- Wini Ashooh
Ella Fitzgerald developed a love for music and singing while she was a young girl growing up in New York. She and her mother Tempie used to dance around their apartment while Ella's younger sister Frances repeatedly put the needle back to the beginning of the record so that they could dance and sing the day away. They had such a grand time that they forgot all about the washing and the ironing. The book Skit Skat Raggedy Cat Ella Fitzgerald by Roxanne Orgill and illustrated by Sean Qualls introduces us to the young Ella. At thirteen, Ella and her friend Charlie were singing and dancing on Morgan Street outside the apartment building. It was 1930 in Yonkers New York and people did not have much money. But some folks were able to spare some change for Ella and Charlie. They occasionally had a nickel or two tossed at them.
Charlie and Ella put their nickels together and they were able to take the Number 1 trolley to the end of the line. From there they climbed aboard the subway train to 125th Street. They were in Harlem. Ella watched the dancers at the Savoy Ballroom on Lenox Avenue. When Ella and Charlie danced outside the theatre, people tossed them their loose change. They were making more money than the shoeshine boys. Ella knew that she was going to be famous and she told everyone so.
Sadly, everything changed dramatically for Ella. Her mother died unexpectedly. Ella had to go live with her Aunt Virginia in Harlem. She might have been happy there but her aunt was not very kind to her and gave her food and a roof over her head and nothing else. After that Ella's life was very difficult. However, she was determined to sing and become famous.
The story continues to follow Ella Fitzgerald as she struggles to make her way in the world of music. She was often hungry and homeless but she never gave up the fight to become a star. As we all know, the story ends well with Ella Fitzgerald becoming an iconic American music figure. The path she took to get there is told in a very compelling way by Orgill. She chronicles the life of Ella Fitzgerald by touching on her personal tragedies and setbacks in a way that is suitable for the young reader and eye opening for an older reader.
I always say that I learn so much from picture books and this one is no exception. This book is a picture book but don't be deceived by that description. It can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. It provides background information on the life of Ella Fitzgerald for everyone. As I was reading the text and enjoying the whimsical art by Sean Qualls I could hear Ella singing "A Tisket A Tasket" in the background.