Swing Café contains a lot of vibrant illustrations that bring to mind the best of a fantasy-laced swinging time. Dautremer has her pen finely tuned to evoke the emotions and era of the recording artists featured on the included disc, but that is about it as far as the book is concerned. There is no argument about the music selections, but there is a problem with the story.
At several points, I found myself saying, “Huh?” Those points included the intended audience and the continuity of the text as it relates to the story. I tried, honestly, and I did find a use for a page here and a page there. But a page here and a page there is not enough to persuade teachers or parents to purchase the book. Yes, those pages can be used in isolation for teaching about instruments and some basic literary concepts, but the reader is often left with the lingering question: “Huh?”
More than anything else, the colorful illustrations were buried in the amount of text presented to the reader. I wanted to erase all the text and begin again with a truncated version that provided a more concise and exciting experience. I do not believe the story has a cultural disconnect, but I do believe it takes a few unnecessary turns that renders it inert. I did get the point, finally, but it was too late, and I’m afraid a really clever idea has missed the point, and a unique opportunity to fill a niche in the market. To that end, I had hoped for a text that expressed the color of the illustrative content and followed the rhythms expressed in the music.
A page here and a page there does not give me reason to recommend Swing Café to any group of potential readers. One for the illustrations and one for the music; story is everything.
Picnic Basket Rating: 2 out of a possible 5
Andrews High School
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Andrews, NC 28901