Reviews for Spirit Seeker : John Coltrane's Musical Journey


Booklist Reviews 2012 November #1
That the titans of modern jazz--Parker, Monk, Coltrane, and others--have become the recurring subjects of children's picture books remains a curious phenomenon, one that perhaps says more about the tastes of the books' creators than it does about the musical leanings of today's young people. Still, the complex harmonies and unconventional melodies of modern jazz have certainly given wing to the imaginations of illustrators. That's the case in this account of John Coltrane's evolution as a musician. The Pura Belpré Honor-winning Gutierrez (Papá and Me, 2008) uses acrylic paintings and mixed media to layer bright, vibrant colors across swirling, flowing lines that effectively mirror Coltrane's legendary "sheets of sound." Wisely, Golio lets the pictures carry the melody while his text supplies the backbeat, moving quickly from Coltrane's childhood in a churchgoing family awash in music, through his musical coming-of-age in Philadelphia (nodding at the attendant drug and alcohol problems), and on to his triumphant spiritual and musical breakthroughs in such records as A Love Supreme. Afterwords provide more detail on Coltrane's life and discuss musicians and drug use. As an impressionistic introduction to a jazz giant, this should whet appetites to learn and hear more. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
This picture-book biography (best for older children and young teens) successfully describes Coltrane's music and what made it distinctive. The sophisticated illustrations show faces with almost photographic realism, while the lines depicting the background scenes are intentionally distorted and abstracted into swirling shapes. Thus the art ingeniously gets across the story's intangibles: Coltrane's pain, his drug-addled mind, his spirituality, and his music. Discography, reading list, website.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2012 #6
There have been other picture books about gifted jazz musician and composer John Coltrane that have focused on his music or his childhood, but this one dares to take on the complexity of Coltrane's entire life. Born into a caring extended family that encouraged him to pursue his talent for music, by adolescence Coltrane had already suffered more than his fair share of tragedy. The deaths of four close family members within a single year filled him with a sense of melancholy and a desire to search for meaning. His love of music pulled him into local clubs and music halls, where he also found solace in drugs and alcohol; he struggled with addiction for most of his short life. When he kicked his drug habit, he turned to religion as a spiritual quest. Remarkably, Golio integrates these aspects of Coltrane's life into a picture-book biography that also successfully describes his music and what made it distinctive. The lengthy text is best suited for older children and even young teens. The sophisticated illustrations show human faces with a nearly photographic realism, while the lines depicting the background scenes are intentionally distorted and ultimately abstracted into swirling shapes. Thus the art ingeniously gets across the intangibles in Coltrane's story as Golio tells it: his pain, his drug-addled mind, his spirituality, and his music. kathleen t. horning Copyright[Wed Apr 23 15:13:19 2014] enhancedContent.pl: Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\enhancedContent.pl line 249. 2012 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2012 October #1
In attuned counterpoint, Golio and Gutierrez present a portrait of John Coltrane's lifelong quest to discover and share his spiritual truth through music. Beginning with John's 12th year, Golio traces his religious roots: Grandfather Blair, a Methodist minister, headed a household including John's parents, aunt and cousin. Within two years, his grandparents, father and uncle died, splintering the family. In one bright spot, a pastor began a community band, leading to a borrowed sax and lessons for John. His musical gift bloomed amid loneliness and setbacks. Touring's pressures led to alcohol and drug dependence. Golio continuously weaves such biographical details into the tapestry of spiritual longing that characterized Coltrane's life. "He began falling asleep onstage. Or showing up late, only to be fired. Part of him stood in the darkness, while another part was searching for the light." Gutierrez's full-bleed acrylic paintings pulse with emotional intensity and iconic religious images; Coltrane is often shown with a halo or wings. Expressionist color channels Coltrane's psychic life: His hobby-filled childhood is sweet potato pie–sunny; a scene of drug withdrawal is moonlit black. Portraits of jazz influences--Dizzy, Duke, Bird--appear throughout. Coltrane's spiritual apex, a vision coinciding, Golio notes, with the development of his masterwork, A Love Supreme, is depicted with John meditating, Buddha-like against glowing pink. Lyrically narrated, resplendently illustrated, and deeply respectful of both subject and audience. (afterword, author's and artist's notes, bibliography, discography) (Picture book/biography. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection Reviews 2012 November/December
This biographical picture book of John Coltrane and his music is filled with colorful art throughout. The book covers the highs and lows of Coltrane's life, basing many of his life decisions on the religion he was exposed to, as well as stressing the importance of music in his life. The paintings in the book express a musical flow and appear dream-like, sometimes even nightmarish. However, some of the content will be inappropriate for very young readers, as it talks about Coltrane's drug and alcohol addictions, making this a beautifully written and illustrated short biography for older elementary children. The illustrations vaguely touch on the racism of Coltrane's time, but the author mostly focuses on the music and religion of his life. The book includes author's notes and a bibliography. Laura McConnell, Library Media Specialist, Brush (Colorado) Middle School. RECOMMENDED Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 December #4

