29 Oct / Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow | A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix by Gary Golio, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe
Growing up in Seattle, Washington, young Jimi Hendrix first made music on a one-string ukulele. He drew, he told funny stories, he hung out at the local record store with his friends “who never teased him about his worn-out clothes and wild hair … or … always moving from one part of town to another when Dad was out of work.” Instead, they “would chatter for hours about the latest rock ‘n’ roll songs.”
For Jimmy – as he was called then – “[w]ith every sound, a color glowed in Jimmy’s mind.” The music “set off fireworks in his mind.” He made music with a broom until his father bought him a cheap guitar and Jimmy taught himself to play: “He had a rainbow of sounds at his fingertips, and he wanted to paint the world with them.”
Drowned out in a local band, Jimmy moves up to an electric guitar –”the cheapest model, but to Jimmy … was pure gold”– hooks up to an amplifier, and “[w]ith a flick of a switch, Jimmy’s life was electrified.” He would take his “colors of sound” all over the world, “painting the world with his songs.”
For its intended audience of the youngest readers, the book ends there … a sanitized version of the life of a troubled superstar. But author Gary Golio does not gloss over the rest of Hendrix’s young life; he adds a “More about …” to flush out Hendrix’s biography, and then follows with an “Author’s Note” that directly addresses Hendrix’s death at 27 from “an unfortunate combination of prescription drugs and alcohol.” While mourning his untimely death – “we will never know just what he might have accomplished had his difficulties with alcohol and drugs been addressed and treated” – Golio adds a list of resources “for better understanding and addressing the dangers of substance abuse.” The message is clear … it’s never too early to talk to your kids!
Illustrator Javaka Steptoe, who captures the energetic, multiple layers of Jimi’s ‘electrified’ mind, gets the last word: “Jimi rocks.”