Hendrix for Kids, Cali Royalty and Swansongs

The Root reviews a new Jimi Hendrix children's book and listens to the latest from California King and Chocolate Genius, Inc.


Gary Golio (writer), Javaka Steptoe (illustrator)

Jimi: Sounds Like A Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Author Gary Golio and Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe have created a lyrically and visually rich book that explores the future guitar god’s vivid imagination as a child. Steptoe’s work is all the more impressive when you consider that it was done as collage, using plywood as the main pieces.

The book focuses on Hendrix’s rise to fame, specifically on his childhood in Seattle. This is Hendrix before he was Jimi, before his musical vision, technical abilities and technology came together to enable him to forge a sound that would rocket him to the top of the pantheon of guitar gods.

What the book does well is drive home the point that Hendrix had a vibrant inner life, long before he became a star. Stories about Hendrix tend to focus on the things he did — his accomplishments as a guitarist and artist. Certainly, we know he was expressive and sensitive, but here we see him struggling to connect the sounds he hears to the colors that, in his mind, correspond to them: “With every sound, a color glowed in Jimmy’s mind. Blue was the whoosh of cool water, splashing over rocks. Orange and red, the crackling of a campfire. Green, the rustle of a thousand leaves.”

This recently released children’s book, targeted to grades 4 to 8, is a great read for budding music aficionados everywhere.

California King

La Belle Epoque (New Boy Records)

I met California King back in 2008, when they were just out of the gate. They were, like a lot of bands just starting out, tentative in their performance. That said, they clearly had a lot of potential, which is why they made it onto the Boldaslove.us compilation album with their track “On Planet Earth,” which was taken from their debut album, Adoration of the Boogie Bear.

Fast-forward to 2010, and on their new album, La Belle Epoque, it’s clear that they’ve come a long way. They’re still kicking out strong, well-written songs channeled through lead singer Mike Mills’ yearning vocals. What’s different now is the noticeable fire that propels their songs. And, on top of it all, it sounds like they’re having fun!