Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra

by Andea Davis Pinkney

Other authorsBrian Pinkney (Illustrator)
Paperback, 1999



Local notes

921 ELL



Scholastic (1999), Edition: First Edition, 32 pages


A brief recounting of the career of this jazz musician and composer who, along with his orchestra, created music that was beyond category.


Physical description

32 p.


0439109949 / 9780439109949



User reviews

LibraryThing member JackieKuhlman
Duke Ellington is a Caldecott Award Honor book that is the history from when Duke was not a very swell piano player to his success with his magical fingers.

I enjoyed this book because it was a part of history but so colorful and lively. It was as if I were sitting right next to him or a family member listening to the life of Duke Ellington.

This would be a wonderful tool to use in a history lesson of musicians or Black History Month. This is also a great book to teach children how a person must stick with something in order to become successful at it.
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LibraryThing member cvyork
It was kind of dry because of the pages devoted to the descriptions of the soloist in Duke's Orchestra, but like Ella, is informational
LibraryThing member katiejanelewis
Duke Ellington's life and music comes to life in this colorfully vivid book.
LibraryThing member ecosborne
This book was illustrated beautifully. it lent a whole new aspect to Duke Ellington's story that wouldn't have been there if there were no picture. Duke Ellington initially hated the piano so it was interesting to learn that he was famous for playing the piano.
LibraryThing member Junep
Grade 3-5–Rosa Parks's personal story moves quickly into a summary of the Civil Rights movement in this striking picture book. Parks is introduced in idealized terms. She cares for her ill mother and is married to one of the best barbers in the county. Sewing in an alterations department, Rosa Parks was the best seamstress. Her needle and thread flew through her hands like the gold spinning from Rumpelstiltskin's loom. Soon the story moves to her famous refusal to give up her seat on the bus, but readers lose sight of her as she waits to be arrested. Giovanni turns to explaining the response of the Women's Political Caucus, which led to the bus boycott in Montgomery. A few events of the movement are interjected–the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the aftermath and reactions to the murder of Emmett Till, the role of Martin Luther King, Jr., as spokesperson. Collier's watercolor and collage scenes are deeply hued and luminous, incorporating abstract and surreal elements along with the realistic figures. Set on colored pages, these illustrations include an effective double foldout page with the crowd of successful walkers facing a courthouse representing the 1956 Supreme Court verdict against segregation on the buses. Many readers will wonder how it all went for Parks after her arrest, and there are no added notes. Purposeful in its telling, this is a handsome and thought-provoking introduction to these watershed acts of civil disobedience… (more)
LibraryThing member PatsyAdams
Grades: 3-5
Genre: Biography
Themes: Music, Black History, perseverance
This picture book describes Duke Ellington's music and life in vivid color through the beautiful illustrations. The language works in the story as well. There are a number of ways to use this book in the classroom. It could be used for Black history lessons. I like the figurative language and would also use this story to teach children how you can almost hear the instruments playing the songs by the words the author uses to describe them.… (more)
LibraryThing member jaimefabey
Pinkney tells about the personal and musical story behind Duke Ellington. From Duke finding the piano dull, to discovering his own style to writing pieces to teach of the Black civil rights movement, Pinkney shines some light on the history of Ellington. Addtionally Pinkney uses bebop jazz slang and beat to tell the story.
LibraryThing member JMahoney18
Unlike the Amelia Earhart biography, the Duke Ellington book is filled with beautiful pictures and shorter text. It allows the student engage in the book. The book made his life very interesting and appealing for students The text was not too long. Longer text causes students to lose their engagement within the text. My favorite part about the book are the pictures because they are so colorful. This book is good for the class library or during Black History Month.… (more)
LibraryThing member kmeling
Very entertaining, LOVE the language! "...compositions smoother than a hairdo sleeked with pomade." Bright and musical illustrations
LibraryThing member bookcat27
This story is a biography about Duke Ellington, one of the early figures in the development of jazz. What makes this story so good is that it is told in the vernacular of the time period when jazz was just starting. We learn about Duke and how his parents wanted him to play the piano. Duke had other ideas and quit. Years later he would hear someone play the piano in a different way which was called Ragtime. He decided he needed to learn how to play this kind of music. He started his own band which grew into an orchestra. After a successful run at the Cotton Club, he toured the US and abroad. He became known for his unusual way of playing and his compositions were something special. He made his Carnegie Hall debut on January, 23, 1943 and the rest is history. The text is just wonderful as it gives the reader a true flavor of the word of jazz and how people talked about it. The illustrations are top notch and tell us as much as the text does about the influence jazz had on the African American musician and the audiences that flocked to hear them.… (more)
LibraryThing member mdrumgold
The famous Duke Ellington was one of the most famous composers of the 20th century. As a young boy Duke hated taking piano lessons. Read this story to see how evolved jazz music.
LibraryThing member PatrickRiegert
The theme of "Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra" is that if you don't succeed at first, try again. The book was engaging because we learned a lot about a great musician. I would recommend this book for a third or fourth graders.
LibraryThing member AMQS
Though this book is an older text, this Caldecott Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, and ALA Notable Children’s Book is a treasure and a terrific example of an informational text that ignites the imagination. The book’s colorful, playful language is meant to be shared aloud, and establishes the swinging, jazzy tone and mood of Ellington’s music. The rhythm and wordplay of the text allows reader to learn facts about both Ellington and jazz music in a fun way.

