Book Review: The Little Piano Girl by Ann Ingalls and Maryann Macdonald

Mary Lou Williams is a music legend. We know her as the most famous female composer and pianist who arranged music for big names like Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman. Her jazz music has touched people’s lives all over the world. During her lifetime, Mary traveled to New York, Paris, England, and all over Europe to perform and inspire her fans.

Mary’s musical talent began when she was a little girl. Born in Atlanta, Mary grew up in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. She gave her first performance (playing a tune for her mother), when she was only four!

The Little Piano Girl by Ann Ingalls and Maryann Macdonald tells the story of Mary’s childhood. Sitting in her mother’s lap, Mary listens to her mother play the organ at church and at home. Afterwards, she tries the instrument herself. Her mother becomes very excited and starts to invite the neighbors to listen to the child prodigy.

When the family moves to Pittsburg, they cannot bring the organ with them. Mary is sad. The neighbors are not as friendly. One day, Mary meets Lucille, a nice lady from church who lets her play a piano in her home. Mary has a chance to play for a bigger audience. She becomes a sensational success in the new city.

This picture book is full of fascinating details about Mary’s life and her incredible passion for music. I really like the adorable illustrations by Giselle Potter. The book made me want to learn more about African-American female musicians. Ann Ingalls’ prose is upbeat, and lyrical. She successfully brings the tale of Mary Lou Williams to life.

The music of Mary Lou Williams lives on, and so is her inspiring life and legacy.

Learn a little bit more about this great musician:

Listen to music by Mary Lou Williams:

About the Author

Sukalaya Kenworthy is a youth services associate at the Central Library. Sukalaya has a bachelor's degree in English and a master of arts degree in teaching English as a second language. Sukalaya joined the Kansas City Public Library in September of 2005.

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