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Riding on Duke's Train
A novel by Mick Carlon

“In schools where students are lucky enough to experience classroom jazz studies, this title, combining rich musical history and a “you are there” approach, is a natural.” Kirkus

A 2012 Paterson Prize Honor Book, Books for Young People

SO THERE I WAS IN OLD PARIS, gazing over the gypsy’s glowing crystal ball with Rex. “What do you see, Madame?” Rex asked her, shooting me a wink.

The wrinkly woman looked up. “Do you like hamburgers?”
she asked.

Rex chuckled. “Well, sure—who doesn’t?”
Two bloodshot eyes lingered first on me, then on Rex. I could feel the tingles zig-zagging up my spine.

“Don’t,” she said. “That will be ten francs.”

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watch the book trailer

Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Ken Kimmelman is currently looking for investors for an animated film of Riding on Duke's Train.

The screenplay “Riding on Duke’s Train” by Ken Kimmelman and Mick Carlon was awarded Winning Feature Script by the Harlem International Film Festival on Sept. 18. 2016.

Harlem international Film Festival Award Winners

Read the proposal here

Letter of endorsment from Jazz at Lincoln Center

Ken Kimmelman biography


Nine-year-old Danny stows away on a Georgia trainthe train of Duke Ellington. Through Danny's eyes, we meet some of America's finest musicians as he accompanies them on their 1939 European tour, when the train was briefly held in Nazi Germany. Says Nat Hentoff, "I knew Duke Ellington for 25 years. The Ellington in this book is the man I knew."

Also by Mick Carlon:

Travels with Louis by Mick Carlon

Watch Mick Carlon's TEDx talk: How Louis Armstrong Transformed the Twentieth Century here.

"In addition to my books on jazz--having written such novels for young readers as Jazz Country and The Day They Came to Arrest the Book--I knew Duke Ellington, who was one of my mentors. I'm certain Duke would have recognized himself in Mick Carlon's Riding on Duke's Train. From reading this novel, many young readers here and around the world will be impelled to hear Duke's music and to read more and more about the international language that jazz has become. Duke used to say that the individual sound of a musician revealed his soul. Mick Carlon is a 'soul' storyteller."

—Nat Hentoff, author of The Jazz Life; Listen to the Stories; kids’ novels Jazz Country and The Day They Came to Arrest the Book; and, most recently, At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Jazz Scene.

Utilizing his encompassing knowledge of Ellington’s music, personnel and decades-long touring, Carlon…presents a kid’s-eye view whose drama centers on the band’s 1939 European tour…. Danny, orphaned at 9, stows away on Duke’s tour train…. Danny narrates a life of touring: exciting, sometimes boring, rich with musical highs and adoring fans worldwide. Tension ratchets during the tour abroad, as Belgians hide machine guns in haystacks and Nazis detain the band’s Scandinavian-bound train for hours in Hamburg. Carlon unflinchingly characterizes the Nazi hatred of “Niggermusik.” Two references to the n-word contextualize it appropriately, as a reprehensible tool of Nazi hate speech. In schools where students are lucky enough to experience classroom jazz studies, this title, combining rich musical history and a “you are there” approach, is a natural.(Historical fiction. 8-12)


"Amazingly convincing and authentic characterizations and settings make Riding on Duke's Train a thoroughly enjoyable (and historically and musically instructive) read."

—Dan Morgenstern, director, Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University; Author, "Living With Jazz" (Pantheon Books). Mr. Morgenstern has won more Grammies (for his liner-notes) than any other writer.

"We've known and loved Duke Ellington's music for over 70 years, but through Mick Carlon's extraordinary novel, Riding on Duke's Train, the reader encounters not only Duke's genius, but his character and humanity. In addition, the reader meets the members of the Ellington Orchestra, the virtuosos for whom Ellington composed his music. This is one train you won't want to get off!"

—Dick Golden, George Washington University Staff
Radio Host, "George Washington University Presents American Jazz," broadcast weekly on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio

"The only valid model for that publishing dream--good juvenile writing that also appeals to adults--isn't J.K. Rowling, but Robert Louis Stevenson, who kept sufficiently in touch with the child in himself to speak to all ages. Mick Carlon possesses that same quality: a clarity of diction; impatience with literariness; and a youthful impatience to get on with the story. Stevenson would surely have approved of Riding on Duke's Train, a ripping good yarn that plunges the reader into the world of Duke Ellington and the Europe and America of 1939."  Brian Morton

—Brian Morton, author of The Penguin Guide to Jazz and books on Edgar Allan Poe, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Woodrow Wilson; and, under a pseudonym, several works of fiction

"In the 1960s I took photographs at every one of Duke Ellington's New York recording sessions. I knew Duke, Johnny "Rabbit" Hodges and Harry Carney. Carlon has captured these men so accurately in Riding on Duke's Train that reading the story actually brought tears to my eyes. This is the way they were, folks."

—Jack Bradley, Jazz Photographer

ForeWord Reviews, recommended books for middle readers:

After innocently hitching a ride on a train one night, nine-year-old orphan Danny’s life takes a turn for the marvelous. It’s 1937, and the train happens to transport Duke Ellington and his orchestra. Temporarily adopted by the group of compassionate men, Danny accompanies them on a European tour two years later and experiences first-hand the hatred of the Nazis and the love of the French people for Ellington’s music and vibe. This enthralling book is an adventure story with a smart, historical framework, one that has been lauded by jazz critics and those who knew the Duke. Ages nine and up.


Riding on Duke's Train book trailer

CATEGORY: Middle Grade Novel
Trade Paperback $9.95
ISBN 978-1-935248-064
176 Pages
* A LeapKids Book

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