Ra always said that he came from Saturn. Now, you know and I know that this is silly. No one come from Saturn. And yet. If he did come from Saturn, it would explain so much. Let's say he ...more
Skye Kilaen
May 06, 2016 Skye Kilaen rated it really liked it
Biographies are hard to get right in picture book form. Too often the writing is dry, recounting the facts about a person's life. Not so here! Raschka writes from the premise that musician Sun Ra was 100% correct when he claimed to be from Saturn. After all, writes Raschka, "it would explain so much." What follows is a fascinating tale even if you don't know the first thing about Sun Ra or his music. Raschka picks interesting details instead of following a straight biographical line of key event ...more
Michele Knott
I saw this book at the library and after reading other reviews, I wanted to read it too! Sun Ra was certainly an interesting person - deciding at an early age that he was from Saturn and just here to live among the earthlings! He created a very eclectic type of music, with the roots in jazz but adding classical tones to it. He travelled all over introducing his music to the world. Being from Saturn, made him not always conform to our standards - he had his own way of moving from place to place ( ...more
Splashy watercolor and ink illustrations and affectionate text pay tribute the jazz musician Sun Ra, born Herman Blount in Alabama. This picture book describes the music this man created as well as some of his quirky ways, not really understanding about money or bills or rent that was due, and claiming that he came from Saturn. Raschka's treatment of his subject is respectful in every way and is sure to prompt increased interest in Sun Ra and his music. This biography is an excellent addition to ...more
Aug 15, 2014 Jeff rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Darnita, Emily, Jake, Kevin
Recommended to Jeff by: Found it on the Library shelf
Shelves: favorites
In both words and artwork, a simple, honest, respectful and ever joyful biography of musical genius Sun Ra. Raschka's illustrations match the tone of the text - or maybe the text matches the tone of the art - creating a visually pleasing and accepting story.

"Sun Ra always said that he came from Saturn. Now you and I know that this is silly. No one comes from Saturn. And yet. If he did come from Saturn, it would explain so much. Let's say he did come from Saturn."

A beautiful and inspirational re
Wild and colorful illustrations evoke the wild music of the jazz musician "Sun Ra," originally known as Sonny Blount. Because Sun Ra claimed to have been taken to Saturn in a vision, the book tells his story as if this is true, and that he was from another planet, which makes for a fun read. While I would have liked to see some sources or a bibliography, to make this more of a biography, it's still a gorgeous picture book and tells the story of a unique talented individual. he was one far-out du ...more
Jan 14, 2014 Miriam rated it it was amazing
This book is beautiful. I had never heard of Sun Ra before reading this book and am only somewhat acquainted with the late, great jazz musicians of this century. I adore Raschka's lyrical, messy, vivacious watercolor illustrations. Raschka supposes that Sun Ra is actually from Saturn, not Earth, which is why things like war, racial segregation, and money don't make sense to him. I found this belief to artfully teach the humanity and unity in all of us. I adore this book and cannot wait to share ...more
Sep 11, 2015 Catherine rated it really liked it
I've been a fan of Sun Ra for ages and was thrilled to win a copy of this book through Goodreads. It's a great little picture book with amazing illustrations that accompanied by a brief paragraph on Sun Ra. The art is very vibrant, I loved the way the drawings were so full of colour.
The descriptive text is simplified for younger readers, acting as a nice summary for adults. Great little book that definitely left me wanting more.
I'd like to see something like this done on a larger scale, more a
May 29, 2014 Jason rated it really liked it
Another book about someone for whom there weren't enough hours in the day to do what he loved (see my review of Thomas jefferson by Kalman). The layout is particularly compelling.
"In his life on earth, sun ra rarely slept for several hours in a bed. He took short naps throughout the day, sometimes even dozing during his own rehearsals. When he woke again, he immediately continued with what he had just been doing."
Jul 20, 2014 Earl rated it liked it
Claiming to be from Saturn, Sun Ra was definitely an out-of-this world character. Although he may have marched to a different beat, whose to say he was crazy? What's wrong with looking past people's skin colors? What's wrong with not participating in war? I love this quote: You may think that it is gravity that holds us all together but it is not- it is music."

I am not a fan of Chris Raschka's art, I'm sorry to say, but it works well here.
Ms Threlkeld
This is a tricky book to review. I thought it was interesting, especially since I knew almost nothing about Sun Ra before reading it, and the illustrations matched the mood of the text well, but I have no idea how kids would react to this biography. I think younger students will be confused and not understand that Sun Ra was a real person who wasn't actually from Saturn and older kids will just think he was kind of a strange dude.
Jul 21, 2014 Libby rated it really liked it
I really love that a picture book biography is available for Sun Ra. He is a truly unique individual, and he should be added to the ranks of 20th century composers worth remembering.

"Being from outer space, Sun Ra was neither afraid of electrons nor electricity and so was one of the first musicians on Earth to use an electric keyboard."

"Before he left, Sun Ra said, "You may think that it is gravity that holds us all together but it is not - it is music.'"
laila ☁︎
Nov 10, 2015 laila ☁︎ rated it liked it
The Cosmo-biography of Sun Ra is a lengthy picture book for middle schoolers. I found that this book was very long for a picture book. There were paragraphs on each page. There were also very bright and attractive illustrations everywhere. However, I didn't really understand the plot of the story very well. The author describes Sun Ra himself a little more than he explains whats going on and why. Overall,this is a great book if you want to read something short and different.
Donna Nix
Jan 11, 2015 Donna Nix rated it liked it
I usually like Chris Raschka books, but I didn't feel this one worked as well. I found it necessary to read the text first, then look at the illustrations to see if they fit. Overall, they did, but I didn't love the total package. I'm also not sure how readily it can be used in the classroom, where teachers are looking for picture book biographies.
Dec 28, 2014 Marcie rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Marcie by: Monica Edinger
So beautiful! So reminiscent of my all time favorite Chris Raschka - Mysterious Thelonious - The use of the musical staff is terrific. I was lucky to see the dummy book for Mysterious Thelonious, which was actually an accordion book if memory serves. What a beautiful and useful book for music teachers and all others who need to expand their musical interests.
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"I always try to treat the book itself as the artwork," Chris Raschka says. "I don't want you to stop while you're reading one of my books and say, 'Oh! What a gorgeous illustration!' I want you to stop at the end of the book and say, 'This is a good book.' "

Chris Raschka is one of those people who knew from an early age what he wanted to be when he grew up. "It was never a question in my mind,"
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