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WHEN MARIAN SANG by Pam Muñoz Ryan Kirkus Star

WHEN MARIAN SANG

By Pam Muñoz Ryan (Author) , Brian Selznick (Illustrator)

Age Range: 6 - 10

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-439-26967-9
Publisher: Scholastic

Ryan and Selznick (Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride, 1999, etc.) reunite for another magical collaboration, this time presenting Marian Anderson to a young audience. Using the visual metaphor of an operatic presentation, the production opens on the Metropolitan Opera stage just before performance, followed by a spread in which the audience watches as the curtain rises and a street scene reveals a tiny figure singing in a brightly-lit window. The shape of the volume lends itself to the broad sweep of the stage and even the title page reads like the show’s program. Anderson’s story is perhaps not well known to younger children, but Ryan does a good job of making it accessible. In simply stated prose she acquaints young readers, who may be disbelieving, with a time of social injustice when a person of color could not pursue a professional career in concert music and it was an act of personal courage to sing before racially mixed audiences. Verses of Anderson’s most famous songs are included as they have meaningful application for events. The account includes the most notable episode in her life when, denied access to Washington’s Constitution Hall because of her race, Marian sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before a crowd of thousands—black and white. Selznick’s carefully researched, sepia-toned, acrylic illustrations dramatize Anderson’s strong, handsome face on most pages. That face is faithfully and powerfully rendered, eyes closed when singing, with an intense, almost sublime engagement in her music. The work culminates with another history-making moment when she realizes her dream and becomes the first African-American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera. Selznick depicts her in this spread standing triumphantly in the spotlight, a vivid spot of color in an otherwise monochromatic treatment. A lengthy “encore” includes personal details and history from both author and illustrator; an “ovation” cites resources. Perfectly paced and perfectly pitched, this never loses sight of the fact that Marian Anderson was both a world-class musician and a powerful symbol to her people. A bravura performance. (notable dates, discography) (Picture book/<\b>biography. 6-10)