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From acclaimed author and illustrator pairing comes a beautiful picture book biography about the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin and how she fought for respect throughout her life.

Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul, a legend. But before she became a star, she was a shy little girl with a voice so powerful it made people jump up, sway, and hum along.

Raised in a house full of talking and singing, Aretha learned the values that would carry her through life--from her church choir in Detroit to stages across the world. When she moved to New York City to start her career, it took years of hard work before she had a hit song. In the turbulent 1960s, she sang about "Respect" and refused to perform before segregated audiences. The first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Aretha always remembered who she was and where she came from.

In this stirring biography of a true artistic and social icon, award-winning creators Katheryn Russell-Brown and Laura Freeman show young readers how Aretha's talent, intelligence, and perseverance made her a star who will shine on for generations to come.

Acclaim for Little Melba and Her Big Trombone
2015 NAACP Image Award Nominee Outstanding Literary Work--Children
2015 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Honor
2015 ALA Notable Children's Book
2015 Amelia Bloomer Project - Feminist Task Force
2015 Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction, Recommended Title

Author Notes

Katheryn Russell-Brown is the author of Little Melba and Her Big Trombone , which received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, the Eureka! Honor Award, was nominated for the NAACP Image Award, and was named a Best Book of 2014 by Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature, among others. She is a professor of Law and the director of the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations at the University of Florida. Katheryn grew up in a family of music lovers, where R & B was an integral part of the sounds of daily life. She lives in Gainesville, FL.
Laura Freeman received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and began her career working for various editorial clients. Freeman has illustrated more than twenty children's books, including Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor winner Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, the Nikki & Deja series by Karen English, and Fancy Party Gowns by Deborah Blumenthal. In addition to illustrated books and other media, her art can be found enlivening dishes, textiles, greeting cards, and many other products. Originally from New York City, she now lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children.

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1--2--Shy young Aretha Franklin found her voice singing in the choir at her father's Detroit church. An early family tragedy taught her to draw strength from her sadness and use her talent to inspire and empower those around her, like the civil rights icons of her generation. Franklin's power shines through lush illustrations in bold, royal colors. In one scene, the singer is dressed in a sunshine yellow dress. President Obama wipes away a tear as he listens to Franklin. A sense of time and place are evoked with striking choices in hair and dress, visually emphasizing her indelible place in American culture. The text effectively describes the singer's ties to the civil rights movement and spotlights her importance as an enduring symbol of hope. VERDICT This richly detailed look at the Queen of Soul is an essential biography of an American icon.--Savannah Kitchens, Parnell Memorial Library, Montevallo, AL

Publisher's Weekly Review

Shades of purple and gold predominate in this laudatory picture book biography of the Queen of Soul. Tracing Aretha Franklin's life from her 1940s--'50s childhood in Detroit, singing as part of her pastor father C.L. Franklin's "Gospel Caravan," to performing for President Barack Obama (pictured, but not named), it covers the major moments in the life and career of this musical legend--the death of her mother, her first church solo, the years of work and performance before she had a hit, and her eventual stratospheric success. Franklin's ongoing support of civil rights is a recurring theme: "Aretha sang only where people of all races could attend" and she "performed in lots of concerts to raise money for civil rights groups." Freeman's clear, crisp illustrations add welcome vibrancy to the text's straightforward narrative style. Additional biographical information and extensive notes from the author and illustrator are included. Ages 4--8. (Jan.)

Kirkus Review

"Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin was once a shy child afraid to sing in front of a large audience. However, she came to learn that through music, she could ease her own pain and help others.This thoughtfully illustrated biography of Aretha Franklin paints a clear picture of the artist from the time she was a child grappling with the loss of her mother in 1952 through refusing to sing before segregated audiences during the 1960s to winning multiple awards and honors. The narrative covers Aretha's introduction to entertainers like Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald as well as to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.all were often visitors of her father, famed preacher C.L. Franklin, at their Detroit, Michigan, home. The book moves fluidly through one phase of Aretha's life and career to the next. The illustrations are vivid, and those of Aretha singing are full of emotion. Aretha is often dressed in gold to signify her queenly stature, and Freeman hides small crowns throughout the pages, often on Aretha herself. The final spread, featuring four overlapping, sequential images of Aretha Franklin at different stages in her music career against a white background, is especially well done and even moving. The backmatter begins with a two-page spread of photographs and more information about Aretha's life; it's followed by a list of songs that younger listeners can look up and hear for themselves.An excellent introduction to an American icon. (Picture book/biography. 4-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

This beautifully illustrated look at the life of the world-renowned Queen of Soul is a sensational introduction for young readers to the artist's life and body of work. Starting with Franklin's beginnings as a choir member and soloist at her father's church in Detroit, Russell-Brown (Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, 2014) highlights how a religious upbringing and ties to the burgeoning American civil rights movement influenced Franklin's trajectory as a singer and an icon. While Franklin's sadness over the loss of her mother is discussed, mention of her depression, drug use, and marital woes are largely avoided. Thankfully, Freeman's (Hidden Figures, 2018) interpretations of Franklin's various sartorial ensembles serve to move the story from decade to decade and the outfits will be instantly recognizable to fans. An excellent addition to children's biography collections, this pairs well with Renée Watson's Harlem's Little Blackbird (2012), Patricia Hruby Powell's Josephine (2014), and Andrea Davis Pinkney's Rhythm Ride (2015) for more tales of historical Black musical excellence.--Shaunterria Owens Copyright 2019 Booklist