Ann Ingalls

Kirkus Review

Kirkus Review for THE LITTLE PIANO GIRL

Feels a bit like hanging my heart out as a punching bag but here it is:

Ingalls, Ann and Maryann Macdonald

THE LITTLE PIANO GIRL: The Story of Mary Lou Williams, Jazz Legend / HOUGHTON MIFFLIN BOOKS FOR CHILDREN

Giselle Potter

Macdonald teams with her sister for this celebration of Williams’s talent as a jazz pianist. It manifested early: At three, Mary played back a tune she’d heard her mother play on the family organ. After moving from Atlanta to Pittsburgh (with Mama’s heavy organ sold behind them), young Mary struggles for acceptance and is ridiculed for her too-small shoes. This is more story than biography. Avowing that “[n]o one remembers exactly how it all started, how Mary began playing piano again”—the authors embroider upon one anecdote (involving a kind neighbor who invites Mary into her home to practice), inventing dialogue and imagining details about her state of mind. Potter’s gouache illustrations adopt a faux-naïf, folkloric style that’s simple and idealized. Even when the text observes of Pittsburgh , “…smokestacks poured fumes into the sky,” readers see dainty gray plumes against green hills dotted with white houses. Acknowledging Mary’s long, worldwide career as an elegant, accomplished performer “in beautiful shoes,” this sweet tribute neatly fills a niche in the panoply of titles about jazz greats. (afterword) (Picture book. 5-8)

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