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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
While some of the specific history discussed in the book might go over the head of younger readers, it could lead to discussing or looking up important cultural and political moments, including the murder of Medgar Evars, the Communist witch hunt undertaken by the federal government in the 1950s and '60s, and the March on Washington. Back matter includes a bibliography and suggestions for further listening to Horne's recordings and viewing of her films.
"Because Lena refused to darken rear doors, black stars now gleam on red carpets and reap box-office gold."
Positive Role Models
Lena Horne's social consciousness, her willingness to sacrifice for her beliefs, and her determination to play unique and empowered characters, as opposed to the servile roles typically reserved for black actors at the time, made her an inspirational figure to women and girls everywhere.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Legendary Miss Lena Horne is by award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford, who has also profiled civil rights heroes Harriet Tubman, Gordon Parks, and Fannie Lou Hamer. It tells the life story of one of the underappreciated stars of stage and screen, singer and actress Lena Horne, who overcame political and racial persecution to become an enduring American icon. Her career eventually took a back seat to her participation in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, including an appearance at the famous March on Washington, though she continued to record, perform, and rack up accolades.
Is It Any Good?
This picture book bio is a solid introduction to an important pioneer of black American culture who has long been overlooked in the pantheon of Hollywood's brightest stars. However, it's a bit flat and flavorless. Elizabeth Zunon's stylized, understated oil paint and cut-paper–collage illustrations only occasionally reflect Horne's true radiance, and cramming so many major events and concepts into a picture book ultimately diminishes the narrative, though that may not bother young kids.
Lena Horne is certainly an admirable and inspiring figure for children. The Legendary Miss Lena Horne may be most useful as a way to expose kids to some of Horne's wonderful recordings and onscreen performances. Back matter includes a bibliography and suggestions for further listening to Horne's recordings and viewing of her films.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.