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Review of Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century

weatherford_leontyne priceLeontyne Price: Voice of a Century
by Carole Boston Weatherford; illus. by Raúl Colón
Primary    Knopf    40 pp.
12/14    978-0-375-85606-8    $17.99
Library ed.  978-0-375-95606-5    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-0-385-39246-4    $10.99

Opera singer Leontyne Price didn’t just stand on the shoulders of Marian Anderson, she “blew open the door that Marian left ajar.” Born in 1927 in Laurel, Mississippi, Price found her way into music through loving support from her hymn-singing mother and her tuba-playing father. In 1939, when Anderson gave her famous performance at the Lincoln Memorial, Leontyne was singing in the church choir. From there she went to college, then to Juilliard, then to Broadway; later she “became the first black singer to star at La Scala.” Weatherford’s lyrical prose touches on the prejudice Price faced (“Yet certain doors her golden songs could not open. In America, some hotels, restaurants, and stages were still whites-only”), but it emphasizes more the singer’s voice, her accomplishments, and her elegance, along with the support she received along the way. Colón’s watercolor, colored-pencil, and lithograph-crayon art makes good use of large images on single pages and double-page spreads, depicting musical notes as big splashes of vibrant yellows, blues, oranges, and blue-greens bursting across the pages. One stunning illustration shows Price on the Metropolitan Opera House stage, head bowed, accepting a forty-two-minute standing ovation, the spotlight casting a shadow: “She knew that shadow was not just hers, but her parents’, teachers’, and Marian’s.” While no sources are listed, an author’s note provides further information.

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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About Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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