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The Legendary Miss Lena Horne
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The Legendary Miss Lena Horne

by Carole Boston Weatherford, Elizabeth Zunon (Illustrator)
 

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Celebrate the life of Lena Horne, the pioneering African American actress and civil rights activist, with this inspiring and powerful picture book from award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford.

You have to be taught to be second class; you’re not born that way.

Lena Horne was born into the freedom struggle, to a family of teachers and

Overview

Celebrate the life of Lena Horne, the pioneering African American actress and civil rights activist, with this inspiring and powerful picture book from award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford.

You have to be taught to be second class; you’re not born that way.

Lena Horne was born into the freedom struggle, to a family of teachers and activists. Her mother dreamed of being an actress, so Lena followed in her footsteps as she chased small parts in vaudeville, living out of a suitcase until MGM offered Lena something more—the first ever studio contract for a black actress.

But the roles she was considered for were maids and mammies, stereotypes that Lena refused to play. Still, she never gave up. “Stormy Weather” became her theme song, and when she sang “This Little Light of Mine” at a civil rights rally, she found not only her voice, but her calling.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Maria Russo
…Weatherford stirringly tells Lena Horne's extraordinary story…The book's sizzling clarity recalls Horne's own voice.
Publishers Weekly
★ 12/12/2016
Weatherford (Freedom in Congo Square) and Zunon (Don’t Call Me Grandma) vibrantly capture the setbacks and triumphs of African-American performer Lena Horne, tracing her rise from a Brooklyn childhood to a singer and actress who faced persistent racism. Quotations from Horne and others provide sharp insight into her struggles (“They don’t give us a chance very often, and when they do, we have to take it,” Count Basie told her), and Zunon’s warm-hued, multi-textured oil-and-collage images emphasize the determination of a woman who found her voice on stage as singer, actor, and activist. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Rubin Pfeffer, Rubin Pfeffer Content. Illustrator’s agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (Jan.)
starred review Booklist
* “An exceptionally handsome book. . . . Weatherford’s informative yet succinct text is juxtaposed against a happily oversize picture-book format that allows enough room for Zunon’s impressive oil-paint and collage artwork.”
School Library Journal
11/01/2016
Gr 3–5—A lyrical biography from award-winning author Weatherford (Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement). The narrative follows Horne throughout her life and highlights her talent, activism, career highs and lows, love of reading, and lifelong dedication to civil rights. While the format is that of a picture book, the text, which alternates between short phrases and longer narrative paragraphs, may require a sophisticated reader. Complex concepts (studio contracts, blacklisting, lynching) are neither glossed over nor extensively addressed. Where this volume truly shines, though, is in its straightforward but multifaceted approach to the complicated realities of Horne's stardom, from segregated venues to skin-darkening makeup, contract negotiations to civil rights rallies and parenting. Weatherford celebrates Horne for her skill and for changing the game for those to come ("Because Lena refused/to darken rear doors,/black stars now gleam/on red carpets"). Zunon's paint and collage illustrations fill the pages with rich colors and remain true to the glamor of Horne's performances. Occasional text boxes featuring song titles or quotations work to varying success. Back matter includes an author's note about Weatherford's own connection with Horne and a list of further reading (however, the two print suggestions are written for older students). VERDICT Though it will likely need some selling on the part of librarians, this is a carefully crafted offering for thoughtful readers interested in the intersection of music, stardom, and civil rights.—Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-10-19
Twentieth-century racism tried hard to deny this great performer her voice—and failed.Born into a distinguished African-American family, Horne was enrolled as an NAACP member at a young age. Despite her grandmother's wishes but at her mother's urging, she began to perform at the Cotton Club with Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. She also appeared on Broadway with the Noble Sissle Society Orchestra. More performances followed—along with racism. When Hollywood called, Horne hoped to fight some of that racism "by refusing to play / maids and mammies." The films Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather featured her stellar performances, but there was little else. Horne never forgot her roots, though, and sang for black troops during World War II. She also sang at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963. On TV, Kermit the Frog was one of her partners. Recognition, honors, and awards were showered on Horne, who left a strong legacy. "Because Lena refused / to darken rear doors, / black stars now gleam / on red carpets / and reap box-office gold." Weatherford's writing is succinct and inspirational. Zunon's oil paint and cut-paper-collage illustrations are more than a match for Horne's dynamic onstage presence. Their dramatic design showcases a woman of great beauty and extraordinary talent. A memorable life dedicated to music and civil rights, presented with commensurate style. (bibliography, further reading, listening, and viewing) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781481468244
Publisher:
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
01/24/2017
Pages:
48
Sales rank:
184,101
Product dimensions:
11.10(w) x 11.10(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Carole Boston Weatherford is the acclaimed author of more than forty books, including The Legendary Miss Lena Horne; Voice of Freedom, winner of a Caldecott Honor and a Sibert Honor; Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, winner of a Caldecott Honor, the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration, and the NAACP Image Award; Becoming Billie Holiday, winner of a Coretta Scott King Author Honor; and You Can Fly. Visit her at CBWeatherford.com.

Elizabeth Zunon was born in Albany, New York, and grew up in on the Ivory Coast of West Africa. As a little girl, she loved to draw, paint, make up dances, and play dress-up, and as she grew up, she didn’t really change! Elizabeth now lives in Albany where she explores a multicultural world though painting, beading, sewing, and collage. Visit her at LizZunon.com.

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