As this skilled duo did with Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride
, Pam Muñoz Ryan and Brian Selznick bring to life the story of yet another remarkable American woman, gifted black contralto Marian Anderson.
Undoubtedly one of America's greatest singers, Anderson was hardly known in her own country because of her race--music schools ignored her applications ("We don't take colored!") and even after she began singing professionally, many venues only featured white performers. Ryan's well-paced story becomes especially poignant as she recounts Anderson's overwhelming success in Europe ("one newspaper in Sweden called it 'Marian Fever' ... In Austria, the world-famous conductor Arturo Toscanini announced that what he had heard, one was privileged to hear only once in a hundred years"). The book reaches its climax with a wordless, deep brown two-page spread from Selznick, a crowd's-eye view of Anderson singing at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, an historic concert that drew an integrated audience of over 75,000.
Ryan's simple, metered text (punctuated frequently by lyrics) captures the quiet drama of Anderson's story, and kids will especially identify with the confusion and frustration of young Marian. And as with the pair's previous collaboration, Selznick's rich illustrations ably convey the undeniable strength and courage of a talented, determined woman. (Ages 4 to 8) --Paul Hughes
From Publishers Weekly
The creative team behind Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride returns with a picture book biography as understated and graceful as its subject, singer Marian Anderson (1897-1993). Tracing the African-American diva from her beginnings as an eight-year-old church choir wonder ("the pride of South Philadelphia") through years of struggle to rise above the racism that would delay her debut with the Metropolitan Opera until she was 57, this book masterfully distills the events in the life of an extraordinary musician. Ryan's narrative smoothly integrates biographical details with lyrics from the gospel songs Anderson made famous: a passage about the budding singer's longing to perform onstage ("Opera was simply the sun and the moon a dream that seemed too far away to reach") segues to "He's got the sun and the moon right in His hands"; "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child..." follows a 2/3 spread of the singer on the bow of a ship bound for Europe, the sun creating a halo effect. Working with a sepia-toned palette, Selznick's paintings shimmer with emotion, his range of shading as versatile as Anderson's three-octave voice. Whether depicting her as barely visible beyond the crowds at her famous 1939 concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial or in a final scene of her stepping into the spotlight at the Met, the images are striking and memorable (particularly the soulful face of Marian herself as she matures from child to woman). The author's and artist's notes, timeline and discography round out this stellar effort. Ages 6-10.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.