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Little Melba and Her Big Trombone
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Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,306 ratings  ·  275 reviews
Melba Doretta Liston loved the sounds of music from as far back as she could remember. As a child, she daydreamed about beats and lyrics, and hummed along with the music from her family's Majestic radio. At age seven, Melba fell in love with a big, shiny trombone, and soon taught herself to play the instrument. By the time she was a teenager, Melba's extraordinary gift for ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published September 1st 2014 by Lee & Low Books (first published April 1st 2014)
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Mike I would recommend it for grades 2-6 (6th grade is where students typically begin playing a band instrument). As a trombonist, I loved it!

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4.13  · 
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 ·  1,306 ratings  ·  275 reviews

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I feel like in the past year I've read a good crop of picture books highlighting African-American historical figures. All of them have been so interesting and made me want to read and learn more about these fascinating people! Melba Liston was a self-taught trombone savant. I mean, come on. Does it get any cooler than that?

Love the illustrations in this one. Melba shines on every page.
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this picture book biography because it's about a female trombonist. I'd never heard of Melba Liston before, but she was born in 1926 and grew into a professional jazz musician who composed and arranged music in addition to touring with the likes Billie Holiday and Quincy Jones.

I don't read a lot of picture books, so I don't have much to compare it to, but dang, it's hard to adequately address issues like racism and sexism in such a brief work. I like that these issues are brought up, tho
Illustrations = marvelous. Beautiful movement and expression, beautiful colors. Text = meh. It was just so...straightforward and stark.
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Music is so central to the book, but can be hard to depict on the printed page. These illustrations swoop and swing and really come alive. The opening scene is of Jazz age Kansas City, and it gives an idea of how environment can influence a child. I don't know if Melba Liston would have been such a prodigy somewhere else, but she grew in skill as a player and composer at great speed.

The book deals gently with racism and sexism, and has supplemental information in the back including some discogra
Feb 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A picture book about trombonist Melba Liston by Katheryn Russell-Brown with illustrations by Frank Morrison. I'm a trombone player, so this was a must-read. I loved it.
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a inspiring story to read. In this book it shows what the support of a loving family can do to a child. In this story Melba was just a little girl when she picked out a big trombone. Even though she had a hard time in the beginning mastering this large instrument she was encouraged by her family to not let it defeat her. Melba ended the story with a wonderful lesson of determination and what it can do for a person who is supported to peruse the things they love.
Lyndsey Jones
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wow-books
The book Little Melba and Her Big Trombone is about a girl who loves music and wants to play an instrument of her own. One day she finally got a trombone and taught herself how to play and ended up touring the country making, and playing music on here trombone. This book would be considered a biography because it is based on the events that happened in Melba Doretta Liston's life. I would use this book in any grade level above 2nd (especially as a read aloud). I would highly consider using this ...more
Aug 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
at Bookseedstudio c. 2015 by Jan Godown Annino, all rights reserved

I met the author of LITTLE MELBA and HER BIG TROMBONE
after sweet trombone sounds accompanied her lively library talk.

It was the most musical children’s book signing I’ve ever attended.

Extra fun floated through the room because Dr. Russell-Brown’s
daughter Sasha, a fifth-grader, stood proudly on stage, playing select
notes on her very own big trombone.
When the author kindly asked if a little boy
Whoa! Look at the front cover of this book, Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, by Katheryn Russell-Brown. It looks like the little girl, Melba, is really into playing that huge instrument. It’s bigger than she is. (Read pages 1-2) Look at the pictures. What does it look like the people are doing? Are they enjoying themselves? What would it be like to hear music on every street corner? During the 1920’s jazz music became popular and musicians would play their instruments anywhere for people to he ...more
Lilly Smithdeal
Apr 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Little Melba and Her Big Trombone is a fun biography to read with students in grades 3-4. This book tells the story of a young girl and her love for playing the trombone. She grows up and is able to overcome the obstacles that she faces being a young, black girl to achieve her dreams of becoming a famous trombone player. This would be a great book to talk about overcoming obstacles with students. It would also be a good book to include in a lesson about biographies. Students could read a variety ...more
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Summary: This wonderfully illustrated nonfiction text about trombone player Melba Liston tells the story of the ups and downs of her life. It takes the reader through what the journey of a colored female entertainer in the 1930s looked like and also allows readers to visualize the hard times of the Great Depression and the oppression that she faced as a colored individual.
Evaluation: This book was very well written. It had beautiful imagery and the story of it is inspiring to all. However, throu
Jun 17, 2015 added it
Shelves: multicultural
1. I had a text to self connection while reading this book. I did not become famous for playing an instrument but I played in middle school. I played the trumpet and I felt the same things that she felt. I was nervous when starting and then received more confidence as I got better.

