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Double Bass Blues

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  242 ratings  ·  66 reviews
Nic is an aspiring musician whose life spans two different worlds--his suburban school where he wows his friends in orchestra, and the busy city streets of his home where he's jostled by the crowd. Nic makes his way home from a busy day at school with a double bass on his back, the symphony of his surroundings in his heart, and a sweet surprise for the reader at the end of ...more
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published October 22nd 2019 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published 2019)
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Average rating 3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  242 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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Ms. B
Nov 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: honor, picture, 2019
Playing the double bass is an important part of Nic's life in school and at home in this story that shows how he navigates between the two worlds and stays true to himself. The illustrations tell as much of the story as the words. You'll want to read this one more than once to catch all the details.
Amber Scaife
Feb 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This Caldecott Honor Book is gorgeous and it promotes a powerful message of hope and happiness through music in a world of everyday prejudices and little cruelties. Highly recommended.
Lively acrylic illustrations capture the essence of a big city and all its movements, sights, and sounds as well as the music that fills the air as one boy heads home. Having impressed his classmates and teacher with his playing in the orchestra, Nic hauls his double bass home. His journey is fraught with challenges as he must deal with overprotective dogs, the dismissive remarks of others, and even some physical violence. Even when he reaches home, there are challenges, and he must walk up ...more
Jenna Grodzicki
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sparse text and vibrant illustrations come together to tell the story of a young boy and his passion for music. At school, Nic is praised for his musical accomplishments. As he makes his way home through the busy city, however, his instrument is viewed as more of a nuisance. But a surprise guest at home gives Nic the chance to perform again for another eager audience. A must-have for classrooms and libraries.
Christina Carter
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Andrea J. Loney's text ziiiiiiiiiiips and Hummmmms to a melodious rhythm when Nic plays his double bass at school before a cheering crowd or when he's jamming with Granddaddy across town to the clap, clap, claps. Music surrounds him and it brings him pure joy. You can see it in his face when his eyes are closed as he leans in to play, gracing those strings with his brilliance. His glee permeates the pages in a colorful, artistic display. Rudy Gutierrez's illustrations have a life of their own. ...more
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Nic plays with his orchestra at school. In fact, he has a solo - all his friends are proud and he does a great job! But, his trip home is anything but easy - when you carry a big double bass on public transportation, things get a bit crowded - but it's all worth it for the great surprise when he gets home!

I always love picture books about kids musical experiences and this one is terrific! It's almost like Nic's music inspires the generations - his friends and his grandpa's. Full of vibrant
Busy illustrations that reflect the sparse text so that they tell the story without words. But, so busy that they are nearly dizzying.
Alice Ball
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Though the text is sparse and simple, there is a deep story that comes across. Music drives the young protagonist in school and at home. Wild and dizzying illustrations.
Jodi McKay
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Simplicity at its finest! The onomatopoetic and sparse text mixed with the vibrant illustrations tell a story of a child who is passionate about playing music. Kids will find something new in the illustrations every time they read it which adds to the magic and musicality of it all. Such a beautiful book and wonderful way to feature the gift of music.
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Nic plays cello at school with a zip and a hum, filling the room with his solo. Then he heads home, climbing over fences, rushing past dogs, to get on the bus. It takes him to another part of town where people make fun of his school uniform and wonder what his cello is. As rain falls, the mocking follows him all the way home until he reaches his granddaddy’s apartment that is filled with other musicians all ready to play along with his “bull fiddle.”

Loney celebrates the transforming power of
It was nice. I certainly would pull it out for a music display since it shows the love Nic has for music. However, it seemed too caught up in the long hazardous journey between a private school, judging by the uniforms, and where his grandfather, also named Nic, plays music. I was left unsure why Nic loved music, or why anyone else should, just that they do. Nic is very repressed and silent while on his trip, enduring bullies on two (boys) and four (a dog) feet, but lights up when he finally ...more
With very few words, Andrea J. Loney's text combines with Rudy Gutierrez's vibrant illustrations to create an expressive text almost made for "whole book approach" reading, where young listeners are invited to discuss the pictures, what's happening in them, and how the characters feel. Main character Nic, who is black, plays the double bass, and while he feels amazing while he's playing he also struggles to cart the big instrument around town and is teased for wearing a tie and carrying around ...more
Stephanie Bange
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
A celebration of family, community, and music.

Young Nic must schlep his string bass from school (filled with diverse kids) through the hood and beyond until he arrives at his grandfather's house. Together, they make beautiful music.

Set up as a bluesy description of a challenging day trip from school to his grandfather's, Loney's poetic text has a rhythm that just won't stop. It pairs well with the swaying, electric, bluesy acrylic art by Rudy Gutierrez, as it has a rhythm of its own.

