Mary’s Idea

Greenwillow. May 2023. 32p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063210509.
PreS-K–When she was three years old, Mary Lou Williams began to play the piano, and before long, was performing with many of the greatest musicians of her time. Despite her early success, however, Williams took a step back from her career to redirect her life. Williams happily found her way back to music, shifting her focus to reflect her personal journey, and ultimately making history once again. It is rare to discover a picture book biography that is accessible to very young children, but this is one such story. Very few words are used throughout the book; every phrase reinforces the fact that the decisions Williams made in her life were her own. The font is playful, varying in size and shape throughout the book based on what is happening on the page. Alongside the words are prominently displayed illustrations that feature images of Williams’s hands at significant moments in her career. Additionally, the music Williams makes appears in colors that change and shift as they find their way to listeners’ ears. Back matter includes a concise biography for greater context to the primary narrative, which is nevertheless remarkably effective at communicating a life story with very few words.
VERDICT This is a widely accessible introductory biography of a lesser-known pianist from 20th-century America.

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