Curriculum: Students will incorporate this style when they create their own improvisational music to be written and recorded. I would use this text as a read aloud to begin the instructional unit, in collaboration with the music teacher, ideally with students reading along using their own copies, or using a document camera.

Pinkney, A. (1998). Duke Ellington: The piano prince and his orchestra. New York: Hyperion Books for Children.
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LibraryThing member dbcollin
This is the story of famous music composer and musician Duke Ellington. With hi orchestra, Duke created a new sound that made him very famous. The book is very well illustrated and features many different musical instruments.
LibraryThing member courtneyspako
This book was beautifully illustrated. It added a whole new element to the story that wouldn't have been there with just the words.
LibraryThing member CathyEarhart
This book is about one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century Duke Ellington, "the king of keys" When Duke was younger his parents begged him to play the piano, he thought it was boring. Then one day he heard a man playing "ragtime" music and that was music to his ears he loved it. So he was back on the piano. He formed a band that was very sucessful. Playing at a nightclub called "Cotton Club" Harlem's hottest night spot. Over time he and his orchestra became known nation wide.

I liked this booked because its very positive and enlighting. Its a good book to read because it shows that people can become very sucessful doing something that they love.

I can relate this in my classroom by having my children right a page over something that enjoy doing. Maybe something that didn't like at first but enjoy doing now.
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LibraryThing member Janee23
A great book introducing kids to musings of past times. This book tells the journey Duke Ellington embarked on to become a great pianist. He did not enjoying playing the Kano but soon found a passion for playing.
LibraryThing member aimeestanaland
This book is about the great jazz pianist Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington. He was born in 1899 in Washington, D.C. He plays piano as a child, but finds traditional techniques to be boring. When he is older, he hears ragtime music and begins to create his own style of music that features new tempos, key combinations-a whole new type of music which many called jazz, but he called it “The music of his people.” Duke Ellington and his orchestra, the Washingtonians, later called Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. His orchestra plays in Harlem’s Cotton Club and his music is broadcasted on the radio for many people of America to hear in their own homes. Many people in America buy his albums, making him and his orchestra extremely successful. He even performs at Carnegie Hall in 1943 with a suite of music he composed called Black, Brown, and Beige, which celebrated the history of African Americans. He was one of the first African Americans to play at Carnegie Hall.
This book would make a great mentor text for a lesson on music in a classroom. Reading about Ellington's life and his accomplishments would be great to connect with a unit on music or 20th century inspirational people. This would be a book that could be used when studying other influential people like Martin Luther King Jr. during Black History Month.
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LibraryThing member JillSmith23
This book is good for children who are in elementary school. It is a biography on Duke Ellington's life, and it does a good job of covering a lot of information at the elementary school level. The pictures are realistic and help tell the story of his life.
LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
Husband-and-wife team Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney turn to the story of the great Jazz musician and composer Duke Ellington in this picture-book biography, with very engaging results. Chronicling the life of an American legend, from his boyhood in early twentieth century Washington, D.C., when he rebelled against the piano lessons imposed by his parents - the sound of the music he was asked to practice led "nowhere worth following," in his view - through his discovery that this was an instrument that could be used in a variety of genres and styles, Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra follows its subject through the creation of his Jazz group (Duke Ellington and his Orchestra) and their ascent to fame, and concludes with the famous 1943 concert at Carnegie Hall, where the piece Black, Brown and Beige was introduced. An afterword provides additional information, as well as a list of sources.