Great to
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A Caldecott Honor book for 2020, "Double Bass Blues" is the story of Little Nic who plays the double bass at school and then travels home through the hustle and bustle of the city streets, with his bass in tow, to make music at home with his granddaddy and friends. Andrea J. Loney's sparse, but effective, text dots the pages of this gorgeous picture book. Rudy Gutierrez's acrylic illustrations are like music themselves - vibrantly swirling and swooshing across the pages as Little Nic moves ...more
Abby Johnson
Almost completely written in onomatopoeia, the surreal illustrations and sounds of the city tell a story of a boy playing an instrument bigger than himself. Nic plays the double bass, both in the school orchestra and jamming at his grandfather's apartment with his buddies. After an arduous trip through the city lugging his giant instrument, Nic finds the sounds of the city influencing his music. This is an ode to the lengths that young musicians will go to for their art and a great book for ...more
Read  Ribbet
Little Nic moves through his day with his instrument the double bass. The joys of performing in school turn into the blues as he moves back out into the world and tries to make it to his next stop. The real world is harder to negotiate but Nic finds inspiration and uses that when he joins his grandfather and his pals to jam again. Loney uses a lot of onomatopoeia in telling the story and her minimal text is heavily supported by award winning illustrator Rudy Gutierrez's graphic, bold ...more
Nic overcomes hardships and teasing to play his double bass, to the admiration of some of his classmates and the acceptance and recognition of his grandfather and fellow musicians.
Vibrant art and many sound words make this a standout book for bringing emotions to life that give the book's experience intensity and depth.
-Recommended as readaloud (with chance to see illustrations up close or projected) for younger audiences (K-middle schoolers)
-African American author, (as well as characters)
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Vibrantly illustrated picture book tells the story of child musician Nic, who play a double bass bigger than himself. At school Nic plays his double bass in the classical orchestra and is lauded by his classmates. But on his way home from school and carrying his instrument, he faces obstacles and jeers left and right. But once he reaches home, Nic gets to jam again, this time using his double bass in a jazz ensemble. This book does not have too many words, but the illustration style shows plenty ...more
Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
2020 Caldecott Honor Book
Rudy Gutierrez’s vibrant, fluid illustrations bring to life Nic’s playing the double bass that is bigger than he is. With it on his back, he wends his way across town from his school orchestra solo, over fences, past snapping dogs, the plonking of the raindrops, swishing of the bus wipers, up and down flights of stairs, until Nic finally arrives and is able to share his melodious journey with his Grandfather and his friends.
Chana Stiefel
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Ziiiiiip! It won’t take long to read the spare text of Andrea Loney’s jazzy new picture book, but you will spend lots of time exploring how the words blend with the gorgeous illustrations by Rudy Gutierrez. You’ll want to hang around with Little Nic as he leaves music class hauling his huge double bass on the bus and up and down stairs. His destination? Grandaddy Nic’s jazz club, where Little Nic plays with the big boys in the band. Clap! Clap! Clap!

Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s-books
Beautifully simple. A perfect artistic story for young children! A young boy with a passion for music. In a cruel world of bullies, a topic that is lightly touched upon in this book, and busy city life type folks, it is wonderful to see the support Little Nic, the main character, still has around his music in his community!
Dec 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Nic plays string bass in his school orchestra. After school is over, he takes his bass around town (facing down an annoyed dog, rain, and teasing from other boys) until he reaches his uncle's jazz studio, where he can enjoy jamming.

Very colorful illustrations with a lot of kinetic and musical flow.
Cindy Dobrez
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books, music
This colorful, gorgeous ode to a child's love of music and his very LARGE instrument reminded me of Rachel Isadora's Ben's Trumpet, a favorite from the early days of my career. 2020 Caldecott Honor Award for illustration.
Elaine Fultz
Jazzy joyous whirling colors perfectly match the brief text about a boy who plays bass. He is lauded and proud at school while he packs up the instrument, bigger than him, to go home. On the way home he faces threats from animals and people, but eventually lands back in the arms of musicians who appreciate his talent and love him.
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music, diverse, 2019
This was a really interesting and beautifully painted book. The story made a full circle by the end. The kid is underappreciated til the end. The paintings are just so colorful and gorgeous and match the idea of the story being about music.
Cara Byrne
Nov 03, 2019 rated it liked it
This is both a beautiful celebration of a young boy's musical passion and talent as well as a colorful look at his cityscape largely through the bus window. It's a very brief book, but it carries a punch in small moments. A 2020 Caldecott Contender.
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Music accompanies Nic everywhere, from the high of a successful epic at school where he plays his double bass, to the difficult journey home, to the comfort of making music with family. The lyrical story is perfectly complimented by original and vibrant illustrations.
Dec 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Swirling, musical, urban illustrations depict Nic flowing from his school concert playing the double bass and then traveling through the city to meet his Grandfather and his musician friends to play some jazz with them.
Very few words in this title.
Tina Hoggatt
Jan 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Exuberant illustrations by Rudy Gutierrez bring the spare text alive. Almost impressionistic story of a young bass player's journey from school to home, hauling his double bass with him on the bus, through the neighborhood, and up many flights of stairs to a safe, music-filled place of belonging.
Maria Rowe
• 2020 Caldecott Honor Book •

Very vibrant illustrations that go well with the text. Not a huge fan of the typography, but I enjoyed the swirling colors.

Materials used: acrylic paint
Typeface used: text: Pluto Sans
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Andrea J. Loney grew up in a small town in New Jersey and received her MFA in dramatic writing from New York University. Since then, she has worked various jobs, from screenwriter to toy designer to software trainer, and she even ran away to live with a circus. Today Andrea spends most of her time writing the kind of books that she wishes had been available when she was a child—stories that ...more