Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell
Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell
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Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell

Written and illustrated by Selina Alko
Published by HarperCollins
Prices as of Jun 24

What Does Bookroo Think of This Book

A picture book biography of Joni Mitchell that will be most adored by fans of her life and work.

In this colorful picture book biography of singer and songwriter Joni Mitchell, Alko covers Mitchell’s life from childhood through her experimental music sessions and 1970s album with the late Charles Mingus. Joni is a creative child, spending time painting and dancing, and though her parents love her and at times encourage and support her creativity—her mom teaches her bird calls and lets her paint on the wall of her room—the order and cleanliness of their house seems stifling to Joni, who feels “like an upside-down bird on a wire” in her childhood home. The story covers her suffering with polio and hints at the isolation she feels when her mom only visits once during the six weeks she spends at the hospital, as well as her crying in the intensity of her suffering, “I will make something of myself.” Alko portrays Mitchell’s journey from Canada to New York City to California and the musicians and relationships along the way that influence and shape her music and life, including Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Leonard Cohen, James Taylor, and Graham Nash. Capturing many details of Mitchell’s life, the biography may feel long by the end, especially for those less interested in Mitchell’s life and work. Alko’s illustrations, created with acrylic paint, found objects, and wildflowers, are a remarkable collage of color, shapes, and feeling, true to the creativity and range of emotion and experience shared by Mitchell in her music. “I sing my sorrow, and I paint my joy.” An Author’s Note is included that explains Alko’s inspiration for the book and her personal connection with Mitchell and her work.

What Kind of Book is Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell


What Questions Should I Ask My Child

  • As a young girl, Joni suffered from polio. This was a trying experience that also fortified her resolve to be accomplished in her life. What challenges have inspired you?
  • Joni used music as a way of expressing her emotions, happiness, sadness, and more. Turn on some music with your young reader and talk to them about what feelings the music evokes in him or her.
  • The creative illustrations in this book are done in part with a collage of found objects. You could explain this to your young reader, then allow him or her to create an artwork using objects he or she finds over the next week.


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Book Details

Publication Date
February 25, 2020
Illustration Details
The artist used acrylic paint, collage, found objects, and wild flowers to create the illustrations for this book.
Reading Age
4 - 8 years
WorldCat Number (OCLC)

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Core Score - 59%

More than halfway there—keep going!

Depth Score - 28%

Just the barebones.

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