Dizzy by Jonah Winter illus. by Sean Qualls

Dizzy by Jonah Winter illus. by Sean Qualls

Winter, Jonah illus. by Sean Qualls. Dizzy. Arthur A. Levine, 2006. ISBN 978-0439507370 48 pp. $


Jonah Winter recreates a bebop sound with words in this energetic picture book biography of innovative jazz legend, Dizzy Gillepsie. Following the scrappy fighter turned musician (who used his music to release his anger and frustrations) from his roots in the deep South all the way to the bright lights of the city that never sleeps, Winter’s text imitates the stylings of its subject as the poetic narrative rhymes, repeats, skips, dances and even breaks in an occasional scat or “bebop!”

Illustrator Qualls provides a vibrant accompaniment of cool pink, grey, brown, purple and blue. Soft shapes and polka dots are punctuated with darker red and sharp edges. The perspective shifts (dizzyingly?) from straight in the first few scenes to tilted just a bit, and the change in angles gives even the pictures an off-the-cuff, jazzy, improvised tone. Scenes become more and more collage like as Dizzy remains the leit motif throughout. Even the text can’t keep still and begins to leap to the beat of the words, stretching to all caps font, snaking up and away across the page, changing color, and adding extra characters for emphasis.

An extensive author’s note fills in details only alluded to in the poem. Lack of timeline or bibliography make this a jumping off point only for school reports, but Dizzy is a delight to look at and listen to all on its own merit.

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