- A Voice Named Aretha by Katheryn Russell-Brown
Russell-Brown, Katheryn A Voice Named Aretha; illus. by Laura Freeman. Bloomsbury, 2020 [38p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-68119-850-7 $17.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-5476-0273-5 $12.59 Reviewed from galleys Ad 6-9 yrs
Long before R&B and gospel artist Aretha Franklin signed with Atlantic, the record company that propelled her to fame, any audience who heard "the young girl with the voice of an old soul" could probably predict that voice would be her calling card. Russell-Brown's picture book biography hits the highlights of Franklin's life, from her childhood, when she was devastated by her parents' broken marriage and mother's death; to the 1960s, in which she insisted in playing only integrated venues; to her breakthrough with Atlantic Records, producing hit after iconic hit; to charitable and civil rights works. An uneven balance between text and closing note leaves audiences wishing for some trimming of repeated information and more specific details rather than generalizations. Freeman's illustrations, though streamlined in spare compositions, capture much of the body language, facial expression, and head-thrown-back joy associated with Franklin's performance. Author and illustrator notes, a selected discography, quotation citations, and an adult bibliography are included.