Clarion Books, $16.99, 32 pages
Jimi Hendrix belongs to a tiny group of artists, like Van Gogh for example, who developed a style so individual that it can never be copied. Perhaps it is this authenticity that continues to inspire male teenagers to make Hendrix’s music “the soundtrack of their life.” Unfortunately, and this goes for Van Gogh as well, the popular image tends to dwell heavily on the misfortune of these artists’ deaths. Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow offers the flip side: a story of joy, discovery, and creativity. Combining quotes, lyrics, and biography, the text for young readers flows musically across the page and is delightfully accompanied by the collage illustrations of Javaka Steptoe. The emphasis is on Hendrix’s urge to echo the sounds of life, everything from raindrops to sirens. The book also highlights the stresses in his young life — poverty, an absent mother — and how he overcame them through perseverance and the support of his father.
Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow is an exuberant introduction for upper-elementary children to arguably the best electric guitarist of all time. Appendices also prepare the reader for the downside of Hendrix’s fame, and the Author’s Note even contains Website and further reading information about drug and alcohol abuse, aimed at teenagers.
Reviewed by Heather Shaw