The Story of the Saxophone

by Lesa Cline-Ransome (Author) James E Ransome (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
Brassy, smokey, melodious. There's nothing like the saxophone. This incredible work from the award-winners behind Before She was Harriet includes a poster of jazz music's greatest talents. You may think that the story of the saxophone begins with Dexter Gordon or Charlie Parker, or on a street corner in New Orleans. It really began in 1840 in Belgium with a young daydreamer named Joseph-Antoine Adolphe Sax--a boy with bad luck but great ideas. Coretta Scott King Honoree Lesa Cline-Ransome unravels the fascinating history of how Adolphe's once reviled instrument was transported across Europe and Mexico to New Orleans. Follow the saxophone's journey from Adolphe's imagination to the pawn shop window where it caught the eye of musician Sidney Bechet and became the iconic symbol of jazz music it is today. Deflty retold, this history is paired with the gorgeous artwork of James E. Ransome, including an attention-grabbing poster of iconic jazz musicians you can find inside the jacket. 
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Kirkus Reviews

Engagingly links the jazz saxophone with its European roots.

Horn Book Magazine

Ransome's illustrations shine with careful detail. . . .


Richly detailed, wonderfully expressive illustrations complement the text perfectly. . . . A satisfying story of a persistent, creative genius. Readers will almost be able to hear soft saxophone music playing in the background.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

A young visionary introduces a new musical sound to the world in an underdog story pulled from lesser-known music history. In early 19th-century Belgium, often bored Joseph-Antoine Adolphe Sax (1814-1894) works at his father's instrument shop, playing "nearly every instrument you can imagine," and inventing new ones, including the sax trombone and the flugelhorn. "Daydreaming of a new sound" and assembling "one crazy contraption after the next," Sax finally finds a unique sound between a trumpet and clarinet: the saxophon. Sax's instrument causes an uproar, admired by classical music icon Hector Berlioz, rejected by Parisian traditionalists, and labeled by others as a "devil's horn." Only after Sax's death did American musicians such as Sidney Bechet, Charlie Parker, and Dexter Gordon elevate Sax's controversial invention into an essential part of jazz expression. Cline-Ransome invites readers' empathy through clearly established stakes as Sax triumphs over critics, while Ransome's initially muted cityscapes give way to vibrant celebrations of band music, and end-paper portraits celebrate a diverse array of saxophonists. Ages 6-9. (Mar.)

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Lesa Cline-Ransome
Lesa Cline-Ransome is the Coretta Scott King Award-winning author of numerous acclaimed picture books, many of which celebrate Black figures from American history, including Satchel Paige, Major Taylor: Champion Cyclist; Young Pele: Soccer's First Star; Words Set Me Free: The Storyof Young Frederick Douglass; Just a Lucky So and So: The Story of Louis Armstrong; and Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams. Her biography in verse of Harriet Tubman, Before She Was Harriet (illustrated by James Ransome), received five starred reviews, was nominated for an NAACP Image award, and received a Coretta Scott King Honor for Illustration. Lesa's other books have received numerous honors and wards including NAACP Awards, Kirkus Best Books, School Library Journal Best Book, New York Public Library Best Book, ALA Notable, an NCTE Notable, CBC Choice Awards, two Top 10 Sports Books for Youth, an Orbis PIctus Recommended Book, an ILA Teacher's Choice, a Jane Addams Award, a Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction and a Christopher Award. She frequently collaborates with her husband, illustrated James Ransome, and they live in Rhinebeck, New York, with their four children.

James Ransome has received both the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration and the IBBY Honor Award for his book, The Creation. He has also received a Coretta Scott King Honor Award for Illustration for Uncle Jed's Barbershop. Ransome has exhibited works in group and solo shows throughout the country and received The Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance award for his book, The Wagon. In 1999 Let My People Go received the NAACP Image Award for Illustration and Satchel Paige was reviewed in Bank Street College of Education's "The Best Children's Book of the Year." In 2001, James received the Rip Van Winkle Award from the School Library Media Specialists of Southeast New York for the body of his work. How Animals Saved the People received the SEBA (Southeastern Book Association) Best Book of the Year Award in 2002 and the Vermont Center for the Book chose Visiting Day as one of the top ten diversity books of 2002. His work is part of both private and public children's book art collections. The Children's Book Council named James E. Ransome as one of seventy-five authors and illustrators everyone should know. He frequently collaborates with his wife, author Lesa-Cline Ransome, and they live in Rhinebeck, New York, with their four children.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Holiday House
Publication date
March 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JNF036040 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Music | Jazz
JNF036090 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Music | Instruments
Library of Congress categories
Sax, Adolphe
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

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