SPIRIT SEEKER: JOHN COLTRANE’S MUSICAL JOURNEY
written by Gary Golio and illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez.
The illustrations are stunning and disturbing. Each painting is full of strong, powerful, sometimes dark, symbolism. The tone and color of each image reflects the emotional impact of what was happening in John Coltrane’s life and soul. The rich symbolism shows the many-faceted journey of Coltrane’s spiritual quest.
The writing is brutally and beautifully honest. John Coltrane practiced hard, worked hard, and struggled hard to create music. After he joined the high school band, he took his horn with him everywhere he went. Coltrane climbed high on the rungs of success, stumbled, fell hard, succumbed to drink and drugs, and then struggled to regain both his music and his soul. He accomplished both.
Coltrane’s story is an inspiration. He sought wisdom and truth from many sources, especially from other musicians, his family, and from a variety of religious beliefs. Music remained his passion and his “compass.” This biography picture book tells it all and tells it well. The images created by Gutierrez bring energy and power – sometimes disturbing – that expand Golio’s words.
I would like to quote part of a review written by Richie Partington, MLIS, published on his blog site: Richie’s Picks:
“For years now, I have been teaching a class on picture books for older readers.
SPIRIT SEEKER, a masterful picture book into which author Gary Golio weaves sophisticated concepts about such issues as death, spirituality, and drug addiction is a truly outstanding example of such books.
Illustrator Rudy Gutierrez does his own weaving, his illustrations flowing across pages as he visualizes the music, the joy, the sadness, the spirituality, and the struggling to soar that permeated the musician’s life.
There are images of the musicians Coltrane listened to as a youngster and played with as an adult; images depicting the Jim Crow world in which he lived…. Bring up YouTube and listen to Miles and Coltrane doing “Bye Bye Blackbird” at the ’58 Newport Jazz Festival. Listen to the title track from Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” or to his rendition of “Greensleeves.”
Nearly half a century after Coltrane’s demise at a young age, there are really good reasons why our children need this notable book about this seminal musician.”
Richie Partington, MLIS