• Happy birthday Mitali Perkins ( Bamboo People, Secret Keeper), Harriet Langsam Sobol (We Don't Look Like Our Mom and Dad), Kirkpatrick Hill (Do Not Pass Go, The Year of Miss Agnes), Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, (When the Wolves Returned, Saving Audie), Joan Sandin (The Long Way to a New Land), Kit Pearson (A Handful of Time), Janet Morgan Stoeke (A Hat For Minerva Louise).
  • Happy birthday Louisiana, which became the 18th state in 1803. Read Today is Monday in Louisiana by Johnette Downing, illustrated by Deborah Ousley Kadair; Little Pierre: A Cajun Story from Louisiana by Robert D. Dan Souci, illustrated by David Catrow; and My Louisiana Sky by Kimberly Willis Holt.
  • It’s the 15th anniversary of the family literacy initiative, El dĂ­a de los niños, El dĂ­a de los libros (Children’s Day, Book Day). For more information check the ALSC website.

On April 30, 1941, over seventy years ago, the first commercially recorded work of Charlie Parker was cut at Decca Records. Born in 1920 in Kansas City, Kansas, Charlie Parker began playing the saxophone at age eleven without formal training. In 1939 he headed to New York City, where he teamed up with Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk—a group that helped invent a new type of jazz, be bop. “We wanted a music that they [white band leaders] couldn’t play.” Nicknamed “the Bird,” Parker set new standards for his instrument of choice, the alto saxophone.

Chris Raschka’s Charlie Parker Played Be Bop doesn’t include any of this information about “the Bird,” but it does contain language that captures the rhythm, sound, and spirit of the be bop Parker created. Sometimes, you can hear a book read once—and remember it almost word for word decades later. Charlie Parker Played Be Bop contains such an original and exciting text that I can quote it word for word when I picked it up to write about the book—yet I hadn’t looked at the text since it was published in 1992.

Raschka had already established himself as a promising young illustrator of Yo! Yes? when he turned his hand to creating art for this text of around a hundred words. Most picture book writers would have provided a brief biography of Parker—but Raschka approached the book in another way. He captures the feeling of playing music, its syncopation and sound. In the first illustration Parker looms large, filling the entire page with his saxophone. The mesmerizing, intriguing text begins:

“Charlie Parker played be bop.
Charlie Parker played saxophone.
The music sounded like be bop.
Never leave your cat alone.”

With a fabulous combination of text and art, the book delights readers ages three to eight with its rhythm, rhyme, and unusual imagery. Charlie Parker Played Be Bop can be used to inspire creative writing or for music education. The book sends everyone, adults and children alike, off to learn more about “the Bird.” I’m glad that seventy years ago Charlie Parker made his first recording and very grateful to Chris Raschka for celebrating his music.

Here’s a page from Charlie Parker Played Be Bop:


Originally posted April 30, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Jazz, Music
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Charlie Parker Played Be Bop


  1. Barbara Gogan says:

    I love the Between the Lions episode where they read this–I could recite the book after that one listen!

  2. Jory Hearst says:

    I love Chris Raschka’s energetic illustrations so much, and combined with the rhythm of jazz and the text Raschka writes in “Charlie Parker”, this book totally rocks out for me!

  3. Danni says:

    Raschka’s Charlie Parker is such a fun book that demands to be read aloud. I especially love how the text wiggles on the page, enticing the reader to sing it out.

  4. Leslie Occhiuto says:

    Esme Raji Codell sings a great version of this one!

  5. Rebecca says:

    Chris Raschka has long been one of my favorite illustrators – and this one is terrific. Totally original and so much fun.

  6. Betsy says:

    Saw Chris Raschka SING this book, backed up with a 3-piece combo, at the great reading festival in Kansas City put on by the Reading Reptile book store. Amazing!

  7. Cathy Ogren says:

    This book keeps me moving! Love it!

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