When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson : True Recital of Marian Anderson, The

by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Illustrated By Brian Selznick

Scholastic Press
October 2002

Ages 8 – 11 . Grades 3 – 6

Library of Congress: 2001049508

Lexile measure: 920L

DRA: 40

Guided Reading: R



Marian Anderson is best known for her historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, which drew an integrated crowd of 75,000 people in pre-Civil Rights America. While this momentous event showcased the uniqueness of her voice, the strength of her character, and the struggles of the times in which she lived, it is only part of her story. Like the operatic arias Marian would come to sing, Ryan's text is as moving as a libretto, and Selznick's pictures as exquisitely detailed and elaborately designed as a stage set. What emerges most profoundly from their shared vision is a role model of courage.
Pam Muñoz Ryan

Pam Muñoz Ryan is the recipient of the Newbery Honor Medal and the Kirkus Prize for her New York Times bestselling novel, Echo, as well as the NEA's Human and Civil Rights Award and the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award for multicultural literature for her body of work. Her celebrated novels, Echo, Esperanza Rising, The Dreamer, Riding Freedom, Becoming Naomi Léon, and Paint the Wind, have received countless accolades, among them two Pura Belpré Awards, a NAPPA Gold Award, a Jane Addams Children's Book Award, and two Américas Awards. Her acclaimed picture books include Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride and When Marian Sang, both illustrated by Brian Selznick, and Tony Baloney, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, as well as a beginning reader series featuring Tony Baloney. Ryan lives near San Diego, California, with her family.
Brian Selznick

Brian Selznick's books have garnered countless accolades worldwide, and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He is the Caldecott Medal-winning creator of the #1 New York Times bestsellers The Invention of Hugo Cabret, adapted into Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning movie Hugo; and Wonderstruck, adapted into the eponymous movie by celebrated filmmaker Todd Haynes, with a screenplay by Selznick; as well as the New York Times bestsellers The Marvels and Baby Monkey, Private Eye. Most recently, he illustrated the 20th anniversary paperback edition covers of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.


  • In extensive endnotes, Ryan and Selznick mention the many Eleanor Roosevelt stories they heard after publishing Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride (Scholastic, 1999). One fortuitous tale, concerning the First Lady and Marian Anderson, led to this companion book. Instead of the silver tones of the earlier title, this one employs acrylics in gold, copper, and a range of browns. As the book opens, the theater curtains part to reveal a girl singing in a window, framed in light. The title page is a concert program. The foreshadowing, tightly controlled recapitulation of themes, and stylized scenes (frequently incorporating stages) combine to suggest a performance. Linguistically and aesthetically, the book is a marvel of unified design. A trip to the Metropolitan Opera inspires young Anderson to strive for the dream she obtains by the end of the book. Early on, her master teacher enthuses that she "will be able to go anywhere and sing for anybody." The irony is played out as she tours Europe, but is stopped short in DC's Constitution Hall. Enter the Roosevelts, and what follows is history. When Marian sings, her eyes are always closed, her face a study of faith deeply felt. Hymns and spirituals punctuate the narrative, carefully chosen to tie into plot. Share this feast for the eyes and the soul with a wide audience.--School Library Journal, November 1st, 2002, starred review

    Although this picture-book biography of the acclaimed American contralto doesn't play as fast and loose with the facts as did Ryan and Selznick's similarly formatted (and similarly lavish) Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride, it does indulge in a similar mythification. Marian Ander-son's first European tour was not the unqualified success this book would have it; her audition with maestro Giuseppe Boghetti was not the dramatic scena depicted here; her career was built as much on Bach and Brahms as it was on spirituals, whose verses are sometimes employed awkwardly here to convey Anderson's state of mind at various pivotal moments. And oddly, the keynote of the Anderson myth-being kept out of Constitution Hall by the D.A.R.-is here muted, the Daughters unnamed until the author's supplemental note. But while Anderson herself was a modest woman, her career was big and glamorous, and significant in both musical and social terms, and Ryan and Selznick get all this right. The large double-page spreads are impressive in sweep and scale but keep their humanity by using a limited palette re-creating the tones of old sepia photographs; judicious sky-blue accents keep the sun shining. Some of the portraits of Anderson recall famous photos of the singer, and throughout both the pictures and text there's an intimacy of tone that gives life to the legend.--Horn Book, November 1st, 2002

    The creative team behind Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride returns with a picture book biography as understated and graceful as its subject, singer Marian Anderson (1897-1993). Tracing the African-American diva from her beginnings as an eight-year-old church choir wonder ("the pride of South Philadelphia") through years of struggle to rise above the racism that would delay her debut with the Metropolitan Opera until she was 57, this book masterfully distills the events in the life of an extraordinary musician. Ryan's narrative smoothly integrates biographical details with lyrics from the gospel songs Anderson made famous: a passage about the budding singer's longing to perform onstage ("Opera was simply the sun and the moon--a dream that seemed too far away to reach") segues to "He's got the sun and the moon right in His hands"; "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child..." follows a 213 spread of the singer on the bow of a ship bound for Europe, the sun creating a halo effect. Working with a sepia-toned palette, Selznick's paintings shimmer with emotion, his range of shading as versatile as Anderson's three-octave voice. Whether depicting her as barely visible be



Jacketed Hardcover / Smyth

ISBN: 9780439269674

40pp. | 12 x 10