From School Library Journal
Grade 3-6 As the title cleverly indicates, this book describes how the poor, raggedy cat scat-sang her way into jazz history. Orgill begins with Fitzgerald as a child dancing to her mother's records and closes with the 21-year-old woman joining the Chick Webb Band in Harlem. The interim includes frank, but not frightening, descriptions of Fitzgerald's tenure in an abusive orphanage and of the impoverished days when she slept where she could and sang on the streets for money. The prose account of Fitzgerald's life often includes sound effects that recall her unique vocal style. For instance, she does not run away from the orphanage, she dashes off in a skit-scat skedaddle. Snatches of her famous songs are woven throughout the narrative. Meanwhile, Qualls firmly establishes himself as a leading illustrator of jazz biographies for children. He uses rich reds and blues to illustrate the history of this quintessentially American art form, just as he did for Jonah Winter's Dizzy (Scholastic, 2006) and Carole Boston Weatherford's Before John Was a Jazz Giant (Holt, 2008). His mixed media of acrylic, collage, and pencil capture the richness of Fitzgerald's life and song. The back matter provides plenty of resources for further reading, listening, and Web exploration. Mary Landrum, Lexington Public Library, KY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Having separately displayed a knack for capturing the spirit of jazz in words and pictures, Orgill (If I Only Had a Horn: Young Louis Armstrong, 1998) and Qualls (illustrator of Carole Boston Weatherford's Before John Was a Jazz Giant, 2008, and Jonah Winters' Dizzy, 2006) team up here for a stylish portrayal of young Ella Fitzgerald: “a rough-tough raggedy cat on the outside, but inside she was milky and silky and soft and shy.” Orgill recounts how Fitzgerald earned nickels dancing the Lindy Hop on the streets of Yonkers before moving to Harlem, where she would begin her tremendous career, trusting in her talent and persevering in spite of the bandleaders who thought she wasn't pretty enough. Occasional lyrics pop on the page and suggest that this might make a good read-aloud, but the fairly lengthy text will require dedicated attention. It's always a gamble how kids will respond to the allure of jazz, but there's no question that Orgill and Qualls know what makes it so catchy: it's slinky, rhythmic, and joyful, and on full display in both the lively text and swinging artwork. Grades 2-4. --Ian Chipman