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Cover image for When Marian sang : the true recital of Marian Anderson : the voice of a century
When Marian sang : the true recital of Marian Anderson : the voice of a century
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Scholastic Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
1 v. (unpaged) : col. ill. ; 26 x 32 cm.
Reading Level:
920 L Lexile
Personal Subject:
Added Author:
An introduction to the life of Marian Anderson, extraordinary singer and civil rights activist, who was the first African American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera, whose life and career encouraged social change.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 921 ANDERSON 1 1
Book J 921 ANDERSON 0 1
Book J 921 ANDERSON 1 1
Book J 921 ANDERSON 0 1
Book J 921 ANDERSON 1 1

On Order



Marian Anderson is best known for her historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, which drew an integrated crowd of 75,000 people in pre-Civil Rights America. While this momentous event showcased the uniqueness of her voice, the strength of her character, and the struggles of the times in which she lived, it is only part of her story. Like the operatic arias Marian would come to sing, Ryan's text is as moving as a libretto, and Selznick's pictures as exquisitely detailed and elaborately designed as a stage set. What emerges most profoundly from their shared vision is a role model of courage.

Author Notes

Author Pam Muñoz Ryan was born in Bakersfield, California on December 25, 1951. She received a B. A. in child development and a M. A. in education from San Diego State University. Before becoming a full-time author, she worked as a bilingual Head Start teacher and as an early childhood program administrator. At first, she wrote adult books about child development, but soon switched to writing children's books.

She has written over twenty-five picture books, novels, and nonfiction books for young readers. The novel Esperanza Rising, winner of the Pura Belpre Medal, the Jane Addams Peace Award, an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults, and the Americas Award Honor Book, is based on her own grandmother's immigration from Mexico to California. Riding Freedom has also won many awards including the national Willa Cather Award and the California Young Reader Medal. When Marian Sang, a picture book about singer Marian Anderson, won numerous awards including the ALA Sibert Honor and NCTE's Orbis Pictus Award. In 2015 her title Echo made The New York Times Best Seller List. She also won a Kirkus Prize in the children's literature category with her title 'Echo'.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate) Although this picture-book biography of the acclaimed American contralto doesn't play as fast and loose with the facts as did Ryan and Selznick's similarly formatted (and similarly lavish) Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride, it does indulge in a similar mythification. Marian Ander-son's first European tour was not the unqualified success this book would have it; her audition with maestro Giuseppe Boghetti was not the dramatic scena depicted here; her career was built as much on Bach and Brahms as it was on spirituals, whose verses are sometimes employed awkwardly here to convey Anderson's state of mind at various pivotal moments. And oddly, the keynote of the Anderson myth-being kept out of Constitution Hall by the D.A.R.-is here muted, the Daughters unnamed until the author's supplemental note. But while Anderson herself was a modest woman, her career was big and glamorous, and significant in both musical and social terms, and Ryan and Selznick get all this right. The large double-page spreads are impressive in sweep and scale but keep their humanity by using a limited palette re-creating the tones of old sepia photographs; judicious sky-blue accents keep the sun shining. Some of the portraits of Anderson recall famous photos of the singer, and throughout both the pictures and text there's an intimacy of tone that gives life to the legend. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Review

Interspersed with the spiritual songs she sang and including lengthy author's notes, this picture book traces Marian Anderson's history-making career. Add Ryan's Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride (Scholastic, 1999. ISBN 0-590-96075-X) to bring three exceptional women to the classroom. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

The creative team behind Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride returns with a picture book biography as understated and graceful as its subject, singer Marian Anderson (1897-1993). Tracing the African-American diva from her beginnings as an eight-year-old church choir wonder ("the pride of South Philadelphia") through years of struggle to rise above the racism that would delay her debut with the Metropolitan Opera until she was 57, this book masterfully distills the events in the life of an extraordinary musician. Ryan's narrative smoothly integrates biographical details with lyrics from the gospel songs Anderson made famous: a passage about the budding singer's longing to perform onstage ("Opera was simply the sun and the moon a dream that seemed too far away to reach") segues to "He's got the sun and the moon right in His hands"; "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child..." follows a 2/3 spread of the singer on the bow of a ship bound for Europe, the sun creating a halo effect. Working with a sepia-toned palette, Selznick's paintings shimmer with emotion, his range of shading as versatile as Anderson's three-octave voice. Whether depicting her as barely visible beyond the crowds at her famous 1939 concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial or in a final scene of her stepping into the spotlight at the Met, the images are striking and memorable (particularly the soulful face of Marian herself as she matures from child to woman). The author's and artist's notes, timeline and discography round out this stellar effort. Ages 6-10. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

K^-Gr. 3. In a lush, operatic style that suits the subject, this large-sized picture-book biography of the great vocalist Marian Anderson captures the story of her triumph in the face of the vicious segregation of her time. The passionate words and beautifully detailed sepia-tone pictures select moments from her life to present a true story that seems like a theatrical Cinderella tale. The extraordinarily gifted child is denied access to music school ("We don't take colored!"), but she is nurtured by home and church and becomes a star. When she returns from wild acclaim abroad, however, she's refused permission to sing at Constitution Hall, where "white performers only" is the rule. The narrative is sometimes overblown, with just too much about Marian's "examining her heart" and feeling sick in her stomach. But the interweaving of the spirituals Anderson sang, which express her trouble and her strength, is exceptionally moving. Selznick's stirring pictures convey the personal and political drama in both the performance scenes and the close-up portraits, and the climactic picture is unforgettable: children see Anderson's concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 from the perspective of the huge mixed audience. A lengthy, detailed afterword, in small type; a discography; and a bibliography (including mention of Anderson's autobiography) are provided for older students who want to know more. --Hazel Rochman

Kirkus Review

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/biography. 6-10)

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