The Story of the Saxophone


Lesa Cline-Ransome  & James E. Ransome


People may think that the story of the saxophone begins with Dexter Gordon or Charlie Parker, or on a street corner in New Orleans. It really began in 1840 in Belgium with a young daydreamer named Joseph-Antoine Adolphe Sax—a boy with bad luck but great ideas. Follow the saxophone‘s journey from Adolphe’s imagination to the pawn shop window where it caught the eye of musician Sidney Bechet and became the iconic symbol of jazz music it is today.

The Story of the Saxophone unravels the fascinating story of how a once reviled instrument was transported across Europe and Mexico to New Orleans. Deftly retold by Coretta Scott King Honoree Cline-Ransome, this account is paired with the gorgeous artwork of NAACP Image Award winner Ransome, including an attention-grabbing poster of iconic jazz musicians you can find inside the book jacket. The two worked with ethnomusicologist and Saxophone expert Whitney Slaten, who made his extensive saxophone collection available to Ransome to draw.Music, music, music.  Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome have written and illustrated a children’s picture about the development of the saxophone.   This instrument was an idea that started in Belgium and had many incarnations from start to finish.  Starting with a boy named Adolphe Sax from childhood to adulthood.  Adolphe could play many instruments but wanted something different in sound that an instrument could make.  He wanted people to share in his enthusiasm but did not get it.  Going through many countries and personal dramas and finding a way to fit in somewhere. Lesa and James Ransome have written this picture book for the young child and those in the primary grades to introduce them to various musical instruments in general and also introduce primary-grade students to Music history.  I loved the illustrations by James for they gave me a sense of the history visually. His use of colors was perfect and set the mood for the story.  The poster that is also the book cover is a great idea for it introduces other famous saxophone players past and present.

Lesa Cline-Ransome’s novel Finding Langston won a Coretta Scott King Honor Award and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. Before She Was Harriet, illustrated by James ERansome, won the Christopher Award and was a Jane Addams Honor Book. Her many other books include Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson: Taking the Stage as the First Black-and-White Jazz Band in History. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.


James ERansome won a Coretta Scott King Medal for The Creation by James Weldon Johnson, and three Coretta Scott King Honor Awards, including one for Before She Was Harriet by his wife Lesa Cline-Ransome. His collaborations with his wife also include Just a Lucky So and So: The Story of Louis Armstrong. He lives in Rhinebeck, New York.

2023ISBN:  978-0-8234-3702-3Holiday House29 pages

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