Barlow, Charnelle Pinkney

Little Rosetta and the Talking Guitar: The Musical Story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Woman Who Invented Rock and Roll

(2) K-3 In her time, some said Sister Rosetta Tharpe could make her guitar talk. Today, many credit her unique mix of gospel, jazz, and blues as the foundation for what would become known as rock-and-roll. Born in rural Arkansas in 1915, young Rosetta received her first guitar at four and mastered the instrument in just two years. She performed on the gospel circuit as a child and eventually in nightclubs as a hit-record-making adult, but her contributions to music were often ignored because of her gender and race. Barlow's picture-book biography focuses on Tharpe's childhood, depicting her guitar as echoing the sounds she encounters in her small African American community and debuting in her triumphant first performance at church. The lyrical text is rich with sound words ("The vibrations hummed through her body like bees through a garden"). Movement-filled, whimsical mixed-media illustrations have a folksy feel; the soft pinks, purples, blues, and yellows that recur throughout the pages convey the security and support of Tharpe's tight-knit community. An author's note provides further details about her rise to stardom as well as her lasting, if ignored, impact on many musical genres. An inspiring story that may encourage others to pick up an instrument and make it speak.


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