I enjoyed this brief introduction to the life of Duke Ellington, particularly as I know so little about him, and think that Brian Pinkney's lively illustrations - with their exuberant use of color and motion - were very deserving of the Caldecott Honor they received in 1999. I appreciated the fact that Ellington discovered he was wrong about the piano - that it could be used in other ways, and to express other styles - because I am someone who listens to a very eclectic mixture of music (everything from Tuvan throat singing to Schubert's lieder), and think that sometimes people fall into the trap of thinking that music can only sound a certain way, or that various styles are mutually exclusive. All in all, a very engaging book, one I recommend to young music lovers and/or biography readers, although I think my friend Lisa is right, that it would have benefited from the inclusion of some actual music (a CD, perhaps?).
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LibraryThing member MSittig
This book is all about music. This is a great story about the great jazz and piano player Duke Ellington. This book takes the readers into the life of Duke Ellington and his many adventures into becoming the greatest musician. It showed that Duke Ellington was an accomplished composer. He brought together an orchestra and celebrated the history of African American people. Duke had a suite called Black, Brown, and Beige. This book is a great book to explain to readers what it was like to live in a racial segregation. Music brought everyone together!… (more)
LibraryThing member Swelker
This picture book biography is about Duke Ellington. Starting from when he was a child all the way to his death. This book showed all of Ellington's accomplishments. Ellington played music for a living, and music was his passion. He loved jazz music, which he was most passionate about. If I taught a music class, I would read this book to my students because it is important to learn about musicians.… (more)
LibraryThing member PiperSchaapveld
This book is a biography about Duke Ellington and his music career.
I would use this to teach students about him, along with other books by Andrea Davis Pinkney, teaching them about different people in history.
This book would be good for grades 3-5.
LibraryThing member NoahGray
I loved reading “Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra”. This book is a biography of Duke Ellington, a famous Jazz musician. I enjoyed reading this book because I do not know much about the history of Jazz music or Duke Ellington. Duke Ellington was an inspirational Jazz musician that was born in Washington D.C in 1899. The bright and colorful illustrations in this text show the reader the “color” of Jazz music. I feel that the author and illustrator incorporated these bright colors to transcend the effects that Jazz music has had on it's followers and listeners. The swirling illustrations allow the dancers to appear as if they are moving across the page adding a visual effect to coincide with the text. Also, from this book I was able to learn more about Duke Ellington and see how he inspired Jazz music and also influenced music that is popular today. I enjoyed reading this book and loved how the text provided information to the audience of the milestones in Duke Ellington's life and career.… (more)
LibraryThing member mrea
Duke Ellington is one of the most important figures in the history of American music. This beautifully illustrated biography uses 30s era jazz lingo to make the story feel authentic. The language and pictures help the reader relate to the man and his music.




(118 ratings; 4.2)
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