Written by Amy Novesky
Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton
Getting third grade children interested in history is not always easy. Mister and Lady Day has done an excellent job of grabbing the attention of young animal lovers and teaching them a little bit about the history of jazz.
Billie Holiday, or Lady Day, had many dogs, big ones and little ones, pure bred and “mutt”. She loved her dogs. But she did have a favorite. Mister, her favorite, was with her almost all of the time. She cooked for him and even made sweaters for him. He loved her and protected her. Lady Day “had to leave home for a year and a day”. She did not sing for that entire time because she was so sad to be away from Mister. She worried that he would not remember her. But he did! She began to sing again and on the night of her biggest show Mister was right where he always was when she was on stage, waiting in the wings.
What a wonderful way to integrate music and history into literacy. This sweet story of the bond between Lady and Mister is an easy read. The lovely illustrations help with comprehension for words such as “Chihuahuas”. A picture walk for younger children would be a walk in the park with this book.
Learning about history and music is great. However, there are social/family aspects that are much more subtle. The text of the book does not tell why Lady Day “had to leave home for a year and a day”. An author’s note at the end of the book tell that this time away was due to a prison stay for drug possession. When teaching about the problems associated with drugs, children can more easily relate to being separated from a beloved pet than to the seemingly abstract notion that they might go to prison. Then there is the reality that some children have parents (or siblings) who are away for a variety of reasons; military service, divorce, prison. This book can help them understand that even though their loved one is gone, they are still much loved and not forgotten.
Amy Novesky (http://www.amynovesky.com/Amy_Novesky/author.html) and Vanessa Brantley Newton (http://oohlaladesignstudio.blogspot.com/) have done a masterful job of blending their talents to create this precious story of the loving bond between Lady Day and Mister. Be sure to visit their websites to learn more about these talented women and their other works.