The Singer and the Scientist
It's 1937, and Marian Anderson is one of the most famous singers in America. But after she gives a performance for an all-white audience, she learns that the nearby hotel is closed to African Americans. She doesn't know where she'll stay for the night.
Until the famous scientist Albert Einstein invites her to stay at his house. Marian, who endures constant discrimination as a Black performer, learns that Albert faced prejudice as a Jew in Germany. She discovers their shared passion for music--and their shared hopes for a more just world.
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About the Author
Lisa Rose lives near Detroit, Michigan. She likes to swim, practice yoga, and eat ice cream, but not at the same time. Her previous books include Shmulik Paints the Town.
Bonds forged in the United States between Jews and non-Jews--particularly non-Jewish Black Americans--underlie two other recent picture books. The Singer and The Scientist (by Lisa Rose with illustrations by Isabel Muñoz) spotlights the friendship between Marian Anderson (1897-1993), the pathbreaking Black opera singer, and Albert Einstein (1879-1955), the celebrated Jewish physicist who found refuge from Nazi Germany in the United States. In 1937, Anderson was denied hotel accommodations after a performance in Princeton, New Jersey, so Einstein hosted her in his home. The book is grounded in this origin story, and it offers a moving portrait of the friendship between these famous figures, who both faced different kinds of prejudice. This title was also named a National Jewish Book Award finalist.-- (5/1/2022 12:00:00 AM)
"Singer Marian Anderson and scientist Albert Einstein cross paths in 1937 at a performance in New Jersey. In a time of racial and religious discrimination in America, Einstein shows kindness to Anderson by inviting her to stay at his home when she is denied lodging at the nearby hotel. The glimpse into Germany and the treatment of Jews through Albert's eyes and Marian's plight will evoke sympathy in hearts of young readers and is relevant in today's social climate. Young readers may not have heard of Marian Anderson, but through Albert and Marian's sharing of life stories over years of friendship, Rose creates a connection between science, music, and math. Historical connections to Eleanor Roosevelt, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Lincoln Memorial in the Author's Notes are links for further correlation and study. Rose's choice of wording is both melodic and rhythmic for reading aloud, and themes of doing what is right and showing kindness makes The Singer and the Scientist a current and fulfilling addition to any library." -- Dorothy Schwab, Historical Novel Society-- (8/4/2021 12:00:00 AM)
"Part of the appeal of this bio-graph-i-cal pic-ture book lies in the jux-ta-po-si-tion of two fig-ures not usu-al-ly seen togeth-er in books for chil-dren. Most-will have heard of sci-en-tist Albert Ein-stein. Sad-ly, not as many may be famil-iar with the artistry or courage of African-Amer-i-can opera singer Mar-i-an Ander-son. The Singer and the Sci-en-tist traces the mutu-al respect and friend-ship of these two indi-vid-u-als, each a leader in his or her own field. The Jew-ish refugee from Nazi-con-trolled Europe was drawn to Anderson's incred-i-ble musi-cal gifts and was hor-ri-fied by the bla-tant racism that com-pro-mised her career and threat-ened her dig-ni-ty. Ander-son, a self-assured per-former, but still a vul-ner-a-ble human being, relates to Einstein's own expe-ri-ence as a vic-tim of hatred and wel-comes his empa-thy. Lisa Rose's sim-ple nar-ra-tive pairs with Isabel Muñoz's col-or-ful pic-tures to present the mov-ing sto-ry of a his-toric friendship.
The book begins with what should be a tri-umphant per-for-mance for Ander-son at Prince-ton, New Jersey's McCarter The-atre in 1937. At the con-clu-sion of the con-cert, Rose records the singer's "exhaus-tion," and Muñoz depicts the very human scene of the ener-getic singer sit-ting on a trunk in the wings and rub-bing her sore feet. While a white singer could look for-ward to a rest in a con-ve-nient-ly locat-ed hotel room, Ander-son learns from the arro-gant the-ater own-er that the near-by Nas-sau Inn is a "whites-only hotel." The recent applause by her audi-ence has frozen into silence, prov-ing the hol-low-ness of their acclaim. When Albert Ein-stein, "the man with the wild white hair from the front row," approach-es Ander-son to offer his hos-pi-tal-i-ty, the friend-ship between singer and sci-en-tist begins.
