Intergalatic Music

9780763658069The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra
By Chris Raschka
(Candlewick Press, 2014, Somerville, Massachusetts, $15.99)

Jazz musician Sun Ra’s unique moniker was not the only thing that differentiated him from his contemporaries. Among the first to use an electric keyboard, he and his orchestra, the Arkestra, donned purple robes and metal foil crowns for their performances. He liked to say he hailed from Saturn because he found so much of human life, especially war, greed, and bigotry, incomprehensible.

In The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra, author-illustrator Chris Raschka celebrates the musician’s remarkable talent, colorful personality, and humanity. Raschka’s narrative is conversational; he sounds as though he is spinning a yarn for an audience of rapt children. “Sun Ra always said he that he came from Saturn,” he begins. “Now, you and I know that this is silly. No one comes from Saturn.” His expressionist-style illustrations complement his subject’s free-ranging musical style and evoke the joy Sun Ra found in music and life. Stars and moons float over paintings of Sun Ra and his bandmates performing, suggesting the musician’s otherworldly origins. A picture of a young Sun Ra composing music appears atop a musical staff.

The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra is an inspiring introduction to Sun Ra. It celebrates freedom of expression and invites young readers to embrace their own creativity.

-Dorothy A. Dahm

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