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ChildrensPictureBook.info Review

When Marian Sang
By Pam Muûoz Ryan
Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Publisher Scholastic Press

Marian Anderson’s story is one of overcoming not only the obstacles that every musician or performer must surmount, but also the obstacles faced by a young black woman in the middle of the first half of the twentieth century. She overcame setbacks brought on by prejudice and Jim Crow laws. After taking Europe by storm, there were many in the American music scene that wanted to hear her sing in Washington DC. Refused access because she was black to any performance hall of sufficient capacity, she finally was allowed to sing from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to 75,000 people.

The rich brown tones of the illustrations of this book are a perfect accompaniment to this story of a gifted contralto with a rich deep voice. Throughout the story Ryan includes portions of hymns and spirituals that match the mood of the text. They are songs that Marian sang, like “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” describing her hope that her impossible dream to one day sing on at the Metropolitan Opera would someday come true. That dream did come true for Marian many years later.

Author and illustrator spent time researching Marian’s life and the places where she lived. Endnotes describe what they learned and how they learned it. It’s a very useful insight into the process of writing about real events and real people.


When Marian Sang

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