Little Rosetta and the Talking Guitar

The Musical Story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Woman Who Invented Rock and Roll

Look inside
A picture-book biography of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the woman who invented rock and roll—a warm, inspiring tale of a childhood filled with music, community, and a drive to succeed.

"Music is the heart of our story," says Momma to young Rosetta, surprising her with her first guitar. Rosetta's strums sound like ker-plunks. But with practice and determination, she makes music, fingers hopping "like corn in a kettle," notes pouring over the church crowd "like summer rain washing the dust off a new day."

In this stunning picture book, author and illustrator Charnelle Pinkney Barlow imagines the childhood of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose rural roots inspired the music we still hear today.

Young readers will see a child's dream become reality through hard work and perseverance. And they'll learn the overlooked story of a pioneering Black artist, whose contribution to music history is only now being discovered.
CHARNELLE PINKNEY BARLOW received her BFA in llustration from the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, and her MFA in the Illustration as Visual Essay from the School of Visual Arts, New York. Charnelle’s children's book illustrations include Everything in Its PlaceThe Real Santa, and Remember to Dream, Ebere. Charnelle lives in Indianapolis with her husband. When she's not drawing, she is baking, sewing, or reading with a cup of tea by her side. Find her online at callmechartreuse.com and follow her on Instagram at @callmechartreuse. View titles by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
  • SELECTION | 2024
    ALA Notable Children's Book
★ "Pinkney Barlow smartly uses lively onomatopoeia and crisp, textured collage art to layer the origins of the subject’s sound onto every page."— Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ "Perhaps most impressive is the sense of place achieved by both text and art: Readers will truly feel as though they’ve visited Cotton Plant and met many of its animated, expressive denizens."BookPage, starred review

"Barlow captures the delight of [Tharpe’s] voice in her new picture book.”—The New York Times

"
An inspiring story that may encourage others to pick up an instrument and make it speak."—The Horn Book

"Speaks to all children with music in their heads while introducing an unjustly little-known pioneer."—Kirkus Reviews

"[A] pitch-perfect picture-book biography. . . . This upbeat, harmonious portrait of the “Godmother of Rock and Roll” as a child hits all the right notes."—Booklist

"An overdue narrative of one of early rock’s most influential figures."—School Library Journal

"Fabulous."—The Globe and Mail

“Onomatopoeia brings a playful rhythm as “Little Rosetta” finds inspiration in everyday moments, and her journey from novice musician to fluent guitarist is relayed with authentic struggles and self-doubt.” —The Bulletin

“'Little Rosetta' finds inspiration in everyday moments, and her journey from novice musician to fluent guitarist is relayed with authentic struggles and self-doubt."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

About

A picture-book biography of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the woman who invented rock and roll—a warm, inspiring tale of a childhood filled with music, community, and a drive to succeed.

"Music is the heart of our story," says Momma to young Rosetta, surprising her with her first guitar. Rosetta's strums sound like ker-plunks. But with practice and determination, she makes music, fingers hopping "like corn in a kettle," notes pouring over the church crowd "like summer rain washing the dust off a new day."

In this stunning picture book, author and illustrator Charnelle Pinkney Barlow imagines the childhood of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose rural roots inspired the music we still hear today.

Young readers will see a child's dream become reality through hard work and perseverance. And they'll learn the overlooked story of a pioneering Black artist, whose contribution to music history is only now being discovered.

Author

CHARNELLE PINKNEY BARLOW received her BFA in llustration from the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, and her MFA in the Illustration as Visual Essay from the School of Visual Arts, New York. Charnelle’s children's book illustrations include Everything in Its PlaceThe Real Santa, and Remember to Dream, Ebere. Charnelle lives in Indianapolis with her husband. When she's not drawing, she is baking, sewing, or reading with a cup of tea by her side. Find her online at callmechartreuse.com and follow her on Instagram at @callmechartreuse. View titles by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow

Awards

  • SELECTION | 2024
    ALA Notable Children's Book

Praise

★ "Pinkney Barlow smartly uses lively onomatopoeia and crisp, textured collage art to layer the origins of the subject’s sound onto every page."— Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ "Perhaps most impressive is the sense of place achieved by both text and art: Readers will truly feel as though they’ve visited Cotton Plant and met many of its animated, expressive denizens."BookPage, starred review

"Barlow captures the delight of [Tharpe’s] voice in her new picture book.”—The New York Times

"
An inspiring story that may encourage others to pick up an instrument and make it speak."—The Horn Book

"Speaks to all children with music in their heads while introducing an unjustly little-known pioneer."—Kirkus Reviews

"[A] pitch-perfect picture-book biography. . . . This upbeat, harmonious portrait of the “Godmother of Rock and Roll” as a child hits all the right notes."—Booklist

"An overdue narrative of one of early rock’s most influential figures."—School Library Journal

"Fabulous."—The Globe and Mail

“Onomatopoeia brings a playful rhythm as “Little Rosetta” finds inspiration in everyday moments, and her journey from novice musician to fluent guitarist is relayed with authentic struggles and self-doubt.” —The Bulletin

“'Little Rosetta' finds inspiration in everyday moments, and her journey from novice musician to fluent guitarist is relayed with authentic struggles and self-doubt."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

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