Stalebread Charlie and the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band

Author: Michael Mahin

Illustrator: Don Tate

Published: July, 2018

Publisher: Clarion Books

Based on a true story, a vibrant, inspirational picture book about self-reliance and the power of creativity and music, in which a group of hungry homeless kids in 19th century New Orleans build their own musical instruments from discarded items and become a successful band.

It’s 1895, and ten-year-old Stalebread Charlie and his friend Warm Gravy roam the streets of New Orleans, homeless and hungry. Stalebread has heard folks say that music feeds the soul—and he wonders if it could also fill their bellies. Soon he and his friends are playing instruments made out of junk—a fiddle from a cigar box, a kazoo from a comb—until their hats are filled with coins, their bellies are filled with beignets, and their souls are filled with music. This inspiring make-lemonade-from-lemons tale includes author/illustrator notes about the real Stalebread and the research behind the book and a make-your-own-instrument activity.



“An upbeat introduction to the scrappy origins of a little-known bit of American musical history. ”


Publishers Weekly

“The story uses onomatopoeias—“Sing-Taka-Taka,” “Scatta-Pat-Scat,” and “Skippity-Bippity-Skip”—to convey the band’s sound, and buoyant illustrations by Tate (Strong as Sandow) show a lively depiction of street life. But the book succeeds as a prompt for readers to learn more about these seminal young musicians. ”


School Library Journal

“[An] author’s note discusses the history of the spasm bands and jazz, but most welcome is the illustrator’s explanation that follows, which acknowledges the role that African Americans had in creating jazz but explain that Tate’s pictures accurately depict the spasm band’s white members. These extras elevate the book from a pleasant story to a worthwhile teaching tool. VERDICT: Units on music and of American history will benefit from this jaunty tale.”


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