Elvis Is King! by Jonah Winter
Published: January 2019
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Chris Sickels (Red Nose Studio) and his 3-D illustrations are what drew me to this book, much like I imagine they will compel students to read it. I’m pretty sure my students will recognize the work considering that we’ve read this duo’s first collaboration, Here Comes the Garbage Barge! We enjoyed the stop motion animation a great deal as we watched the book come to life on Storyline Online, read by Justin Theroux. If you haven’t used the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s site before with your readers, it is worth checking out.
I enter into reading a book about Elvis with a grain of salt because for me his kingship is problematic. I think that Jonah realized the need to address the racism faced by African Americans during Elvis Presley’s rise to fame because in his author’s note he says:
“It is undeniable that Elvis owed much of his success to the essential fact that he was white during an era of massive discrimination against African Americans, an era when the music world was blatantly segregated. The first person to record him, Sam Philips of Sun Records, was absolutely looking for a white musician to play “black music” for white teenagers.”
Further along in the author’s note where Jonah talks about 1950s rock-n-roll, he says, “I especially loved Chuck Berry and Little Richard, who had as much if not more to do with inventing rock as Elvis.” I appreciate that Jonah was sensitive to the mixed feelings that a reader like myself might have in celebrating Elvis as King. As a biography, the narrative held my interest but had it not been for those illustrations, I likely would have left the book on the shelf during my last library visit.
Jonah Winter | http://www.jonahwinter.com/
Red Nose Studio | http://www.rednosestudio.com/
Schwartz & Wade Books
An Imprint of Random House Children’s Books
Borrowed from the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library