Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums

Written & Illustrated by: 

Moira Rose Donohue & Laura Freeman

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered:

  • Historical Figures
  • Musicians
  • Jazz
  • Black Culture & Identity
  • Trailblazers



Tippity-Tappity Scritchedy-Scratchedy, William Henry “Chick” Webb was always on the drums…even when he didn’t own any! Diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis and accidentally falling down some stairs when he was a child caused William to need surgery and stunted his growth. His doctor suggested Chick play the drums to regain arm strength, and a lifelong career was catalyzed.

Nicknamed “Chicken” initially, it was shortened to Chick. Chick used wooden spoons and beat out rhythms everywhere and on anything he could, until selling enough newspapers to buy drumsticks and a drum set. By the time he was a teenager, four feet one inch tall Chick was regularly playing gigs onstage. After a fateful battle of the bands at the Savoy Ballroom, Chick became infamous for his band beating Benny Goodman and his band.

Chick Webb was a staple of the Harlem Renaissance, and this story gives a wonderful overview of his life, culminating in his big win against Benny Goodman. The illustrations are brightly colored, conveying music and movement. I love the way artist Laura Freeman shows Chick’s hands blurred because he’s drumming so quickly. It makes the reader feel like they’re in the front row, watching and bopping to the music that these Jazz greats are so well known for.

This book was kindly sent by Sleeping Bear Press and is out today! All opinions are my own.

Moira Rose Donohue

Moira writes mostly nonfiction books at the third grade level. She never thought I would fall in love with nonfiction, but once Moira wrote her first biography, she couldn’t stop writing it. She lives in Florida!

Laura Freeman

From her website: “Originally from New York City, I now live in Atlanta with my husband and our two children. I received my BFA from the School of Visual Arts and began my career working for various editorial clients. I have illustrated over thirty children’s books, including Hidden Figures written by Margot Lee Shetterly, the Nikki & Deja series by Karen English and Fancy Party Gowns by Deborah Blumenthal. In addition to illustrating books and editorial content, my art can be found on a wide range of products, from dishes and textiles to greeting cards.”