To advance the pic-ture of their rela-tion-ship beyond this one inci-dent, Rose depicts Ein-stein as a mem-ber of the com-mu-ni-ty, social-iz-ing with his African-Amer-i-can neigh-bors. He has more than one rea-son for his admi-ra-tion for Ander-son: his own love of music as well as a past of per-se-cu-tion. Rose men-tions Einstein's famous the-o-ry of rel-a-tiv-i-ty and its vio-lent rejec-tion by the Nazis as a form of cor-rupt 'Jew-ish sci-ence.' The tragedy of Anderson's empa-thy is also implic-it: 'She under-stood what it meant to be treat-ed as an out-sider in one's own coun-try.' Since Ein-stein fled a dic-ta-tor-ship but Ander-son was a cit-i-zen of the demo-c-ra-t-ic Unit-ed States, the com-par-i-son between her mar-gin-al-ized sta-tus and her friend's reveals a sad truth.
Muñoz's pic-tures are beau-ti-ful, cap-tur-ing both the dis-tant glam-or and the ter-ri-ble inequal-i-ty of the era. Ein-stein has his famil-iar big, white hair but Muñoz por-trays Ander-son with nuance and per-cep-tive-ness. She is del-i-cate-ly slen-der, with an expres-sive face that shows a range of emo-tions from com-plete absorp-tion in her singing to frus-tra-tion at racist mis-treat-ment. Enjoy-ing an evening with Ein-stein at this home, Ander-son is relaxed and engaged. Deep, jewel-toned col-ors reap-pear in dif-fer-ent ele-ments. Anderson's dress and Einstein's cardi-gan are the same shade of yel-low squash; the singer's teal gown match-es the throw tossed over Einstein's sofa. There are points of con-nec-tion, as well as obvi-ous dif-fer-ences, between the dis-tin-guished physi-cist and the bril-liant con-tral-to, but their warm friend-ship is a con-stant in this acces-si-ble story.
This high-ly rec-om-mend-ed sto-ry includes an infor-ma-tive author's note about the social activism of the book's subjects." -- Emily Schneider, Jewish Book Council-- (7/19/2021 12:00:00 AM)
"The story of the Daughters of the American Revolution's denial of Constitution Hall to African-American contralto Marian Anderson in 1939 has been told many times. Less well-known is the story of Anderson's 1937 concert at McCarter Theater in Princeton, New Jersey. Though her performance met with critical accolades, Anderson was denied a room at the Nassau Inn because of her race. The Singer and the Scientist, by Lisa Rose and illustrator Isabel Muñoz, tells of the friendship that developed between Anderson and the scientist who stepped into the breach that evening in Princeton -- none other than Albert Einstein. The spare narrative and boldly-colored digital art mesh perfectly to convey the subtle ways in which Jim Crow was manifest even in America's north at that time. The book opens onto Anderson's pre-concert jitters. As 'Marian's heart did its nervous thump, thump, thumpity-thump, ' we see her parting the curtain to peek out at the expectant all-white audience. Did she notice that man with 'wild white hair, ' we wonder? He certainly stands out in his casual pants and vest, in marked contrast to the well-groomed man next to him in a neatly pressed suit. Einstein sits, legs splayed, toes angled upward -- so caught up in the music that '[h]is foot tapped perfectly to the rhythm of her song.' The concert itself was a triumph, but while Anderson 'wanted only to take her shoes off and rest, ' the theater owner refused to book her a room at the whites-only Nassau Inn. As the book's illustrations vividly show, even the concert-goers averted their gazes from Marian Anderson. All but one -- Albert Einstein, who approached her, lavishly praised her singing, and invited her to spend the night at his home. Over coffee and cake, they spoke of their shared love of classical music. Then Einstein shared his experiences in Nazi Germany. He described how the Nazis had burned Jewish properties (dramatically evoked in illustrations of books engulfed in flames). It was this memory that sensitized the great scientist to the racial discrimination he observed in America. Many young people have grown up unaware of the intense cooperation between Jews and African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. Without self-consciousness, The Singer and the Scientist recreates a time when these two communities worked together towards common goals. A helpful Author's Note gives further background on Einstein's and Anderson's involvement in human rights." -- Marian Grann, retired teacher, co-author (with Janet Willen) of Five Thousand Years of Slavery and Speak a Word for Freedom: Women Against Slavery, (Tundra), Toronto, Canada, AJL Newsletter-- (5/3/2021 12:00:00 AM)