FYI: In honor of Jazz Appreciation Month, Viola Davis treats us to a reading of Rent Party Jazz, a children’s book written by William Miller and illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb. Here’s a quick synopsis of the story:
This story is set in New Orleans in the 1930s. Sonny and his mother are scraping by to pay their rent. Mama works in a fish canning factory, and Sonny works for the coal man before school each morning. When Mama loses her job, they no longer have enough money for the rent and fear that the landlord will turn them out. One day Sonny meets Smilin’ Jack, a jazz musician who is playing his trumpet in Jackson Square. Smilin’ Jack offers to play at a party at Sonny’s house to help raise money for the rent. The neighbors all come to sing and dance and before they leave, drop some coins in a bucket. Sonny learns how people can help one another “if they put their minds and hearts to it.”
For anyone not familiar with them, rent parties started in Harlem during the 1920s, when jazz musicians would play at a friend’s apartment to help them raise enough money to pay the rent. If you hop over to the website of Yale’s Beinecke Library, you can see a collection of rent cards that belonged to Langston Hughes.
This video comes from the Storyline Online Youtube Channel, sponsored by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s children’s literacy website. The channel features celebrated actors “reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations, helping to inspire a love of reading in children.”
Viola Davis’ reading will be added to our collection, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.