When Marian Sang

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  1. When Marian Sang
  2. Author: Pam Munoz Ryan
  3. Illustrator: Brian Selznick
  4. Publisher and Year: Scholastic Press, 2002
  5. Number of pages: 39
  6. Genre: Historical
  7. Analysis: In Pam Munoz Ryan’s book, When Marian Sang, a young black girl growing up in turn-of-the-century Philadelphia, PA., Marian Anderson, is gifted with a beautiful voice that only ”comes around once in  a hundred years.” She is so talented, in fact, that her home parish advertises in the local papers about their ”child contralto” and as a result, she and her mother decide to apply her talents at music agencies. Sadly, due to the prejudice of the time, she can’t find work in the United States, so she sails to Europe and soon becomes the toast of every city from London to Stockholm. Soon, she is in high demand by none other than Eleanor Roosevelt, and she petitions to have her perform for a desegregated audience at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 on the eve of World War II in Europe. Her performance brings the whole city-and many members of then-President Franklin Roosevelt’s cabinet­ to tears, and her career takes off and never stops burning until her death many years later, proving that music can break down many barriers and overcome ignorance and hatred.So far as the picturebook codes in this story are concerned, the primary code in this book is that of lighting and patterns. Throughout the first half of the book, Marian is in a sepia-toned environment, surrounded by dull pastels as she faces discrimination and outright rejection. However, when she tours Europe and comes back to the US for her performance in DC, the colors brighten up, showing that she is the one in control of the situation by the time the book’s conclusion rolls around. The illustrator chose a lovely strategy of using many shades of watercolors for the different sites she visits on the European continent, and it is even more poignant when contrasted with the dark, gloomy shades that are also an integral part of the book’s artwork in the early stages  of her life. Finally, when it comes to special features, the only one that comes to mind is the fact that there is a very in-depth summary of her story at ‘ the end, and a touching anecdote about the illustrator’s uncle who saw Marian perform that crucial day 78 years ago. The ideology of the book is that the author wants everybody to be able to fit in with their fellow Americans by realizing the things that unite, rather than divide, us, while at the same time not being insensitive to the most vulnerable among us. She shows this ideology by providing a safe, fun way to teach about tolerance and diversity through one of our nation’s greatest vocal talents, and how she made a difference by using her gorgeous voice to better the’ cause of racial equality in a groundbreaking way.
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