This biography of African American icon Nina Simone follows the development of her early musical talent to her popularity as a musician during the civil rights movement.
Born in North Carolina in 1933, Eunice Kathleen Waymon “sang before she could talk and found rhythm before she could walk.” Her mama, a minister, sang only church songs, and her daddy played the upright piano, teaching Eunice to play jazz when Mama was out. From the age of 3, Eunice played music at church while Mama preached. Eunice’s gift was undeniable, and the White woman Mama cleaned for during the week helped arrange music lessons, where Eunice learned classical piano, falling in love with Bach’s music. After high school, Eunice went to New York City to attend the Juilliard School of Music. But when she auditioned for a transfer to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, she was not accepted, and she felt her dream of being a musician slipping away. When she took jobs in nightclubs, she performed as Nina Simone to keep her mother from discovering her secret. The narrative includes details of the love and support of family and community that gave Nina her early start, the disappointments and humiliations she suffered because of racism, and the determination and sheer love of music and of her people that carried her to success despite the setbacks. Todd’s musical prose allows readers into Nina’s perspective, and Robinson’s scenes and portraits absolutely sing with energy, keeping pace perfectly with the text as it expands beyond typical picture-book length. (This book was reviewed digitally.)
Do not miss this complex story of an American legend.(note) (Picture book/biography. 4-10)