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.
There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake
Shelby is about to be hit by a car, in four hours. She lives an isolated life with her mother, one where she is homeschooled and doesn’t really know anyone else outside of the online forums she visits without her mother knowing. Every Friday they have a day out, one with ice cream for dinner, batting in the batting cage, and a visit to the library. There’s a cute boy there that Shelby has seen, another thing that her mother doesn’t know about. But the car is coming, and Shelby’s quiet life is about to change. After she is hit by the car, a coyote appears to her, warning her that she will be told two lies and then she will know the truth. Immediately after she is released from the hospital, her mother takes her away in a car, fleeing from dangers that only her mother understands. As Shelby begins to see her mother in a new light, she also starts leaving real life and spending time with Coyote in The Dreaming, a place where she is responsible for saving the world. And soon she will have to deal with the truth and that may be a lot harder than dealing with the lies along the way.
Lake has written a book that is a real page turner. Readers will know immediately upon meeting Shelby that something is wrong with her living situation, though it is vague enough to be almost anything. I don’t want to ruin at all that exploration of the lies and truth, because it is a large reason the book is so compelling to read. Lake has also constructed the book so it’s a count down. First readers know that the car accident is coming. Then readers will see that the chapter numbers are counting down, one after another towards another impact, one that readers know is coming but can’t avoid or quite understand yet.
One of the revelations that comes early in the book is Shelby’s deafness. Written in the first chapters without any acknowledgement, readers will be stunned by the news that Shelby is 90% deaf. Then they piece together the clues of it, the many gestures used as she communicates with her mother, the subtitles, the way her mother tells her to be careful because she is special. I appreciated this treatment so much because Shelby is a person first and then her disability is revealed. Exactly the way it should be.
Strongly written, compellingly structured, with one strong and very human heroine, this book of family, lies and truths is a riveting read. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Bloomsbury and Edelweiss.