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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald


Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald
by Roxane Orgill
illustrated by Sean Qualls

On and off, I bring in non-fiction children's books from the library, about famous people, and leave it around strategically in the car or nightstand for the six year old to reach for, get curious, and read. Our first one was about Georgia O'Keeffe in Summer 2011.

A few weeks ago she picked up a book about MLK Jr. and read it to herself. It was a bit incomprehensible to her, understandably, why some people were not allowed to do 'normal' things, and who told us what is allowed and what is not allowed...

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
by Linda Lowery
illustrations by Hetty Mitchell.

A few months ago we read about Helen Keller. It made a deep impact on Ana. She desperately wished that the doctors back then could have helped Keller so she didn't have to go deaf and blind. She took a keen interest in knowing more about Braille letters (and learnt a bit about Louis Braille who was himself blind due to an accident at home in his father's workshop), and started recognizing the Braille type in signs on bathroom doors and elsewhere.

A picture book of Helen Keller
by David A. Adler
illustrated by John & Alexandra Wallner.

Helen Keller : the world in her heart
by Lesa Cline-Ransome
illustrated by James Ransome.

We've been reading about Jazz giants (a separate post on it soon) and listening to a lot of jazz (if the radio is not tuned to OPB, it is tuned to KMHD in the car). One of the books on jazz greats is Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald.

And, thanks to When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat (by Weinstein) we had quite a bit of ooblee-yooblee-booblee-boop and bippity-boppity-boppity-bip ringing around in our house for a while, so Ana knew what scat meant.

Ella had a tough childhood, but she never let that lower her self-worth or doubt her abilities. People may have different/better opportunities/start-in-life than what we have, but, that should not affect how we see ourselves or what we think we can achieve. A dose of reality is always good, no doubt, but we play the best hand with the deck of cards we are dealt.

All she needed was someone to notice her and give her a chance.

While not all the nuances of poverty and life in 1930s New York made sense to the 6 yo, she did read an almost fairy-tale-like charm into the story of Ella's (real) life.

I did apply a few run-time edits in my head as I read this book to Ana - only because I was rather appalled and felt quite uncomfortable about the parts where (orphaned) children were mistreated, and the parts about teen Ella making bad choices while fending for herself.

The parts I enjoyed highlighting and reading were rather heart-warming. We certainly root for Ella and desperately wish for a break for her.

The Harlem Opera House had an Amateur Night. Again, Ella was nervous, but this time she did not get lost in her song. She won first prize, and she got her week with the band, too.

The rest is history. Every little break she got, Ella turned it into an opportunity to showcase her talent and entertain people in a way that was true to her calling. This is what she wanted - she wanted to be famous, she wanted to sing and dance, she wanted to entertain people.

When Ella sang, people danced the night away.

Ella had an idea for a song. It started with an old nursery rhyme.

A tisket, a tasket
A—

Now, what color was that basket?



And, to experience the artist in full, we have been listening to the audio CD Miss Ella's Playhouse, a collection of delightful songs by Ella Fitzgerald, which includes old nursery rhymes like A-Tisket, A-Tasket, The Muffin Man, Old Mother Hubbard, Old McDonald [sample at Amazon.com]


[image sources: Book cover-Brooklyn Public Library, CD cover-Amazon.com]

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