Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald
Illustrated by Sean Qualls
Candlewick Press 2010. Ages 5 and up.
978-0-7636-1733-2 $17.99 U.S. ($21.00) CAN
“Candlewick Biographies” 2013.
Hardover: 978-0-7636-6459-6 $14.99 ($17.00 CAN)
Paperback: 978-0-7636-6458-9 $4.99 ($6.00 CAN)
When Ella Fitzgerald first danced the Lindy Hop as a girl on the streets of 1930s Yonkers, passersby said good-bye to their spare coins. But soon she was orphaned and hungry, in raggedy clothes, and sometimes had no place to sleep. One amateur night at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, Ella planned to dance but ended up singing instead—and discovered that the dancing beat in her feet could travel up and out of her mouth in a powerful song. The feeling of being listened to was like a balm to her sore heart. Follow the gutsy Ella from her school-girl days to securing a place with Chick Webb’s band to having a number-one hit (“A-Tisket, A-Tasket”) on the radio.
Reviews
“There’s no question that Orgill and Qualls know what makes [jazz] so catchy: it’s slinky, rhythmic, and joyful, and on full display in both the lively text and swinging artwork.” —Booklist
“…an effective interplay of relatively dense text and, well, jazzy illustration that should appeal to a crowd that might consider itself well past picture books.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Awards and Honors
Junior Library Guild selection
Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People,
    awarded by the National Council for the Social Studies and Children’s Book Council
Excerpt
Showtime, 11 P.M., the Apollo Theater, November 21, 1934. Behind the crimson curtain, Ella was so nervous, her legs felt like water. She couldn’t remember the words to her song, and she was the first amateur! What if they didn’t like her?
Somehow she managed to push herself onto the stage, and then she started to sing off-key:
The object of my affection
Her voice cracked.
The audience began to rumble. They had paid their thirty-five cents, and they wanted a show. “Boo, get that cat out o’ there,” someone shouted from the second balcony. In a moment a siren would shriek, and a man they called Porto Rico would come tearing out dressed like a skeleton or a hula girl or some other crazy thing. He would shoot his cap pistol and run Ella off the stage, while the audience howled.
Copyright 2014-, Roxane Orgill. All rights reserved.