The Picture Book Buzz

The Singer and the Scientist - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Many people know about Albert Einstein's amazing scientific genius. But did you know he helped a neighbor's child with math homework or that he befriended an African American singer when everyone else in town shunned her? I love learning about little known facts about people we thought we knew. Like how Marilyn Monroe & Ella Fitzgerald were friends.


This is a wonderful nonfiction picture book about how a love of music and a shared history of discrimination created a lifelong friendship between Marian Anderson and Albert Einstein.

The Singer and the Scientist


Author: Lisa Rose


Illustrator: Isabel Muñoz


Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing, 2021


Ages: 5-11


Nonfiction


Themes:

Music, discrimination, friendship, and compassion.


Synopsis:

It's 1937, and Marian Anderson is one of the most famous singers in America. But after she gives a performance for an all-white audience, she learns that the nearby hotel is closed to African Americans. She doesn't know where she'll stay for the night.


Until the famous scientist Albert Einstein invites her to stay at his house. Marian, who endures constant discrimination as a Black performer, learns that Albert faced prejudice as a Jew in Germany. She discovers their shared passion for music—and their shared hopes for a more just world.


Opening Lines:

1937, McCarter Theatre, Princeton, New Jersey.

Peeling back the velvet curtain, Marian peeked out at the chatting

audience. Furs, diamonds, and pearls dazzled from the women and

perfectly tailored suits blazed on the men. Marian knew how rare

it was for a white audience of this size to come hear an African

American woman sing.


What I Loved about this book:

Despite the discrimination and segregation prevalent in the United States, Marian Anderson' s voice was so dazzling and special that entire auditoriums of white patrons came to listen to her. In 1937, Marian Anderson performed at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. Despite the audience's rapt attention and thunderous ovation, when Marian appeared in the lobby asking the owner to arrange for a hotel room - "Everyone looked at Marian, but not as a star. Not even as a person."

Text © Lisa Rose, 2021. Image © Isabel Muñoz, 2021.


Everyone ignored her. Except for a man with wrinkled clothes and wild, white hair - Albert Einstein. After exclaiming about her performance, he invited her stay at HIS house.

Text © Lisa Rose, 2021. Image © Isabel Muñoz, 2021.


That night, bonding over Albert's love of music and his stories of Nazis abuses, book burnings, and having to flee Germany, they started what would be a life-long friendship. They both understood "what it meant to be treated as an outsider in one’s own country." While the text's candor and Isabel Muñoz's colorful and emotionally evocative illustrations, offer an honest depiction of the racism Marian and Albert endured, the book focuses upon their mutual love of music and generosity. It was fun to learn that Einstein had helped a neighbor's child with math homework. I enjoyed seeing the humble, everyday side of this amazing man.


The back matter mentions their activism, both purposeful and outspoken (in the case of Einstein) and incidental and subtle (for Anderson). Interestingly, it also notes that the incident upon which this book is based is "not well known." In our interview on Monday, Lisa Rose noted that even "Marian Anderson’s autobiography told a different story about how she became friends with Albert Einstein." That it took a lot of sleuthing on Lisa's part to "prove the event occurred the way [she] described in [her] book." While I would have loved more information on this in the back matter, I hope she dives into this fascinating facet of the book in her author events.


This is a great nonfiction book about a special friendship between two well-known figures. One that would also beautifully fit into, and expand, civil rights and World War II studies. Overall, this book shows the compassion and friendship which were integral and interwoven into Einstein and Anderson's lives.


Resources:

- make your own box violin (https://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/20209/28476/).

- have you ever met someone new and been surprised by interests you've shared? Draw a picture or make a list of things you both like.

- check out the teacher's guide (https://lisarosewrites.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Rose-Lisa.-THE-SINGER-AND-THE-SCIENTIST-teacher-guide.pdf).


If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Lisa Rose (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.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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