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Jukebox: 07/27/21

Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani

Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani is a middle grade graphic novel set in San Francisco and throughout the last hundred years. The book takes the reader through some key points in U.S. history with a playlist as its roadmap.

The first recognizable jukebox was developed in San Francisco 1890 by Louis Glass and William S. Arnold, using a modified Edison Class M phonograph. But the classic jukebox, the one that inspired this book, were designed originally by the Wurlitzer company (makers of fantastic theater organs too). The word jukebox was also coined in the 1940s.

What the jukeboxes played has changed over the years. First rolls of paper to drive instruments. Then cylinders. Then 78s. Then 45 singles. The jukeboxes talked about in Nidhi Chanani's were ones that played the singles.

The premise here, though, is that a jukebox repairman turned record store owner, built his own supersized jukebox capable of playing full albums. Since Shaheen and cousin Tannaz find and play full albums from different points in music history, as far back as the 1920s, one has to assume that the jukebox is adaptable enough to play different speeds and different thicknesses of records. In the real world, different types of records require different kinds of needles: sapphire, diamond, steel. Interestingly the fictional giant jukebox uses a magic diamond stylus.

Narrationally, knowing the history of the jukebox or recorded music isn't necessary. Shaheen and Tannaz learn what they need to know through trial and error as they search for Shaheen's missing father and the missing store owner. The story itself evolves organically at a satisfying pace.

Along with the mystery of the two missing men, Jukebox is a journey through American music and American history. There is also good representation with an ethnically diverse cast of characters, as well as a bi character and possibly an ace character.

The cousins' journey is set in the road narrative spectrum. As they are cousins, they are a family of travelers (33). Their destination is some unknown point in time, thus uhoria (CC). Their route is offroad, in that they are going through a jukebox and music generated portal each time.

See also: "Jukeboxes," Wikipedia (accessed July 23, 2021)

Five stars

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