Swing Sisters: The Story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm

by Karen Deans (Author) Joe Cepeda (Illustrator)

Swing Sisters: The Story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
Back in 1909, not far from Jackson, Mississippi, Dr. Laurence Clifton Jones opened a special place for orphans named Piney Woods Country Life School. Dr. Jones loved music and wanted the children to love it too. In 1939 he started a school band that was just for girls, and he called it the Sweethearts. The music the girls played was called swing. It had rhythms and melodies that got people up on their feet to dance. And like all good music, it told stories about how it feels to be alive. After the girls left Piney Woods, the band stayed together and performed around the world. With their enormous talent and joyful music, the Sweethearts chipped away at racist and sexist barriers wherever they went.
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School Library Journal

Gr 2-5—The groundbreaking interracial, all-female jazz band gets a nice call out in this vibrant informational picture book. The International Sweethearts of Rhythm got their start in 1939 at the Piney Woods Country Life School in Jackson, MS, as a school band created by Dr. Laurence Clifton Jones, who founded the institution for orphans in 1909. The African American students embraced and excelled at swing music, performing in churches, halls, and schools until they branched out on their own, touring on their bus "Big Bertha" and with a chaperone Rae Lee Jones. When the group integrated, taking on musicians of many races and nationalities, it faced discrimination, especially in the Jim Crow South. The young women garnered international acclaim, even traveling to Europe in the 1940s to play for the American soldiers fighting overseas. Deans's text shines a light on the racial, social, and gender boundaries the band crossed, while emphasizing the bond of sisterhood that these girls created because of their talent, mutual struggle, and love of swing. The often wordy narrative comes off a little dry at times, reading a little too much like a textbook. However, Cepeda's oil and acrylic paint illustrations offset the tepid text, and the textured images appear as if they might reverberate off the page at any moment. Each sister is infused with her own personality and style. An inspirational tale to be lauded during curriculum units on women's, African American, and jazz history, this work should be shared with readers not yet ready for Sweethearts of Rhythm by Marilyn Nelson (Dial, 2009).—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publisher's Weekly

When Dr. Laurence Clifton Jones started a school band for orphaned African-American girls in 1939 Mississippi, he couldn't have known it would lead to the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, one of the few all-female (not to mention multiracial) bands of the 1940s. Deans candidly describes the barriers the Sweethearts faced as a result of Jim Crow laws ("The white girls had to pretend to be black or they could be arrested"), while Cepeda's chalky, jewel-toned paintings create an atmosphere of warmth and intimacy. A heartening tribute to a group of pioneering, dedicated musicians. Ages 4-8. Illustrator's agent: Jennifer Rofe, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Feb.)

Copyright 2015 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

The infectious joy of swing music comes across nicely . . . Cepeda's colorful and richly textured full-bleed acrylic-and-oil paintings match the mostly upbeat mood . . . An appealing and informative composition—Kirkus Reviews

Deans's text shines a light on the racial, social, and gender boundaries the band crossed, while emphasizing the bond of sisterhood that these girls created because of their talent, mutual struggle, and love of swing. . . . Cepeda's oil and acrylic paint illustrations . . . appear as if they might reverberate off the page at any moment.—School Library Journal

A heartening tribute to a group of pioneering, dedicated musicians.—Publishers Weekly

More than just a history of the band, this takes on a larger picture, including Jim Crow laws and how the Sweethearts helped break down both gender and racial barriers. . . . An appealing piece of American history.—Booklist

California Reading Association Eureka! Gold Award Winner
A Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year
Karen Deans
Karen Deans is the author of Playing to Win: The Story of Althea Gibson, illustrated by Elbrite Brown. She is also an artist whose favorite medium is oil paint on panel. Ms. Deans lives with her husband and three children in the Washington DC area.

Joe Cepeda is an award-winning illustrator of more than twenty books for children. He lives in Southern California with his wife and their son.
Classification
Non-fiction
ISBN-13
9780823450886
Lexile Measure
840
Guided Reading Level
-
Publisher
Holiday House
Publication date
August 10, 2021
Series
-
BISAC categories
JNF018010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JNF053140 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Social Topics | Prejudice & Racism
JNF007040 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Music
Library of Congress categories
-

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