Song for Jimi: The Story of Guitar Legend Jimi Hendrix

by Charles R Smith (Author) Edel Rodriguez (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Jimi Hendrix's talent was epic, and so is this fifty-six-page lyrical account of his life, with spectacular artwork by Edel Rodriguez.

Let me tell you a story, a story 'bout a boy, who became a man, a git-tar man, named Jimi.

From his turbulent childhood through his epical appearance at the Monterey and Woodstock festivals, Charles R. Smith Jr. covers it all in this rich and rhythmic account of a singular life, accompanied by the psychedelic splendor of Edel Rodriguez's acid-tinged artwork. Written as a series of verses beginning with intro and ending with outro, this unique mix of rhythm and rhyme captures the essence of rock icon Jimi Hendrix and his struggle to live life on his own terms.


School Library Journal

Gr 2-6--This lengthy picture book bursts with psychedelic color and rhythmic verse. Smith focuses on Hendrix's childhood: his parents fighting, his mom's abandonment, his musical obsession, his progression from a broom to a one-string ukelele to a secondhand acoustic "git-tar" to an electric guitar. Five long verses, an outro, and an interlude describe Jimi's arc from birth to the success of the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, ending the bio-poem on an upbeat note. Free verse structured like one long song with repeating motifs is an effective choice for conveying Hendrix's creative and musical journey; the verses are full of onomatopoeia as Hendrix develops his unique guitar sounds. Rodriguez's art, created with oil-based woodblock on paper combined with digital media, uses variations of primary colors--turquoise, sunshine yellow, and red--with pops of pale green and saturated magenta. Music radiates from Jimi in swirls, rays, and zig-zags, and he is rendered in a different dynamic pose on each page. Readers familiar with the musician will learn something new, while those just learning of him may seek out his music. Back matter includes an author's note, time line, author's personal playlist, discography, and references. Along with fairly spelled-out domestic violence, the verse includes, "But buried deep beneath his beat-up family tree were roots made strong by the blood of Cherokee, warrior roots from his grandmother," a connotation that some may find offensive or which may need discussion or context. VERDICT For a straightforward narrative biography, look elsewhere, but those who enjoyed the style and rhythm of Chris Raschka's Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop and are ready for a more in-depth biography will find this a rich and rewarding read.--Jenny Arch, Lilly Lib., Florence, MA

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Smith relays the musical ascent of "git-tar superstar" Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)--from birth to the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival--evoking in each of five protracted verses, plus an outro and interlude, musical styles that the left-handed guitarist famously melded to create his sound. Following Hendrix through his difficult childhood, military service, and stints in Nashville, New York, and London, blocks of text emphasize the figure's complicated parental relationships, disinterest in conformity, and dedication to his craft. Digitally enhanced oil-based woodblock ink art centers images of Hendrix's face and form amid abstract, warm-hued backgrounds that recall band posters and psychedelia. Repeating references to the subject's Cherokee ancestry are limited to "warrior" stereotypes, and lengthy text matched with recurring imagery may limit reader engagement, but Hendrix fans young and old will appreciate this look at how "Jimi showed the world/ how to kiss the sky." Back matter includes an author's note, timeline, discography, and personal playlist. Ages 7-up. (Oct.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Kirkus

Starred Review

"This creative, impassioned, in-your-face biography is as on fire as Jimi Hendrix’s guitar."

Review quotes

★ Smith gives light, air, and sound to the life story of an unparalleled musician. . . . Rodriguez's gritty, oil-based woodblock paintings effectively capture Hendrix's passion, drive, and genius. . . . This creative, impassioned, in-your-face biography is as on fire as Jimi Hendrix's guitar.—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

Poet Charles R. Smith Jr. and illustrator Edel Rodriguez have collaborated on this electrifying picture book biography of guitar genius, Jimi Hendrix. Visuals practically leap off the page and stab the eye and ear with bright, bold colors and pulsating sounds. . . . This book breaks the mold, personifying Jimi Hendrix's journey to greatness using the art of poetry and illustration with jarring effectiveness. —School Library Connection

Bursts with psychedelic color and rhythmic verse. . . Free verse structured like one long song with repeating motifs is an effective choice for conveying Hendrix's creative and musical journey. . . . Music radiates from Jimi in swirls, rays, and zig-zags, and he is rendered in a different dynamic pose on each page.—School Library Journal

Hendrix fans young and old will appreciate this look at how 'Jimi showed the world/ how to kiss the sky.'—Publishers Weekly

Charles R Smith
Charles R. Smith Jr. is an award-winning children's book author, photographer and poet with over thirty books to his credit. His awards include a Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration for his photographs accompanying the Langston Hughes poem, My People and a Coretta Scott King Honor Author Award for his biography on Muhammad Ali, Twelve Rounds to Glory. He lives in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Edel Rodriguez was born in Havana, Cuba. He has received the Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators and for many years was the art director of Time Magazine. Books he has illustrated include Mama Does the Mambo, by Katherine Leiner, and Float Like a Butterfly, by Ntozake Shange. Edel lives in New Jersey with his wife and daughter.

Classification
Fiction
ISBN-13
9780823443338
Lexile Measure
N/A
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publication date
November 20, 2021
Series
-

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