The dizzying heights and lowest moments of John Coltrane's life are portrayed with energy and care by Golio and Gutierrez, both of whom have experience translating the lives of musicians into picture books (Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow, for Golio, and When I Get Older: The Story Behind "Wavin' Flag," for Gutierrez). The prominence of religion in Coltrane's life is evident throughout, from his early years living with his reverend grandfather to his embrace of world religions after recovering from drug addiction as an adult. "If music could make people laugh, dance, and sing... it could open their hearts and minds and bring them closer to God," writes Golio. Gutierrez works in acrylic and other media, creating sweeping, layered compositions that embody the lonely sadness of the blues, burst with colors and swirls evocative of bebop, and reflect the search for transcendence particular to hymns. Twin afterwords (one discusses Coltrane, the other the history of musicians and drug and alcohol abuse) and an artist's note close out this edifying story of a jazz legend. Ages 9â??12. Agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, McIntosh & Otis. (Oct.)

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

The dizzying heights and lowest moments of John Coltrane's life are portrayed with energy and care by Golio and Gutierrez, both of whom have experience translating the lives of musicians into picture books (Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow, for Golio, and When I Get Older: The Story Behind "Wavin' Flag," for Gutierrez). The prominence of religion in Coltrane's life is evident throughout, from his early years living with his reverend grandfather to his embrace of world religions after recovering from drug addiction as an adult. "If music could make people laugh, dance, and sing... it could open their hearts and minds and bring them closer to God," writes Golio. Gutierrez works in acrylic and other media, creating sweeping, layered compositions that embody the lonely sadness of the blues, burst with colors and swirls evocative of bebop, and reflect the search for transcendence particular to hymns. Twin afterwords (one discusses Coltrane, the other the history of musicians and drug and alcohol abuse) and an artist's note close out this edifying story of a jazz legend. Ages 9â??12. Agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, McIntosh & Otis. (Oct.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 December

Gr 4-6--A well-conceived marriage of art and text breathes life and passion into this picture biography. Swirling strokes of vibrant colors give the book an almost cinematic quality, animating Coltrane's passionate journey from a joyous, nurturing early childhood with a loving extended family to the despair of losing too many loved ones in a short time. The music that had always been a part of the family's life and a strong involvement in the church sustained him as he struggled to find his way. As he grew older, his musical talent developed and led him to a career that became legendary, performing with greats like Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. But the demons of loss and despair always haunted him. While a traveling professional musician, he began drinking, and when things became overwhelming, he succumbed to drugs. He looked for guidance in philosophy and world religions. Eventually, through intense determination inspired by the help of his second wife, Alice Coltrane, herself a musician, he managed to leave drugs behind. Coltrane's musical accomplishments and short career proved intensely significant in the history and development of jazz and bebop. Though technically a two-dimensional format, this unique selection has a kinetic and animate quality that envelops readers and honors the vibrancy of Coltrane's place in music. An afterword, author's note, and artist's note augment the book's perspective. A list of varied resources, both print, audio, and a website, offer additional opportunities for further examination.--Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ

[Page 138]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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