The Legendary Miss Lena Horne

Atheneum Books
for Young Readers
(Simon & Schuster)

(pub. 1.24.2017)
48 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top  

A uthor: Carole Boston
      and illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon

C haracter: Maya Lin

 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "Lena Horne was born into the freedom struggle, to a family of teachers and activists. Her mother dreamed of being an actress, so Lena followed along as she chased small parts in vaudeville, living out of a suitcase. Then MGM came, offering Lena something more - the first ever studio contract for a black actress.
     But the roles she was considered for were maids and mammies, stereotypes that Lena refused to play. Still, she never gave up. 'Stormy Weather' became her theme song, and when she sang 'This Little Light of Mine' at a civil rights rally, she found not only her voice but her calling, her light.
     Inspiring and powerful, this is a celebration of the life of Lena Horne, the pioneering American actress and civil rights activist who refused to be treated as second class."

T antalizing taste: 
"At one venue, Lena was denied a cup of coffee
but was asked for autographs on her way out.
At another, German prisoners of war
were seated in front of black soldiers.
That indignity was too much for Lena to swallow.
She was fed up with white-only clubs and theaters.

So she paid her own way to perform for black troops.
She paid many visits to the base in Alabama
where the famed Tuskegee Airmen
were training to become the fist black military aviators."
and something more: I was thrilled to see the amazing illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon (she's the illustrator of the picture book I wrote, MY HANDS SING THE BLUES- The Childhood Journey of Romare Bearden). She kindly shared with me a few thoughts about illustrating The Legendary Miss Lena Horne

"I didn't know much about Lena Horne before working on this book, but the more I learned, read and watched, the more I liked her. I like to listen to music when I'm making art, and this was the first book I illustrated that I was able to actually listen to the person I was drawing and painting! I feel like I get to know the characters in my books through pictures and research, and I feel I really got to know Lena Horne especially well through hearing her voice and watching her movement on screen.

To create the illustrations, I used a combination of oil paint and collage. To honor her (and my) love of fashion, I put a lot of care into creating Lena's fabulous dresses; using layers of tulle and tiny paper sequins for her "Stormy Weather" dress, pleating pieces of embossed paper to replicate the pleats in her Charlie Barnet Orchestra dress, and cutting layers of silver paper petals to replicate the dress she wore at President Truman's inaugural ball. A fashionista after my own heart! She wore such beautiful things, but dealt with such ugly treatment in the entertainment business for much of her life, and held a lot of sadness inside from personal tragedy. I hope this book helps to re-illuminate all the hard work that Lena Horne did, all the firsts she accomplished to pave the way for singers and actresses of color today."

Thank you Liz! I loved hearing your thoughts. And I believe this beautiful and powerful book will indeed "re-illuminate all the hard work that Lena Horne did."


Linda B said...

I know I will love this book. Lena Horne has been a favorite singer for a long time. I saw her perform once late in her career, and she was fabulous. Thanks for sharing some about the illustrations, too!

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Hi Linda, Oh, yes! I think you'll really enjoy this book. How lucky you are that you saw her perform! And I'm glad you enjoyed learning about Liz Zunon and her thoughts about illustrating the book.
Thanks for stopping by!

Cheriee Weichel said...

Like Linda B, I'm a Lena Horne fan. I loved the information about the illustrations and am looking forward to reading this one now.

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Hi Cheriee, So glad you enjoyed learning about Liz's illustration process.

Thanks for stopping by!

Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) said...

I actually didn't know who Lena Horne is, but I went on a You Tube and Google binge after reading--thank you for sharing this biography.

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Hi Kellee,
Great idea to check out a YouTube video! I think you'll enjoy this picture book biography.
Thanks for stopping by!