MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD

THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE

A good volume to include in a larger conversation about friendship, allyship, and social justice.

Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe were mutual supporters according to this historical picture book.

Ella and Marilyn were different on the outside, but both were “full of hopes and dreams” while their circumstances were humble. After they got their big breaks, Ella in jazz singing and Marilyn in acting, each struggled to reach her full potential. In the United States, Ella faced barriers due to racism and places that only hired “glamorous” stars. Marilyn got plenty of roles, but as a woman in an industry run by men, she lacked control over her career. When she got a script with a big singing role, she listened to her favorite singer, Ella, to practice for it. The movie was a hit, and Marilyn was finally able to get her voice heard as a professional. She went to thank Ella in person at one of Ella’s shows, and the two talked into the night. When Marilyn learned of the barriers Ella faced, she used her star status to negotiate a performance for Ella at a popular nightclub. While Marilyn is shown attaining fame first, this warm story emphasizes Ella’s role in her success, thus avoiding the trap of the white-savior narrative. Many white artists have benefited from imitating black ones; this is the rare narrative to acknowledge that. Harris’ illustrations are stiff but engaging; saturated with color, they capture the iconic looks of the two stars.

A good volume to include in a larger conversation about friendship, allyship, and social justice. (author’s note, sources) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0915-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

MORE THAN PEACH

An inspirational look at one girl’s quest to make sure that all skin tones are visible and available in the classroom.

A Black girl’s simple observation propels her into activism.

Woodard, who launched the More Than Peach Project—which arranges for classrooms and children in need to receive kits that include art supplies and boxes of multicultural crayons (crayons in a variety of skin tones)—relates the incident that sparked her journey. As the book begins, she is dropped off at school and notices that her family’s skin tone differs from that of her classmates. While it is clear that she is one of a few children of color at school, that difference isn’t really felt until her friends start asking for the “skin-color” crayon when they mean peach. She’s bothered that no one else seems to notice that skin comes in many colors, so she devises a unique way of bringing everyone’s attention to that fact. With support from her family and her school, she encourages her fellow classmates to rethink their language and starts an initiative to ensure that everyone’s skin tone is represented in each crayon box. Appealing, realistic artwork depicts Woodard’s experiences, while endpapers feature More Than Peach crayon boxes and childlike illustrations of kids of different ethnicities doing various activities. The story is stirring and will motivate budding activists. (This book was reviewed digitally; the review has been updated for factual accuracy.)

An inspirational look at one girl’s quest to make sure that all skin tones are visible and available in the classroom. (note from Woodard, information on Woodard’s journey into activism, instructions on starting a drive) (Picture-book biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-80927-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

DEAR RUBY, HEAR OUR HEARTS

Anemic messages of hope from an iconic activist.

Civil rights legend Bridges encourages young people to persevere.

After becoming the face of school integration at just 6 years old, Bridges continued to further her legacy by visiting schools across the U.S. Over the past 25 years, she has received letters from thousands of students with “ideas and concerns that ran deeper than we grown-ups gave them credit for.” In her latest book for kids, Bridges responds to notes from children grappling with political and social crises, including anti-Asian racism, climate change, and gun violence. The issues that matter to young Americans come alive in Cabuay’s energetic illustrations, which make deft use of color and texture. On one spread, a short, brown-skinned child named Tala, bullied for being short, strides confidently down a school hallway past classmates who whisper and laugh. In the accompanying letter, Tala talks about drawing strength from Bridges’ bravery; Bridges’ reply emphasizes that “it’s okay to be different because what really matters is your heart and what’s inside!” The correspondences are brief, barely skimming the surface, and Bridges’ messages are too general to have a genuine impact. Backmatter, which includes a glossary with pronunciation guides, is helpful but does little to connect Bridges’ historic contributions to the issues young people are facing today. This picture book’s superficial discussion of important topics doesn’t live up to Bridges’ advocacy or Cabuay’s dynamic art.

Anemic messages of hope from an iconic activist. (more information on Bridges) (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781338753912

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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