This series, the Lucent Library of Black History, which also includes volumes on the abolitionist movement, Marcus Garvey and the back to Africa movement, the Harlem Renaissance, civil rights movement, and free blacks in America, offers thoughtful perspectives on several often-studied topics within black history. Ray Charles and the Birth of Soul begins with a description of Charles's poverty-stricken childhood, his brother's tragic death, and his own gradually increasing blindness from age five to seven. Determined to help her son become self-sufficient, his mother taught him to take care of himself before sending him to a school for the deaf and blind in St. Augustine, Florida, where he engaged in the formal study of music. During his teen years, Charles began playing the piano and singing professionally in bands in Florida. The book chronicles Charles's rise to fame and musical genius without ignoring his addiction to drugs and womanizing. The books' attractive covers, complementary black-and-white photos, informative texts, and helpful annotated bibliographies will certainly attract young researchers.
Gr 7 Up-Woog does an excellent job of describing Charles's rare talent and the trajectory of his long and legendary career. He discusses the singer's early life of abject poverty in Florida, the onset of blindness at the age of seven, and the influence of his extraordinary mother. As the book progresses, more emphasis is placed on Charles's musical innovations. Readers learn about his drug addiction and a little about his troubled personal life. The text is clearly written and well organized. Black-and-white photographs illustrate and inform. In the end, the profile that results is one of a complex, driven man who lived and breathed music. A fine addition for most libraries.-Carol Jones Collins, Columbia High School, Maplewood, NJ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.