Thursday, October 8, 2009

REVIEW: Theo and the Blue Note

Kuper, P. (2006). Theo and the Blue Note. New York: Viking.


Theo the cat is learning to play the saxophone, but is having trouble playing anything beside a blue note (a flatted note). What initially seems as a "work hard, practice, and improve" story takes a surprising turn when Theo discovers that an alien vaguely-saxophone-shaped space ship lands in his backyard.

Inside, Theo finds a jukebox that plays Theo's favorite songs and literally blasts him off to the moon as he enjoys the tunes. THEN the story takes on a "you can do it, you can achieve anything" tone.

I like the word play Theo and the Blue Note does with the moon. At first, Theo believes his dream of playing more notes is as far away as the moon. Then he goes to the moon to learn. Then things are only as far away as the moon. Huzzah! Well done.

The colors, and re-imagining of a spaceship as a musical instrument and an Apollo lander as a jazz club are entertaining and show the power music can have on a person's ideas.


This book can be used to help motivate young musicians, especially saxophonists through frustrating moments when they feel like they'll never "get this piece right." Theo and the Blue Note can also be used to discuss music theory and the scales.

As a teacher reads this book aloud, he or she could play some jazz in the background and connect it to a larger lesson on jazz music and some of the jazz greats that are indirectly referenced with animal names like "Duck Ellington." Another option is to discuss the Apollo trips to the moon and the actual science of rocket ships.

As an activity, a teacher could have students draw while listening to jazz music, imaging that they're seeing colors or shapes as they listen.

Quotes of Note:

"Theo love the saxophone so much he practiced day and night. But all he managed to learn was one blue note."

"Mastering the sax seemed as far out of Theo's reach as the rising moon."

"Before you could say be-bop...Theo had reached the moon!"

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