The Cosmo Biography of Sun Ra
Author: Chris Raschka
Illustrator: Chris Raschka
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: May 13th, 2014
Genre/Format: Non-Fiction/Biography/Picture Book
GoodReads Summary: Jazz musician Sun Ra (1914–1993) always said that he came from Saturn. Being from another planet, he was naturally intrigued by everything earthly — especially music, because music is the one thing on Earth most like the stars. Earthlings themselves confused Sun Ra, the way they sorted themselves by color and fought wars against one another. So he made music. And he traveled with other musicians and singers, calling themselves the Sun Ra Arkestra, playing, singing, and dancing for people all over the planet. Because music, he said, is what holds us all together. Join acclaimed author-illustrator Chris Raschka in celebrating a legend of the jazz world who was truly one of a kind.
What I Think: The colors of Chris Raschka's artwork in The Cosmo Biography of Sun Ra completely bring to life the essence of the musician Sun Ra. I love how the text helps us see how Su Ra was completed devoted to his curiosity about the world and how that extended into his music. As I read this book I thought about Genius Hour and Passion Projects and how when we pursue something we are truly passionate about, we can easily get lost researching and discovering and creating. This story shows how Sun Ra's curiosity led to creation and it's such a great book for thinking about how we moved from taking in information to putting out work. I can see how this book would be a great anchoring text for a teacher encouraging students to discover their passions.
When I looked at commas with middle school students, I typed sentences from Jimi: Sounds like a Rainbow onto little strips and then asked students to look sort the sentences, looking for how commas were used and where they could see similarities in the sentence structure. We did this to uncover patterns in how commas are used instead of just learning about rules of commas. It was a great activity and as I look at the sentences in Sun Ra and how commas are used, I think the text in this book would lend itself to that same activity. You might even use sentences from both of the books and see how the writing is similar or different. This is one of my favorite ways to use mentor texts, to really look at the structure of a sentence and then to try that in writing.
Read Together: Grades 3 - 5
Read Alone: Grades 4 - 6
Read With: Tito Puente, Mambo King by Monica Brown, Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow by Gary Golio
Snatch of Text:
"Sun Ra drew other musicians to him. They played in small groups, medium-
size groups, and big groups, with singers or without singers - all kinds of ways.
They were like sailors on a boat bound for a new world, a new world of sound."Writing Prompts: Write about something that you were so curious or passionate about that you devoted a lot of your time to it.
Topics Covered: Curiosity, Passion, Creativity
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