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A Horn for Louis: A Stepping Stone Book    by Eric A. Kimmel & James Bernardin order for
Horn for Louis
by Eric A. Kimmel
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Eric A. Kimmel writes a choice introduction to the famous brass horn player and jazz musician Louis Armstrong (1900-1971). Louis, his mother May Ann, and sister Mama Lucy lived on Brick Row in New Orleans. Everyone in his neighborhood had a nickname - Louis was Dipper, short for Dipper Mouth. When Louis laughed 'he opened his mouth so wide it looked like the bowl of the dipper in the courtyard water barrel.' (Armstrong's big, beautiful smile was memorable throughout his life.)

Ten-year old Louis didn't go to school as he worked (to help pay the rent) at the Karnofsky family junk yard, riding with their son Alex in a horse-pulled wagon. They collected rags, pieces of metal, and such, while Louis played an old beat-up tin horn. Louis dreamed that some day he would make lots of money, live in a big house, and sleep in real beds. Armstrong's musical acumen was a natural talent, as he played by ear without reading music scores. People would stop to dance and listen to Louis playing his tin horn, noting the exceptionally-talented youth.

Louis loved Perdido Street in the town of Storyville, especially listening to the sounds of jazz, and blues, emanating from the famous horn of King Joe Oliver. The local pawnshop had a bright brass trumpet hanging in the window with other instruments. Louis longed to own at least a cornet, with valves that he could squeeze to play the melodies in his mind. His friend Alex Karnofsky encouraged Louis to go into the shop and bargain for a horn - maybe there was one in the back of the store that could be fixed and was affordable.

Though partly fictional, A Horn for Louis rings true. Accompanied by James Bernardin's spirited, shaded black and white pencil sketches, Kimmel writes of Louis in his youth, and the streets of New Orleans, famed for generations of soul music. I close my eyes and can see Louis smiling, holding his brass horn, and singing out a strong rendition of 'Hello, Dolly ... well, Hello Dolly, It's so nice to have you back where you belong'.

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