Cover image for The double bass blues
The double bass blues

1st ed.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 27 x 27 cm.
General Note:
"This is a Borzoi Book published by Alfred A. Knopf"--Title page verso.
Added Author:
After school orchestra practice, young Nic carries his double bass through rough neighborhoods to his grandfather's home, where he and Grandaddy Nic play jazz music with friends, delighting the neighbors.


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A Caldecott Honor Book! A joyous celebration of family, community, and the unifying power of music, perfect for fans of Last Stop on Market Street .

Nic is an aspiring musician whose life spans two different worlds--his suburban school where he wows his friends in orchestra, and the busy city streets of his home where he's jostled by the crowd. Nic makes his way home from a busy day at school with a double bass on his back, the symphony of his surroundings in his heart, and a sweet surprise for the reader at the end of his journey. This is a sweet, melodious picture book about how dedication, music, and family can overcome any obstacle.

Author Notes

Andrea J. Loney grew up in New Jersey with a love for music--in her school band she played the xylophone. After receiving an MFA from New York University, she joined a circus, then moved to Hollywood to write for film and television. Her previous picture books include the New Voices Award-winning biography Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! and Bunnybear. Currently a computer science instructor at a community college, Andrea lives with her family and their pets in a Los Angeles home filled with music . . . and picture books. Learn more at or on Twitter at @AndreaJLoney.

Rudy Gutierrez is an award-winning illustrator whose works have earned him a Pura Belpré Honor, an Américas Award, a Children's Africana Book Award, and a New York Book Award. A Bronx native, he now lives in New Jersey and teaches illustration at the Pratt Institute. In 2002, he was commissioned to create the cover for Santana's multi-platinum album Shaman, and his art hangs in the private collections of musical icons Carlos Santana, Clive Davis, and Wayne Shorter, among others. Learn more at or on Twitter at @Rudy_Gutierrez_art.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

A young double bass player faces obstacles en route to his grandfather's house in this visual ode to the blues. Resting his cheek alongside melodic vibrations emanating from the instrument, Nic, who is black, seems harmoniously connected to his music. After a teacher applauds the performance, the diverse band packs up ("Epic solo, Nic!") and heads out ("Catch you later!"). But Nic faces quite a commute outside the band room's peace. With silent determination, he scales a suburban fence ("Ooof!"), faces a growling dog ("Grrrrrrrr!"), and navigates a bustling cityscape that drips with inclement weather ("Plunk, plunk, plunk") and public commentary ("It's bigger than him!" two children laugh, pointing at the bass). Persisting through storm and ridicule, Nic finally arrives at his grandfather's city building--only to find the elevator out. But his celebrated arrival, at a loving, musical oasis not dissimilar from the practice room, offers him the space to make music based on his journey's travails. Sparse, onomatopoeic text by Loney (Bunnybear) and vibrant, cubist-style art by Gutierrez (Mama and Me) combine to create a harmony of sound and emotion through a child's journey, his family's warmth, and music's restorative powers. Ages 4--8. (Oct.)

Horn Book Review

Told entirely through dialogue and sound effects, the story follows double-bass player Nic as he performs an epic solo at band practice at school, then heads out toward the city on foot (many of his fellow suburban students are picked up in SUVs). On his journey Nic encounters such obstacles as rain (plunk, plunk, plunk), a threatening dog (grrrrrrrr!), taunting passersby (pointing at his instrument: Its bigger than him!), and a broken elevator (Oh, man!). Finally, he arrives at his destinationnot home, as readers might expect, but the Sunset Ballroom, where he is warmly welcomed by his grandfather. Careful readers will spot the Nicodemus Grant Band sign that tells us Nics grandfather is himself a musician. At books end, the boy reprises his double-bass solo with his grandfathers band: Hey, Granddaddy Nic! Listen to this! The vibrant, dynamic illustrations fairly hum with energycurved lines swoop and jagged lines angle across the pages, adding movement here; tension there. Musical notes and clapping hands appear throughout, reinforcing just how much sound the story contains. A book about a lot of thingsmusic, and determination, and straddling worlds, and the celebration of Black boyhood and familythat nevertheless feels cohesive and effortless. martha v. parravano September/October 2019 p.61(c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Young Nic plays an epic bass solo with his school orchestra and then travels across town to jam with a band made up of older musicians in this briefly worded tale of a boy who loves making music. A growling dog, a couple of teasing kids, a crowded bus, a cloudburst, and a broken elevator are not enough to discourage the boy from reaching his destination. Onomatopoeia and dialogue make up the few words used in the text. Gutierrez's acrylic paintings in rich colors exude movement and energy while delineating the sounds of the child's day, which he plays on his bass. Musical notes and measures decorate some pictures, while others show Nic in the background as he trudges along the street, carrying his huge bass. One intriguing double spread reveals an M. C. Escher-like staircase that seems endless to Nic as he lugs his instrument to his destination. The dreamy look on Nic's face clearly reveals the ""zone"" he enters when playing music, and readers will understand that Nic's talent brings him great joy.--Maryann Owen Copyright 2010 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1--3--In an explosion of vibrant color (thanks to Rudy Gutierrez's liquid acrylics), young Nic wins kudos for his double bass solo with the school orchestra, but faces a tough journey home. Lugging his beloved (but bulky) bull fiddle, the boy is harassed and taunted on his long trip, and is finally faced with an out-of-service elevator and multiple flights of stairs. Happily, he finds not only his loving grandfather waiting for him, but some of granddaddy's jazz-playing buddies sitting with their instruments at the ready, sorely in need of that boy and his bull fiddle. Colorful, full of movement, limited in text but loaded with emotion, this is an ode to the diversity of music and the determination of a talented kid. VERDICT A dramatic and emotional selection for older readers than the usual picture book audience, particularly kids who love music and have had their own tough journeys home. --Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

Kirkus Review

A young musician is inspired by the beat and rhythm of his commute.Nic's journey begins with an enthusiastic "Ziiiiiiiiiiip!" and a contemplative "Hummmmm" as he's applauded in orchestra. Then, with his double bass strapped to his back, he trades the trees and space of his suburban school for towering buildings and city buses. He dodges dogs, bullies, and rain, hustling home to warm hugs and a jazz jam session replete with onomatopoeic improvisations taken from his commute. The, "whoosh" of the bus's windshield wipers pairs with the "plunk" of rain and the "clap" of his classmates as Nic releases the sounds and sights of the afternoon through his music. Acrylic-paint illustrations include geometric squiggles and swirls that outline and emphasize musical vibrations and the spare, expressive text. Defined shapes are rendered in a vibrant palette that brings out the range of colors present in the characters' skin tones. Nic, who presents black, is a blend of blues, blacks, golds, and reds, with his boxy, spiked hair a muted mixture of oranges, browns, pinks, and greens. One exceptional double-page spread uses interlocking triangles to separate scenes that capture Nic's movement from the suburbs to the city. This journey is also expressed in the stenciled endpapers, the front showing Nic in his orchestra and the back, at home, jamming.Simple language complements complex paintings to create the perfect literary melody. (Picture book. 4-9) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.