Song for Jimi

Charles R. Smith, 1969-

Book - 2021

"The story of guitarist Jimi Hendrix's career told in verse"--

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jBIOGRAPHY/Hendrix, Jimi
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Stories in rhyme
Biographical fiction
New York City : Holiday House 2021.
Main Author
Charles R. Smith, 1969- (author)
Other Authors
Edel Rodriguez (illustrator)
First edition
Physical Description
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 26 cm
Ages 7 +
Grades 2-3
Includes bibliographical references.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Using flashy colors and explosive compositions, Rodriguez creates a set of poster-style illustrations that give this tribute to legendary "git-tar man" Jimi Hendrix both an evocative urgency and a strong period flavor. Smith divides his biographical poem into "verses" that portray young Jimmy, as he was called in childhood, as sad and troubled ("So Jimmy lived the blues, / oh yeah, Jimmy lived the blues, / from his tattered family tree / to his cardboard-soled shoes"), learning to express himself in "sounds EXPLODING / in fire-bright red, / sounds that could ECHO / to the farthest star, / sounds he could unleash / with a git-tar." Following an "outro" featuring the singer-songwriter's (literally) fiery appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival, the poet concludes with a personal process note and a time line (the only places where Hendrix's substance abuse and death are mentioned), capped by a playlist and, for older readers, additional resources. As a charter member of rock's 27 Club, he may have died young, but his music remains as electrifying as ever.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Smith relays the musical ascent of "git-tar superstar" Jimi Hendrix (1942--1970)--from birth to the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival--evoking in each of five protracted verses, plus an outro and interlude, musical styles that the left-handed guitarist famously melded to create his sound. Following Hendrix through his difficult childhood, military service, and stints in Nashville, New York, and London, blocks of text emphasize the figure's complicated parental relationships, disinterest in conformity, and dedication to his craft. Digitally enhanced oil-based woodblock ink art centers images of Hendrix's face and form amid abstract, warm-hued backgrounds that recall band posters and psychedelia. Repeating references to the subject's Cherokee ancestry are limited to "warrior" stereotypes, and lengthy text matched with recurring imagery may limit reader engagement, but Hendrix fans young and old will appreciate this look at how "Jimi showed the world/ how to kiss the sky." Back matter includes an author's note, timeline, discography, and personal playlist. Ages 7--up. (Oct.)

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Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 2--6--This lengthy picture book bursts with psychedelic color and rhythmic verse. Smith focuses on Hendrix's childhood: his parents fighting, his mom's abandonment, his musical obsession, his progression from a broom to a one-string ukelele to a secondhand acoustic "git-tar" to an electric guitar. Five long verses, an outro, and an interlude describe Jimi's arc from birth to the success of the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, ending the bio-poem on an upbeat note. Free verse structured like one long song with repeating motifs is an effective choice for conveying Hendrix's creative and musical journey; the verses are full of onomatopoeia as Hendrix develops his unique guitar sounds. Rodriguez's art, created with oil-based woodblock on paper combined with digital media, uses variations of primary colors--turquoise, sunshine yellow, and red--with pops of pale green and saturated magenta. Music radiates from Jimi in swirls, rays, and zig-zags, and he is rendered in a different dynamic pose on each page. Readers familiar with the musician will learn something new, while those just learning of him may seek out his music. Back matter includes an author's note, time line, author's personal playlist, discography, and references. Along with fairly spelled-out domestic violence, the verse includes, "But buried deep beneath his beat-up family tree were roots made strong by the blood of Cherokee, warrior roots from his grandmother," a connotation that some may find offensive or which may need discussion or context. VERDICT For a straightforward narrative biography, look elsewhere, but those who enjoyed the style and rhythm of Chris Raschka's Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop and are ready for a more in-depth biography will find this a rich and rewarding read.--Jenny Arch, Lilly Lib., Florence, MA

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Smith gives light, air, and sound to the life story of an unparalleled musician who moved to his own rhythms. Arranged in five multipage "verses" of poetry with an "outro" and "interlude" to reflect Hendrix's blues, this fascinating biography offers a feast for the ear as Smith tells of Hendrix's childhood rife with parental conflict, his mother's traumatic departure, his father's denigration of his music, and Hendrix's need to escape a life of exclusion and ostracism. After flying with the Army's Screaming Eagles, Hendrix often found himself at odds with his bands because of his individualism and drive to play solo. Smith describes him as "a git-tar magician, / a sonic tactician, / a Picasso with a pick / painting in the blues tradition." Rodriguez's artwork uses heavily saturated reds, yellows, and (appropriately) blues to create scenes that reveal how music-possessed Hendrix was. Whether illustrating a young Hendrix's playing a broom as if it were a guitar or plucking "the fireworks exploding in his head," Rodriguez's gritty, oil-based woodblock paintings effectively capture Hendrix's passion, drive, and genius. Smith describes wanting to conclude with a "moment of triumph…to celebrate the unique individual who inspired me." And he does: With his "show-stopping tricks / …behind-the-back, between-the-legs, / teeth-plucking licks," Hendrix set his guitar on fire and "showed the world / how to kiss the sky." (This book was reviewed digitally.) This creative, impassioned, in-your-face biography is as on fire as Jimi Hendrix's guitar. (author's note, biographical timeline, personal playlist, discography, references) (Picture book/biography. 8-14) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.