Sterling Crawford is a young kid living on the streets of New Orleans. It's 1906 and he's trying to support his mother who launders clothes for white people. Sterling plays trumpet, and what he'd really like is to learn from his idol, the legendary Buddy Bolden, who is playing a new kind of music that's turning New Orleans upside down.
Historically, not only is Bolden regarded as one of the founders of American jazz, but through the pages of this vivid novel, you will discover others whose genius created modern music. The beat and the strains of jazz surged into life even while African Americans struggled against deep racial divisions of the time: curfews designed to keep Black people out of the streets, a loaded justice system, and racial barriers that divided a nation.
For Sterling, life is not easy, but in the end he finds his way in this new and challenging musical world in this richly textured story of a culture that thrives against all odds.
"Welldon's early-20th-century New Orleans leaps off the pages and dances across the imagination, creating a vivid, tangible landscape, with the Louisiana heat steaming from each paragraph. Sterling's journey is common to many Black boys all over America, with dreams detoured at the whim of White people. However, Sterling's story is bracing and never without hope. A bluesy tale of talent and triumph."
— Kirkus Starred Review
"Kid Sterling is a gritty, timely novel that will engage readers of all ages.
— CM Magazine
"A book that pulses with a bluesy beat that whisks readers back in time to New Orleans in 1906 when Buddy Bolden was King and turning the musical world upside down. Told from the perspective of 11-year-old Sterling Crawford, this isn't just Bolden's story about the founding of jazz, it's a powerful portrait of a young artist as he pulses with the passion to create and begins to find ways to follow his artistic dreams. It's also a novel that seethes with the racial tensions that still pull communities apart. But ultimately, Sterling sings the music he wants to make."
— The Globe & Mail
"A thought-provoking historical novel and a truly inspirational story about following your dreams."
— Calgary Herald
"A well-paced and gripping narrative"
— Professor Ajay Heble, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph
"The author's thoughtful rendering of dialect accurately captures the vernacular of the era, lending an authenticity that draws the reader in."
— Andrea Kortenhoven, PhD Linguistics, Alumna, Stanford University
"A well-paced and gripping narrative that excels not only at capturing the young protagonist's deep love of, and commitment to, jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden's music, but also at offering us a powerful, and often very moving, account of some of the kinds of struggles, particularly around issues of race and class, that would have been part of the context of the day for a young boy, like Sterling, growing up in New Orleans."
— Professor Ajay Heble, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph; Director, International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation; Artistic Director Emeritus and Founding Artistic Director (1994-2016), The Guelph Jazz Festival
"Of a time and place, not only of a culture. . . the story is convincing and respectful of the characters and their humanity."
— Chris Benjamin, Managing Editor, Atlantic Books Today; Canada Reads Top Essential Books list, Author of Drive By Saviours, winner of the H.R. Percy Prize