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I loved Jazz Owls. I am a middle school librarian and look for texts to share about how it feels to be in different places/times/situations. Jazz Owls really does that. Margarita Engle masterfully weaves together a cast of fictional characters of the time to give those of us today an idea of what it was like to live in LA during World War II when feeling alive and ready to serve the United States was experienced so differently by Mexican American men and women and teens, navy recruits, newspaper reporters and the musicians pumping the music throughout the USO dance halls. This books is rich in time period vocabulary that young readers can decode from the context or research from other sources mentioned at the end of the book. This book will significantly add to my historical fiction collection. I so appreciate that it's written.
The first thing that caught my eye about this one was the cover. And then I found out it was historical fiction AND in verse and I almost changed my mind. Y'all KNOW both of those are not my forte. But this one really ended up working for me. Navy sailors are coming from everywhere to L.A. to wait for the next ship out during WWII. To pass the time, some soldiers have began dancing to a new style of music, called jazz music. The soldiers that the girls have been dancing with are called Jazz Owls. Unfortunately, although they are dancing with the girls, they have started beating up their husbands and brothers and friends, because their skin color is different. The number one thing about this one I liked was the fact that I learned something without the book being too preachy. The main reason I don't like historical fiction is it alwys feels like a history lesson and not so much a story. This one did not feel that way at all. I always really loved Engle's writing style. I felt all the pain and sadness in each of the character's poems. It's not normal that I get that attached to a novel told in verse, but I did with this one. I got lost in the pages and ended up finishing it in one day. It's about a tough subject, but it is told in such a great way. This one wasn't one that I was expecting to read and love, so anyone that's second-guessing it, still give it a try! There is something about the lush world, the deep emotions of the characters, and amazing history lesson, that readers will not get enough of. Margarita Engle has a way of hooking her readers, no matter what their preference in books is.
This book is written like a poem and the dancing was described with flash words giving it the jump jive and wail feel. The work is historic-fiction and gives a good sense of the time and the sacrifice of immigrants (Americans!!!!) and the injustice that they face even when they give their lives for their country. I learned about the USO and the jazz owls-the girls who had to dance to pick up the spirits of the men going to war. I loved the style it was written in and the rich details. It's a wonderful book.