Sonny’s Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Finds His Groove by Barry Wittenstein



Sonny Rollins was born during the Harlem Renaissance; a time when jazz exploded all over the city. The movement cultivated genius musicians who grabbed the attention of music lovers everywhere. One entertainer caught Sonny Rollins’s eye. His name was Louis Jordan, and his sharp tuxedo and star appeal fascinated Rollins. Rollins dreamed of becoming a saxophone player like Jordan. A few years later, Rollins starts playing the saxophone and begins a focused journey to stardom.

The story of Sonny’s Bridge reads like a jazz song. Syncopated notes of jazz greats and historical events emerge throughout the text. The conversational language flows with a creative tempo. Interesting use of punctuation enhances the rhythm of the story.

Readers will appreciate the illustrations by Keith Mallett. He captured movements in dance, music and light with his artwork. The engaging images point to the influence jazz had in Harlem in the early 1900s. Emerging readers will be able to read the illustrations and understand the storyline.

Extra information is added at the end of the book. There is a note from the author explaining how jazz entered his life. There is also information about The Bridge album, a timeline, quotes, websites, videos and a bibliography.


Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Curate/Create IV.B.4 Learners gather information appropriate to the task by organizing information by priority, topic, or other systematic scheme.

Gather Information

Readers may find themselves asking questions about the musicians mentioned in this book. Invite learners to work in groups and research the musicians. Curate information using Padlet, a Google Doc or SeeSaw.

Organize Information

Ask groups to share highlights from their research. Consider common threads with the musicians.

Tell learners that they will create a class ebook, slideshow or electronic pinboard about the musicians. Explain that the presentation should be cohesive. Brainstorm theme ideas and common elements for the digital presentation.


Engage learners in a discussion of giving credit to information used in the presentation. Point to the bibliography in Sonny’s Bridge. Ask why it’s important to make note of these resources. Use the bibliography to model how to cite work.

Cover of Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini.
If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included.

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