Up Close: Ella Fitzgerald

Up Close: Ella Fitzgerald

Viking Children's Books | 2008 | 12 and up

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Up Close: Ella Fitzgerald

As a singer and someone who grew up in a jazz town, I was groomed on that voice. That smooth, silky voice. It was Ella Fitzgerald's trademark, and the key to her success as a jazz singer.

Her career began at a time when female musicians weren't taken seriously and many music venues were segregated. Performing constantly led to distant relationships with friends and family, but Fitzerald never gave up life on the road, because her passion, above everything else, was pleasing her fans. A runaway teen, Fitzgerald lived on the streets of Harlem, and if not for her last-minute decision to sing at a n amateur night contest in 1934, the world may never have known the First Lady of Song.

Audio Interview:

Click the play button to listen to Tanya's interview on Ella Fitzgerald.

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AWARDS & REVIEWS:

Kirkus (starred): "adds humor, insight and spirit to an already lively subject...a remarkable look at race relations...readers will come away knowing much more about jazz history than they would have expected and will find it hard to stop reading about this fascinating woman."

Booklist: "...smooth, straightforward narrative...illuminating...inspiring portrait." 

SLJ: "[readers] will come to share the writer's obvious love of her subject...a must-buy for teens who are familiar with Fitzgerald's music as well as for those who are not."

San Francisco Chronicle: "Like all good biographies, it humanizes its subject, showing her weaknesses and struggles along with her talent and triumphs....Stone shows how Fitzgerald became, through hard work and some luck, one of the greatest singers of all time. It also gives a vivid picture of the segregated world she had to navigate - something kids should know about, just as they should know about the silky-voiced Ella Fitzgerald."

Full Reviews:

StarredKirkus: Explaining that the story of her subject's life was often filled wi! th misinformation, Stone uses extensive resources to set the record straight. In the process, she offers a lovely view of one of music's finest contributors, whose career came about by chance but was maintained and nurtured by those who realized the gift she possessed. Stone's insertion of quotes, news clippings and information from biographies for adults, all very carefully sourced in the backmatter, adds humor, insight and spirit to an already lively subject. This is also a remarkable look at race relations in this country during the early years of Fitzgerald's career and on into those times when she was at her peak in popularity. Indeed, it is hard to read many of these stories without being furious, while at the same time cheering on those who fought so hard for what others wanted to deny. Readers will come away knowing much more about jazz history than they would have expected and will find it hard to stop reading about this fascinating woman.

Booklist: Ella Fitzgerald was "a private soul, protective of the details that made up her life," writes Stone in this strong biography in the Up Close series. Unlike many books that perpetuate some of Fitzgerald's own myths about her life, Stone's smooth, straightforward narrative draws from authoritative sources and reveals a "workhorse" artist who devoted herself to developing and sharing her gift with the world. Personal details, particularly about Fitzgerald's youth, support each chapter, but Stone's clear emphasis is on the singer's extraordinary career. The few black-and-white photos are of average quality, but the abundant quotes from Fitzgerald and her musician peers greatly develop the narrative. The author has studied voice, and her brief asides about music, such as what it means for a singer's voice to mature, are illuminating, while references to the racism Fitzgerald encountered, particularly while touring the South, deepen the profile. Source notes for direct quotes and an extensive bibliography complete this inspiring portrait. --Gillian Engberg  

School Library Journal: This biography of the legendary jazz singer (1917-1996) does an excellent job of introducing her musical legacy to young adults. It focues on her work, but offers insights as well into her personal life. Clearly written and well organized, the book describes her difficult and troubled childhood. Fitzgerald was shy, no great beauty, overweight, and black. her musical skills, hard work, the support of key figures in her life, and a bit of luck brought her enormous professional and financial success. Stone gives readers a great appreciation of a rare talent, of a singer who could do things with a melody that few others could do, and they will come to share the writer's obvious love of her subject. A must-buy for teens who are familiar with Fitzgerald's music as well as those who are not. --Carol Jones Collins, Columbia High School, Maplewood NJ