Trombone Shorty offers readers a peak into the life of a wonderful jazz musician by the same name. I lived in New Orleans for a couple of years and had the pleasure of hearing Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews play back when he was a teenager. Even at a young age, he was an impressive musician. Trombone Shorty does more than simply tell the story of one jazz musician. Trombone Shorty paints an authentic picture of and celebrates the New Orleans jazz tradition.
Troy Andrew’s (aka “Trombone Shorty’s”) story is a rags to riches story. At the same time, his story is not atypical for a successful New Orleans jazz musician. In fact, Trombone Shorty’s story sounds remarkably similar to Louis Armstrong’s story and, more recently, the stories of Irvin Mayfield, Kermit Ruffins and The Rebirth Brass Band. Grow up steeped in the jazz tradition. Get your hands on any instrument you can find. Practice like crazy. Rise to the top in a city that produces some of the finest jazz musicians in the world.
From my brief experience living in New Orleans, Trombone Shorty seems to capture the best of this city. It describes the Tremé neighborhood — a neighborhood that is short on money but rich in musical tradition. It describes a unique part of America where kids look up to jazz musicians rather than sports stars, where the hottest ticket in town is a ticket to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival rather than a ticket to a Wild hockey game. It references gumbo and street parades and brass bands.
Illustrator Bryan Collier has shown amazing consistency with the quality of his illustrations. It looks like Collier put just as much attention and care into illustrating Trombone Shorty as he has put into illustrating past books. There is movement in every picture, from swirls coming out of Trombone Shorty’s trombone to balloons on the loose bouncing from one image to the next. Collier’s collages, full of texture, warmth and energy, are perfect for depicting a neighborhood filled with brass bands.
When Trombone Shorty’s career takes flight and Trombone Shorty is depicted literally flying in the air in a hot air balloon, the moment is at once breathtaking and visually consistent. Collier’s illustrations have all led to this moment.
In his endnotes, Troy Andrews/Trombone Shorty says he wrote this book “to inspire hope in kids who might be growing up under difficult circumstances but who also have a dream, just like I did.” Trombone Shorty is certainly an amazing gift to kids growing up in Tremé. For all young readers, Trombone Shorty provides a wonderful introduction to New Orleans jazz music, a distinctly American music.
Recommended for: Ages 5-10. Pair with If I Only Had a Horn: Young Louis Armstrong by Roxanne Orgill to introduce kids to New Orleans jazz music. You can also take a look at my favorite picture books about jazz here: 9 Books to Introduce Kids to Jazz.
To Share With Kids
A fantastic photo of Troy Andrews playing trombone as a kid, from the endnotes of the book:
A video of Trombone Shorty playing “Where Y’At”:
A video of brass band musicians playing at jazz musician Lionel Batiste’s funeral. This is such a neat tradition and provides a glimpse into the culture that Troy Andrews grew up in.
Lastly, the Trombone Shorty Foundation is a foundation dedicated to preserving the New Orleans jazz tradition by providing educational and mentorship opportunities to young New Orleans musicians. For more information, take a look at the Trombone Shorty Foundation website.