Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

By Katheryn Russell-Brown
Illustrated by Frank Morrison

Hardcover: $18.95

Melba Doretta Liston loved the sounds of music from as far back as she could remember. As a child, she daydreamed about beats and lyrics, and hummed along with the music from her family’s Majestic radio.

At age seven, Melba fell in love with a big, shiny trombone, and soon taught herself to play the instrument. By the time she was a teenager, Melba’s extraordinary gift for music led her to the world of jazz. She joined a band led by trumpet player Gerald Wilson and toured the country. Overcoming obstacles of race and gender, Melba went on to become a famed trombone player and arranger, spinning rhythms, harmonies, and melodies into gorgeous songs for all the jazz greats of the twentieth century: Randy Weston, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and Quincy Jones, to name just a few.

Brimming with ebullience and the joy of making music, Little Melba and Her Big Trombone is a fitting tribute to a trailblazing musician and a great unsung hero of jazz.

Explore a reading guide and learning activities for Little Melba and Her Big Trombone created by the Education Division at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for its Book of the Month program.

Check out Frank Morrison's Little Melba Playlist of his favorite jazz music.

See how the art for Little Melba and Her Big Trombone was made.

About the Creators

Thumb_katheryn_russell-brown_resize Katheryn Russell-Brown - Author

Katheryn Russell-Brown is a Professor of Law and the Director of the Center for Race and Race Relations at the University of Florida. She grew up in a family of music lovers, where jazz was an integral part of the sounds of daily life. A radio broadcast in 2008 about Liston inspired Russell-Brown to research the musician and eventually to write Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, her first picture book. Russell-Brown lives in Gainesville, Florida, with her husband and their two children. Visit her online at

Thumb_frank_morrison Frank Morrison

is the illustrator of several award-winning books published by LEE & LOW BOOKS. He has also received the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in Illustration for Jazzy Miz Mozetta. His artwork is included in many private collections, including those of Bill Cosby and Maya Angelou. Morrison lives with his family in Hampton, Georgia. To find out more about Frank Morrison, visit his Web site:

About This Title


Hardcover: 9781600608988


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Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Honor
American Library Association (ALA)

Notable Children's Book
American Library Association (ALA)

Best Children's Books of the Year: Outstanding Merit
Bank Street College of Education

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International Reading Association (IRA)

Amelia Bloomer Project - Feminist Task Force
American Library Association (ALA)

Best Books of the Year, Honorable Mention
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Best Multicultural Books
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Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC)

Delaware Diamonds Reading List
Diamond State Reading Association

Eureka! Award
California Reading Association

Louisiana Readers' Choice Award
State Library of Lousiana

NAACP Image Award Nominee

Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction, Recommended Title
National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)

Recommended Reading List: Grade 4
New York City Reads 365

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Guided Reading:




Interest Level:

Grades 1 - 5

Reading Level:

Grades 3 - 4


African/African American Interest, Biography/Memoir, Breaking Gender Barriers, Civil Rights Movement, Discrimination, Dreams & Aspirations, History, Identity/Self Esteem/Confidence, Music, Nonfiction, Overcoming Obstacles, Persistence/Grit, California, Childhood Experiences and Memories, Courage, Education, Informational Text, Jazz, Mothers, Optimism/Enthusiasm, Pride, United States History, Women's History

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