2. This book is culturally specific because the author is of a different culture and it goes into detail about how a little girl grew up. It tells the story of how Melba became a trombone player. It shows the cultural
Maddie Eriksson
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed-books
This historical fiction book is interesting and has powerful illustrations. Not only does it talk about the upbringing of a powerful musician, but also depicts the struggles of an African American woman in the early 20th century. Melba's fiery spirit is emphasized through the formatting and bright illustrations. The language was simple but informative enough to keep the readers aware of how Melba is feeling and what she is doing. I would use this book in my classroom when discussing prejudices, ...more
Cara Byrne
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful biography of a Jazz-age trombonist. The illustrations have great personality (I love the dancing aunties and brave teenage Melba playing among boys who are putting her down), and the narrative honors the immense racism and sexism Melba faced during her lifetime without making this the soul focus of the book. Instead, Russell-Brown chooses to honor this lesser known musician and champion her colorful and bold life. By focusing on the fact that even as a little girl Melba const ...more
Maria A
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The illustrations in this book were very vivid. I especially liked the color schemes that were chosen. There is a page where Little Melba is dreaming that was done in only shades of blue which stood out.

This Picture book gives us plenty of biographical information at the end of the story as an afterword. I would love to share this book during women's history month. This book would be great for second and third grades. I can picture using this book for a class lead discussion. I think students
Amy Formanski Duffy
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-review
This inspiring picture book biography tells the story of pioneering trombone player Melba Liston. She overcame sexism and racism and played with all the jazz greats of her day- Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and on and on. The illustrations are beautiful and highly detailed. The afterword gives more information about her life and career. A discography and source list will help budding musicians explore the history of jazz as well as this remarkable woman who is finally getting ...more
Dec 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: musician biography requests
Recommended to June by:
Tells how Melba chose the trombone; how the local radio station had he play a solo when she was 8, toured the country at 17 with Gerald Wilsons's band. Hints that racism and sexism might have led to taking a hiatus from the music scene. However, fans and musicians talked her into coming back in the 1950s and she traveled the globe.

Maybe 3.5, but the ending seemed abrupt.

Back matter explains a little more fully how she became a professional musician at 16 and all the people she worked with.
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, children
An excellent biography about Melba Liston, gifted trombone player, music arranger and song writer who toured with some of the greatest jazz and blues musicians of the Golden Age. Smooth and mellow artwork accompanies text describing this child prodigy's upbringing in Kansas City and move to L.A. with her mother as she overcomes gender and racial stereotypes to pursue her musical dreams. Includes a detailed biographical note at the end and source notes. This would really shine if it included a so ...more
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In a mere 40 pages of reverence and beauty, Dr. Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrator Frank Morrison celebrate the talent and legacy of self-taught trombonist, composer, and Jazz Master Melba Doretta Liston (1926-1999). A must have for EVERY library. A must read for EVERY child.
Rachel Green
This is a biography in narrative of Melba Liston; "one of the first women, of any race, to become a world-class trombone player, composer, and arranger." I love that both the text and the images portray music in a flowing, organic way. Despite the fact that she was born in 1926, the narrative and illustrations are both current and relatable to children today. Her story is inspiring, as was her lengthy career in jazz. The author did an excellent job detailing the challenges that Melba faced, both ...more
Esther Soberanis
Text-to- Teaching Connection

