King of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin by Stephen Costanza pretty much says it all. This is a book about the young man who was a “quiet kid (who) could make a piano laugh out loud” (via the publisher description). In a more romantic look at Joplin’s life, you see the ups and downs of his world, but all done tastefully for the 5 and up crowd. Older readers can start reading solo (with help) and the older-older readers without help. However, due to the oversize picture book look, it could turn off some older readers.
Of course, this is less of an in-depth biography and more of a thoughtful introduction to the life of the man that created ragtime, and who would inspire jazz. You do not see his thoughts, feelings or even really the history surrounding him. You do see, however, the importance of how a child who had family enslaved became an influencer.
This is not an easy book to read to a group. However, a music class would be the best for a classroom setting. Of course, you also can use it as a Black history book.
Costanza’s illustrations are perhaps my favorite part of the book, even if they do add to the somewhat awkwardness of the overall format. They are bold, bright, and nicely done, but they are not always soothing. They seem to fit the feeling and idea of ragtime and jazz by being at once abstract and realistic. They are adventurous and called “kaleidoscope-like illustrations” by the publisher description).