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John Coltrane's Giant Steps
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John Coltrane's Giant Steps

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  188 ratings  ·  40 reviews
You may be surprised
at the tricky music
a box,
a snowflake,
some raindrops,
and a kitten
can make.

Right before your eyes.
And on the pages
of this book.

There is someone
watching, encouraging
our performers
but keeping them
under control.

Why not
listen along?
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published July 1st 2002 by Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books
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Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  188 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Originally posted on my blog, A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall:

John Coltrane's Giant Steps was one of our library finds. It offered so much more than I expected in a children's book! The CD included with the book is a must; this is really meant to be experienced as an entire package. The CD offers two tracks: one with page turn cues, one without.

The story's "performers" are some raindrops on drums, a box playing string bass, a snowflake on piano, and an adorable kitten on tenor sax. (Get it? Raind
Feb 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have never read another book like this. He uses symbols to play music all over the pages. Very unique! Raschka uses great creativity in composing the "music" in this book. It would be fun to either create music or use the song Coltrane when reading this book. Or, students could make their own art to music. It could be an anticipatory set to learning about jazz. ...more
What a heady book, man.
It could be interesting to read this book to kids and have them listen Giant Steps, and then read the book again to see if kids felt differently. Or I would be really curious to see this in an ASL Storytime setting. Also if Wynton Marsalis could read this I would appreciate that.
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
As one of my students said, "this books makes no sense."

I get the whole trying to be artsy-fartsy and write and illustrate a book about jazz, but seriously?!

I like jazz and don't see the connection to the ending of this picture book.
Karen Witzler
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Jazz represented on the page and broken down for very young readers. I read the book without the original accompanying CD of the Coltrane composition "Giant Steps", but it was still fresh and engaging. ...more
Amy Layton
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picturebooks
What a fun book!  For fans of Charlie Parker Played Be Bop, Chris Raschka takes John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" and transposes it into a beautiful and abstract picture book by using visuals to show what a song might look like.  It's fun, colorful, creative, and great for the child who loves music and rhythm.  Great for grades PreK-2.

Review cross-listed here!
Heather Johnson
Dec 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Review found on The Lemon Librarian.

Score: lemon_1 lemon_2 lemon_3 out 5 lemons

This picture book may be lost on me.

Chris Raschka‘s lively illustrations bring John Coltrane’s unique jazz style to life using a box, a snowflake, some snowflakes, and a kitten. Each character represents a specific element of music, such as the tempo and melody. These elements animate music as a visual experience for children. As the musical sequence progresses, the characters change color to reflect the movement of music. What’s fun is t
Libby Erwood
Feb 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
John Coltrane's Giant Steps by Chris Raschka is unlike any book I have read before. The book is pretty much creating a song but through the words on pages, allowing for so much imagination and thought from the students. I liked how there was an attempt to show sounds in picture form, even though they may seem kind of random this allows for students to make a correlation between sounds and how it would be viewed if you could write it. This book captivated me from the start because I did not know ...more
Jul 02, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: picturebook, kids-lit
I spent an hour and a half shelf-straightening in our kids lit section, and came up with this irresistible picture book. The author credit, "remixed by chris raschka," sealed the deal. Raschka basically breaks down the basic components of music and gives each (tempo, beat, harmony, and melody) a visual tag that is easily recognizable when they appear on the following pages.

In the style of a laidback conductor, the book's narrator calls forth the music and makes them combine on the page. Interes
May 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Interestingly, the author/illustrator tries to visually create John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" with some help from a box, a snowflake, raindrops, and a kitten. With the raindrops representing tempo, the box representing sound foundation, the snowflake representing the harmony, and the kitten representing the melody, readers are taken on a visual tour of an auditory experience. When things go wrong, the author (or conductor) interrupts the music with suggestions about how to improve. The watercolor ...more
Michael Fitzgerald
Mar 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: picture-books
Pretty lame. The pictures themselves are OK, but the concept is weak. Any Coltrane connection is tenuous at best. Seems to me like just hipster name dropping. One could probably insert any name and it wouldn't make much difference.

The historical text is not accurate. Coltrane did not himself refer to what he did as "sheets of sound" - and "Giant Steps" is not an example of the sheets of sound approach. So we are on shaky ground to begin with.

