Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Jeanette Eaton’s Trumpeter’s Tale: The Story of Young Louis Armstrong is a fictionalized biography. In other words, though the story sticks to the facts of Armstrong’s life, it is written as if it were a novel, with detailed accounts of Armstrong’s thoughts and conversations from a young age. A reader with a strict concern for the truth might question how Eaton came by her knowledge of Armstrong’s innermost feelings, but it cannot be denied that, by choosing this approach, the author is able to render a compelling tale of Armstrong’s gradual winning of his way.

Being so close to the central figure, the reader can share, for example, young Armstrong’s chagrin and then fear when, partially because of mistaken identity, he is sentenced to a juvenile home. Next, the reader is moved as Armstrong slowly gains the trust of the home’s overseers and shares his joy as he is introduced to the home’s band and begins to master the instrument he is assigned in the group. Also helping make the biography come alive are the many fine illustrations by Elton Fax that picture significant moments in the musician’s life.

The book recounts the early years of Armstrong’s life, describing how he rose through pluck and perseverance from newspaper vendor and coal-cart driver to successful jazz cornetist and trumpeter, and then, after making a career as a musician, how he continued to learn and improve his playing until he was the leading...

(The entire section is 479 words.)