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown is an inspiring text for a young reader. It was the cover that caught my eyes. As I read this text I taught of ideas of how I can use this text in the classroom. First I will ask students to take a look at the cover and discuss what the story might be about. Then I will have students do a picture walk and draw a conclusion from that. Students will give a brief summary of their predictions. Students will then
Haley Evans
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-wow-books
“Little Melba and Her Big Trombone” is a biography about a talented, little girl born in Kansas City, in the 1920s. Melba was an amazing, self taught trombone player and composer. This book is best for grades 3-5. This book would act as a great read aloud during a history lesson about civil rights. It would be a good way to introduce the topic of segregation and women’s rights. It paints a picture of how difficult and unfair things were in the early and mid 1900s. The pictures illustrate this to ...more
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: kids learning about 1900's musicians
A very educational book about Melba Liston, a 1900's musician. She got her first instrument, a trombone, at seven years old, and was on the radio at eight. All of her family members loved music, so she was influenced by them very much.
Emily Caveye
I chose to pair this book with "Jazz Fly 2" By Matthew Gollub. I picked this book because it introduces us to jazz music in a fun and creative way that I think students would be engaged in and love. The content area I could use these books in could be a history lesson or a music lesson. And I would use the K-W-L method to explain this book. The students could write about what they know about jazz, what they want to know, and what they learned.
Jan 24, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was a well illustrated. The book is about a jazz trombonist, Melba Liston. It shows the sexism and racism that she had to come over with out making it the main focus of the book. The book focus on a little girl who learns how to play the trombone and through hard work lived out her dream.
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Text to Self: I really liked this book about a girl prodigy who was able to pursue her dreams despite negative feedback form society. Although I am definitely, not a prodigy, I experienced some bullying form other students in high school because I received high marks. I also connect to having a supportive grandparent and teachers. It can never be overestimated how important it is to have mentors who not only aid in improving upon your talent, but how help you discover who your are and to take pr ...more
Katherine Smith
Dec 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Melba Doretta Liston has loved music ever since she was a small girl. She loved hearing the sounds of music from her family’s radio as she daydreamed about the notes and beats and hummed along. When she was just seven years old, Melba found a love for the big, shiny instrument that was the trombone and taught herself how to play this wonderful instrument. Melba had an extraordinary gift for music, and this passion took her to the world of jazz. Gerald Wilson, a trumpet player, led a band that Me ...more
Maren Banwell
Jun 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Content area: Cross curricular activity with ELA and music or social studies.

I would pair the nonfiction book Little Melba and Her Big Trombone with the fiction book Little Pig Joins the Band. I would read Little Pig first and have students watch for what Little Pig’s band experience with his family was like in order to be prepared to look for Melba’s band experiences which were more numerous and serious. I would have them jot those down with a partner or for primary students, I would have the
Kirah Marshall
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-summaries
1. When Melba Liston was a little girl, she absolutely adored music. She lived in Kansas City, where blues, jazz music, and gospel was all the time swirling around. She wanted to make music of her own, so she visited the traveling music store with her mother and picked out the trombone. Her mother was doubtful Melba would really like the trombone since it was bigger than her, but Melba insisted and mother gave in. Mother was right though, the trombone was so large it was hard for little Melba to ...more
Nov 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I must say, I enjoyed the story very much and learning about someone new-to-me is always a pleasure, especially someone as remarkable as this little lady! Eight years old and making her solo radio debut? Wow! I couldn't even fathom playing the instrument let alone being good at it. Definitely not my thing, but go Melba, GO! That's exactly what she did too with her trip to the West Coast. It was a great leap of faith for her family but one that would eventually result in talent acknowledged, and ...more
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Coretta Scott Kin...: Little Melba and Her Big Trombone 1 3 Jul 28, 2015 10:27AM  

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