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On hot summer nights in New Orleans, a boy named Louis Armstrong would peek under the big swinging doors of Economy Hall and listen to the jazz band. The best night was Friday, when Bunk Johnson would blow his cornet till the roof trembled. At moments like those, Louis could feel his toes tingle. He wanted to be like Bunk Johnson; aim his horn straight up at the night sky and set the stars spinning.
One day Louis saw a horn in a pawnshop window—a real brass cornet. The cardboard sign said $5. How could he ever come up with that much money? Every day Louis did what he could to earn that five dollars, and every day he practiced blowing his imaginary horn. It was a dream he would never give up.
The vibrant, swinging world of New Orleans jazz seems to bounce off the pages in this tribute to an extraordinary young man. Louis Armstrong's dynamic personality and amazing trumpet playing would cast a spell on millions of people around the world, to whom he will always be the one and only Satchmo, the Ambassador of Jazz.
Alan Schroeder, a lifelong admirer of Louis Armstrong, is the award-winning author of several picture books, including Lily and the Wooden Bowl, Minty, and Carolina Shout. His first book, Ragtime Tumpie, was chosen as an ALA Notable Book, a Booklist Children's Editors' Choice, and a Parents' Choice Award winner. He lives in Alameda, California.
One day, right off Bourbon Street, Louis saw a horn sitting in a pawnshop window. It was a humdinger, all bright and sassy, just begging to be bought. The cardboard sign said $5. Louis turned away. He could never come up with that much money.
"It's not fair!" he thought. Everyone else had a musical instrument. Even Santiago, the pie man, had a little horn hanging from his wooden cart. People came flocking when they heard his familiar toot-toot-ta-toot-toot.
The next time Santiago came "back o' town," Louis ran up and tugged on his sleeve.
"Can I blow that horn, mister?" he asked eagerly.
The pie man handed it to him with a grin. Louis whipped the horn up to his lips and blew.
Nothing happened. Just a flat, spitting sound. Ppphhhh...
Everybody laughed, especially Santiago. Louis tried again. This time, the noise was even worse.
Santiago reached down and took the horn away.
"I thought you said you could blow it, Louis."
Louis frowned. "I thought I could."
That made everyone laugh harder.
But Louis didn't give up. He wanted to turn that awful ppphhh into something wonderful--something so hot and jazzy everyone would come running.
"And I'm gonna do it, too," he said to himself.
Two weeks later, the horn was still in the pawnshop window. Louis wanted to go inside, but the man behind the counter didn't look any too friendly. The cardboard sign still said $5.
"That horn is mine," Louis whispered, pressing his nose against the window. "It's gotta be mine!"
Every afternoon, when he got home from school, Louis stood in front of the mirror and practiced his blowing. He pretended he as Bunk Johnson, raising the roof with his high C's.
"What's that you doin' with your lips?" Mama asked. "You look like a fish."
"I'm blowin' my horn," Louis told her.
Mama shook her head. "I don't see any horn."
But Louis could--and it was a beauty.
From the Hardcover edition.
Buy Satchmo's Blues by Alan Schroeder & Floyd Cooper from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9780440414728 & 0440414725
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