top of page

The Picture Book Buzz

Making Their Voices Heard - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Life is full of surprises and wonderful coincidences. Sometimes, you're in the right place at just the right time. When Vivian Kirkfield stumbled across a photograph of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe animatedly talking, she was captivated and curious. So, she dug into their history.

Vivian's discovery of a possible friendship between Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe required that she exhibit the characteristics which she admired in these two women - persistence, stubbornness, and an ability to seek and accept help to make one's dreams come true - in order for her to successfully create a beautiful and inspiring nonfiction picture book. One I hope will encourage children to see past external differences and find ways to help each other mutually achieve their dreams.

Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

Author: Vivian Kirkfield

Illustrator: Alleanna Harris

Publisher: little bee books (2020)

Ages: 4-8



Friendship, following dreams, helping others, and social justice.


Ella Fitzgerald's velvety tones and shube-doobie-doos captivated audiences. Jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington couldn't wait to share the stage with her, but still, Ella could not book a performance at one of the biggest clubs in town--one she knew would give her career its biggest break yet. Marilyn Monroe dazzled on the silver screen with her baby blue eyes and breathy boo-boo-be-doos. But when she asked for better scripts, a choice in who she worked with, and a higher salary, studio bosses refused. Two women whose voices weren't being heard. Two women chasing after their dreams and each helping the other to achieve them. This is the inspiring, true story of two incredibly talented women who came together to help each other shine like the stars that they are.

Opening Lines:

Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe.

On the outside, you couldn't find two girls who looked more different. But on the inside, they were alike--full of hopes and dreams and plans of what might be.

What I LOVED about this book:

I love nonfiction picture books, especially those which explore an animal, person, or event that I know little about. Although I'm familiar with these two women, I knew little about their lives. When I learned that Vivian was exploring the friendship that she'd discovered between Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe; a friendship between two strong, successful, and very different women, I got excited. And I looked forward to seeing how she balanced this story with two main characters, two unique careers, and two different challenges to overcome.

The genius of this book lies both in the little-known information conveyed within the story and the detailed back matter, as well as the structure that it employs. The opening scenes for both Ella and Marilyn start at the beginning of their careers, when they are both "full of hopes and dreams, and plans of what that might be."

Text © Vivian Kirkfield, 2020 . Image © Alleanna Harris, 2020.

For each woman, Alleanna Harris brilliantly created a half-page spread of their status quo (Ella winning an Amateur Night competition and Marilyn dazzling a photographer documenting women and the war effort), followed by three vignettes showing how each woman achieved the start of their dreams. By mirroring the text, Vivian further draws a connection between the two. She then explores how although both women succeed, both are held back, or boxed in, because of their race or gender.

Ultimately, to succeed in Hollywood, Marilyn needed to sing. She had to "learn tempo and tone." So, Marilyn taught herself from none other than "her idol, Ella Fitzgerald," studying her harmonies and "jazzy blues."

To thank Ella for helping her learn to sing, Marilyn attended Ella's next performance. That night, Marilyn learned that for Ella to succeed, she needed to perform in Hollywood's popular clubs - which excluded her. To repay Ella's help, Marilyn convinced a club owner to hire her.

Text © Vivian Kirkfield, 2020 . Image © Alleanna Harris, 2020.

Vivian and Alleanna have created a beautiful story of two devoted friends, determined to achieve their dreams, who realize that "sometimes even stars need a little help to shine." The back matter further draws a connection between their childhoods and highlights the struggles and accomplishments of Ella and Marilyn. This is a great book for parents who know these icons and for the kids to learn about some strong, socially active women who proved that friendship and collaboration can achieve great things. It will make a great addition to library and home biography collections.


- write down or draw a picture of a dream of your own. What will you have to do to make it come true?

- make a list of all the ways you're alike or different from your good friend(s). How can you use those differences to help each other?

- if your school doesn't have a buddy bench, ask them to create or designate one. Then make a new friend; and

- can you think of a way to help a friend reach a dream?

Whether you're curious about the research for this book or merely missed the interview of Vivian Kirkfield, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

Follow Me

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • 1473394675_goodreads
  • Pinterest



bottom of page