Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ol' Bloo's Boogie-Woogie Band and Blues Ensemble

Huling, Jan. 2010. Ol' Bloo's Boogie-Woogie Band and Blues Ensemble. Ill. by Henri Sørenson. Atlanta: Peachtree.

I don't normally like modernized re-tellings of classic folk or fairy tales, but today, I do. Perhaps it's the Old South feeling that Jan Huling has given to this bluesy rendition of the famous Brothers Grimm tale, The Town Musicians of Bremen, or perhaps it's the very appealing cover art and the endearing oil renditions of the rag-tag crew (I particularly like One-Eyed Lemony Cat. He wears a patch over one eye!),
Rusty Red Rooster - whose voice sounded like a player piano bein' hit with an ax - and One-Eyed Lemony Cat- whose voice sounded like a fiddle bein' played with a carvin' knife - and Gnarly Dog - whose voice sounded like a guit-tar bein' scraped with a washboard - and Ol' Bloo Donkey - whose voice sounded like an accordion fallin' down the stairs,
who head out from the fields with a notion to sing in a New Orleans honky-tonk.  Of course, just as in the original Grimm story, they end up scaring off some robbers, but in Ol' Bloo's Boogie-Woogie Band and Blues Ensemble, the robbers are not in the German forests, they are inside a cabin at a table filled with
gumbo and etouffee, muffaletta and po-boys, praline and bread puddin', and more besides.  And sittin' 'round that table were three rough, tough, ugly-lookin' thieves, jest glarin' at one another and pickin' their teeth with their knives.

And though they didn't look like music lovers, Ol' Bloo's band sets up and starts in singing - their very first gig!  And you know the rest of the story - the Blues Ensemble never did make it to the Big Easy, but they "sang in harmony for the rest of their days" in the old cabin.

The easy-going, laid-back language of the south adds some welcome down home American comfort to this old story that I actually remember disliking as a child.  However, in a nod to older versions, classic silhouettes of the troupe in the various stages of its journey appear under the text on the page facing the painted illustrations of the animals in their more colorful Southern habitat.

Fun and funny!

Interestingly, author Jan Huling's website lists her primary occupation as a "beadist."  If writing books is her hobby and her true calling is beading, then she must must certainly be a woman of many talents! The jacket flap lists her as a kazoo player as well - first chair!

This title has been nominated for an ALSC Notable Book in the Nonfiction - Folklore category. Click to see other nominees.

Review copy supplied by the publisher.

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