Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Raul Colon
This picture book biography looks at the life of Leontyne Price, an African-American opera singer who burst through the color barrier. Born in Mississippi in 1927, Leontyne grew up poor in money but rich in music from both her parents. They also taught her that she was just as good as anyone else, no matter what their color. Leontyne was inspired when she saw Marian Anderson perform and then got to sing in the church choir when Anderson performed in 1939 after being barred from a whites-only concert hall. Leontyne headed to Ohio to college where she planned to be a teacher, but when her voice was discovered she changed her major to voice. She then went to Julliard and on to the world stage where she sang on Broadway in Porgy and Bess. She became the first black singer to star at La Scala and broke wide the door that Marian Anderson had first opened.
Weatherford writes in prose that reads like poetry, broken into stanzas and offering celebrations of this inspiring woman on the page. From the pride and power of her upbringing by her parents to the final pages that show how far she has come, the book captures the strength and determination that it took to take a natural gift and break down barriers with it. Weatherford’s words are filled with moments that are inspiring, times that are amazing, but she also keeps things down to earth, showing even on the final page that Price is entirely human even as she reaches incredible heights in her career.
Colon’s illustrations are beautiful. Filled with his trademark scratches and lines, they have a beautiful flowing texture that carries from one image to the next. He uses sweeping colors to show the beauty of the music coming from both Price and Anderson, filling the world with the colors of music.
A beautiful and powerful testament to one of the ground breaking artists of our time. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Knopf Books for Young Readers.