Also, why is the word "base" used instead of "bass" -
Aug 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
This interesting book seeks to recreate Coltrane's composition "Giant Steps" entirely with visual art. It's an interesting concept, but I think young readers will be completely lost without the actual music to give the book some context. I presented the book in a Children's Lit class and experimented a bit. First I read through the opening pages, and then I played the Giant Steps CD while quickly flipping through the pages. My classmates definitely "got" the book with the CD playing, and I think ...more
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
I loved Raschka's newest, The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy Is Enlightening, but this one didn't do it for me. I know Coltrane and "Giant Steps" quite well, but I couldn't see how the illustrations and text here -- as cute as they are -- add anything, or how they could realistically help a new listener to better understand the piece. Nice effort though, and it clearly led to even stronger works. ...more
May 16, 2007 rated it liked it
John Coltrane's Giant Steps is an excellent song regardless of how well one understands the complexities of his music. However, this lovely "remix" my Chris Raschaka paints the song out and exposes some of it's more hidden details. It's a simple idea and a fun to read book, and after it you can listen to Giant Steps and realize that now you have a better understanding of the song without having to attend some sort of "Understanding Jazz" class. ...more
Molly Raspberry
Feb 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids
I chuckled when I first saw Raschka's book at a local kids bookstore. I never thought of Coltrane's piece that way until I read the book. If only I were a kid again and someone hand me a recording of Giant Steps along with this book, it would've made me the happiest kid on earth. In hindsight, I should have gotten a copy of this book for myself.

This is definitely recommended for young musicians to be, or young music audiences to learn about jazz!
Mar 14, 2014 rated it liked it
This book is just weird. But it would be weird in a good way if it could be read to students by an enthusiastic music teacher who loves jazz and could convey the message of the book. While I consider myself rather musically adept, I'm not very knowledgeable about jazz and so the abstractness of this book left me scratching my head a bit. I think it has a cool concept, my brain just hasn't figured out what it all means yet. ...more
Feb 18, 2016 rated it liked it
John Coltrane's Giant Steps was a decent book, it had a lot of details with the illustrations along with the story as well. It was neat when Chris Raschka had objects represent the music instrument, but at times it seemed a little busy. Along with that at times it was hard to follow and not a whole lot interning to me. Overall it was a decent book , but I would read it to upper level elementary students. ...more
May 15, 2012 rated it liked it
I was glad to see Coltrane make it into a children's book, but the concept worked better for me than the execution. Nonetheless, Raschka's illustrations are strong and full of energy like the music that inspired it, with the layering of symbols/images and colors to parallel the tempo, beat, harmony and melody. Cool cat! The transparent cover with black inked cat is very effective. ...more
Sep 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-kids
I love what this book did to "illustrate" music.
It can also be easily adapted to create a lesson for children.
I've used the book to show the children what can be "seen" when listening to a song, then we listened to the piece and discussed how the pictures matched what the sounds were.
You can then steal this idea to use with other pieces of music.
Fisal Ansari
Jul 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Grades 9--YA

Picture book/poetry.

African American jazz.


Personal response:
Great mix of music, poetry and pictures.

Curricular or programming connections:
Not sure.
Mar 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ius-library
This book might take some analyzing from students. I don't think they will get it right away. It might help to play the song too and discuss how each instrument works together to form a song (like the box, snowflake, kitten, and raindrop) ...more
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: childrens
If I was rating this for personal enjoyment it would be four stars. I like it. But I've had 8 years of music performance experience. I don't think I would have "gotten" the book without that.

Kids will be confused by it - probably - not excited about listening to Coltrane.
Feb 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book yesterday at the Joslyn Art Museum store. It is a beautiful, visual exploration of the music of John Coltrane, particularly his rhythm. I think it would be a great book to use in teaching a child about jazz and improvisation.
Aug 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fabulous for music lovers. It's beautiful even if you don't know anything about music, but there is a lot of musical jargon, so I really don't know how it would appeal to those who don't know it. ...more
Amber Cooper
Can be a very confusing book for children, but it can be introduced in a classroom or music room as a whole group to be explained. Mainly for music literature, this picture book shows the reader how to picture beat/temp/melody. Very interesting...
Mirranda Rhea
Nov 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
I did not like this one. I did however like how he includes the readser in the book. Tells you what they are going to do and how each thing has its own job. I did like that, but other than that I did not like the book.
Whitney Roberts
While fresh and engaging, including the jazz scene in a children's book, I found this book confusing, boring, and lacking any real direction. It didn't do much in the way of moving a child in his or her reading, and that was a real disappointment. ...more
Mar 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
Hmmmm. I'm not a fan. I'm also not really a visual person. Had the shapes stayed the same color I might have been able to follow this a bit better. I see some reviewers have mentioned a CD coming with the book--my library copy did not have that, and I bet it would have helped. ...more
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
A conceptual book that gives a visual element to John Coltrane's music "Giant Steps" in a 60's style graphics. I found it charming reading to my son and imagining the music that would go with the images. I definitely would enjoy doing this for kinder or first graders with the music. ...more
The Campbell Family
We enjoyed how different this book was, and how it put music on a page without notes or sound. We then listened to Giant Steps on YouTube after. The kids agreed the illustrations evoked the music well.
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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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