Lyontyne Price Review by Catherine Baty
Weatherford, Carole Boston, and Colón Raul. Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century. Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.
2. PLOT SUMMARY
This is the biographic story of the life of Leontyne Price. When she was young she developed a love of listening to and making music, inspired by Marian Anderson among others. There were many obstacles in the way for her to become a singer, so she instead sought to become a teacher. With encouragement and loving support she switched her studies to voice and went to Julliard. She sang on Broadway and at La Scala in Italy, but many places in America were still “whites-only”. Television allowed her to enter the homes of many Americans and she went on to have a glorious career opening the door wide for more people to follow. She remembered those that helped her along the way, too.
Leontyne was inspired by and made use of the door opened Marian Anderson. We learn of how Leontyne knew of the usual limits of a Black woman in her time, but how with encouragement and loving support of her talents she became so much more than she could have hoped as a young girl.
3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS
This picture book biography utilizes art in a way that adds to the story. The use of color in the illustrations to signify the beauty of music in a printed book is imaginative and creates a air of significance. The setting is honest to the time period, though the issues of the time are not dwelled upon, they are present. The focus is certain, this is the story of Leontyne Price. The theme of opening doors and holding them open for those who come later is breathed into the story, not preached. An adult reader might achieve the understanding of the importance of representation across professions. A child reader could see a Black woman, a Person of Color, achieving greatness in a time when it was not thought possible, making more things seem possible to the child. Neither the art nor the writing lean on stereotypes to tell this inspiring story. They show show understanding and respect.
4. REVIEW EXCERPTS
From Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper: “Children will get a sense of Price’s struggles and triumphs as well as how music can break down barriers.” – Ilene Cooper, Booklist on November 1st 2014
“Weatherford and Colón’s beautiful book does children a service by giving them one more African-American performer to applaud.” – Contributor, Kirkus on October 15th 2014
“A true marriage of lyrical text and majestic illustrations, the book shines a much-needed spotlight on an important cultural figure…. The watercolor and pencil drawings seem to vibrate off the page, especially in the form of rainbow-colored musical notes that often envelop the work’s subject.” – Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal on November 28th 2014
Gather other picture book biographies to read, such as:
- Nelson, S.D. Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story. ISBN 978141970355
- Shetterly, Margot L, Winifred Conkling, and Laura Freeman. Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race. ISBN 9780062742469
- Langston-George, Rebecca, and Janna Bock. For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story. ISBN 9781491465561
- Weatherford, Carole Boston, and Christie R. G. Gregory. Freedom in Congo Square. ISBN 9781499801033
- Weatherford, Carole Boston, and Brian Pinkney. In Your Hands. ISBN 9781481462938
- Weatherford, Carole Boston, and Frank Morrison. How Sweet the Sound. ISBN 9781481472067
Watch videos of her singing and interviews to help children know that she is a real person, such as: