NONFICTION

Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

Little Bee. Jan. 2020. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781499809152.
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K-Gr 3–African American singer Ella Fitzgerald and blonde movie star Marilyn Monroe shared their need to be heard and helped each other along the way. Kirkfield describes the obstacles these women faced: Fitzgerald battled racism, and Monroe was underestimated due to her gender. Monroe taught herself to become a better singer by listening to recordings of Fitzgerald’s songs and achieved star status for her role in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. In turn, she convinced the owner of a formerly whites-only Hollywood night club to hire Fitzgerald, paving the way for the jazz singer’s more universal recognition. The relatively simple text is supported by an author’s note and extensive sources, both primary (videos and interviews) and secondary (books and online resources). Kirkfield makes clear that both women brought deep personal feelings to their performances. Harris’s digital illustrations are varied, from vignettes to full and double-page spreads. One striking spread echoed on the title page and cover shows the pair still engaged in conversation in an otherwise empty and darkened nightclub.
VERDICT An inspiring story about 20th-century icons that will be unfamiliar to most young readers. Recommended for schools and public libraries.

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