Barlow, Charnelle Pinkney. Little Rosetta and the Talking Guitar: The Musical Story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Woman Who Invented Rock and Roll. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2023. 978-0-593-57106-4. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PreK-2.
Born in Arkansas in 1915, Rosetta Tharpe grew up surrounded by music. Her mother, a preacher, sang and played the mandolin and piano at home and at church. Her small rural town held weekly concerts where the young African-American girl enjoyed “clappin’ and twirlin’, dancin’ and singin’ “ to the rhythm of the music. When she was four, her mother gave her an acoustic guitar. Little Rosetta began to practice day and night by mimicking the sounds she heard around her, such as the “whirrrr” of a sewing machine, the clank of pots and pans and the “rummmmm” of a vacuum. She carried the guitar everywhere, and soon the efforts of all her hard work began to show. Rosetta was making music and people in town began tapping, humming, and snapping to the rhythm that her fast fingering made on the guitar. Within two years, she was a skilled acoustic guitarist. Sister Tharpe, as she later was known, began traveling around the world playing her unique style of music – a little bit Gospel, a little bit Jazz, and a little bit of Blues. She made the guitar “talk” by her incomparable style of fingerpicking. Her hit called “Rock Me” influenced other musicians like Elvis Presley and Rosetta became known as the “Godmother of Rock and Roll.” The author’s note gives more details of the guitarist’s life and includes a photo. Barlow has created striking colorful images using painted paper collage and adding pieces of cotton string for the guitar.
THOUGHTS: This gem of a book shines the light on a musical artist who has not always received the recognition she deserves. Her perseverance and passion for music may inspire budding young musicians, who would enjoy watching a portion of her “Didn’t It Rain” live performance from 1964. Pair this picture book with Troy Andrews’s Trombone Shorty for a truly musical storytime. Highly recommended.
Picture Book Biography
787.87166 Guitars, 921