Golden Globe-winning and Oscar®-nominated actress Angela Bassett joins the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Storyline Online® cast of readers this month, bringing to life the true story of Grammy®-nominated New Orleans musician Troy Andrews in Trombone Shorty, a new read-aloud for the Emmy-nominated children’s literacy program.
Written by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews himself, and illustrated by Corretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Bryan Collier, this vibrant 2016 Caldecott Honor book, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, invigorates the Storyline Online bookverse with a tale of music, cuisine, culture and family. Featuring original music compositions written and performed by Andrews and used courtesy of The Universal Music Group and Round Hill Music, Trombone Shorty is a journey of ambition, determination and talent, weaving together a multilayered experience for young readers, and exploring not just Andrews’ story, but the musical heritage and traditional foods of New Orleans.
“I know it wouldn’t be fair to say this is my favorite of our books—but there’s just nothing like watching Angela Bassett telling a story that’s so rich with music and culture,” says Courtney B. Vance, President of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, who is also married to the actress. “It’s just a beautiful story, beautifully illustrated, and it invites children from all over the world to experience not just a story of jazz, but the music itself. That’s a triple win. Quadruple if you count Miss Bassett, and, of course, I do,” he continued.
Bassett chose the book because it shows how the talent and perseverance of even one person can affect an entire community—and she hopes young readers will be inspired to visit New Orleans one day, if they haven’t already.
“I love this book,” Bassett says, “because even coming from a simple neighborhood that may not have a lot, you can have such a big impact on the world. You can travel and you can always come home and be an inspiration to your own neighborhood. And New Orleans—there’s no place like it. The people, no matter if they’re black or white, rich or poor, they always have a ‘where y’at’ for one another.”
An educational brand since 2001, Storyline Online has seen significant growth during the COVID-19 pandemic when remote learning has become a standardized norm within households. Boasting a 300% increase in views, and 1200% surge in complementary activity guide downloads, the initiative has seen a sharp spike in interaction, shares, and likes, proving to be an essential online resource for families learning at home.
Trombone Shorty is inspired by the real-life biography of Troy Andrews and his pursuit of perfecting his brass chops. Told in first person, Andrews whisks readers straight into the heart of the Tremé neighborhood in New Orleans, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and an important center of African-American and Créole culture–especially the modern brass band tradition. Shorty, as he’s called by everyone who knows him, wants to be a jazz musician like his older brother James, who plays the trumpet. Shorty practices day and night, and one afternoon, his mother takes him to the New Orleans’ Jazz and Heritage Festival. When Shorty begins playing along with the musicians on his broken-down trombone from the crowd, he catches the attention of the one and only Bo Diddley, who invites the young boy to join him on stage for a jam session and forever alters the course of his life.
“Some of the kids that read my book don’t even realize that I’m a real person. They see themselves in these characters that are their age, and then when they see me perform live, they can’t believe I’m the same person as the kid in the book,” Andrews explains. “I’m very proud of the book, it’s a personal story about coming up as a young musician playing in New Orleans, and I wanted to reach kids. One of the best rewards is when a kid comes up to me after a show and says they play trombone because they read my book. It’s great when it all comes full circle like that because it shows that music and following your heart can lead you to so many of the places you dream of.”
As with all Storyline Online® videos, Trombone Shorty is accompanied by a complementary supplemental activity guide that aligns with Common Core Standards to strengthen verbal, written and comprehension skills. Aimed at 2nd – 3rd grade students, these activities encourage children to engage in critical thinking activities and explore the themes of this book including cultural diversity, contribution, and the arts.