Review: The Singer and the Scientist

 The Singer and the Scientist

by Lisa Rose, illustrated by Isabel Muñoz

Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group)

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Karin Fisher-Golton

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In this picture book, almost all the action takes place on one evening in 1937—an evening that speaks  volumes about the people involved and the times when they lived. African American singing icon Marian Anderson performed that night before an all-white audience at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. Young readers will get a sense of what that meant in 1937—for Ms. Anderson to see no one who looked like her in the audience, for the people who had just enthusiastically applauded her to ignore her after the show, and for her to be denied access to a hotel room because of the color of her skin.

Enter the famous Jewish physicist Albert Einstein, on the surface so different—his wild hair and wrinkled clothing contrasting with Ms. Anderson’s impeccable outfit and clicking heels—one a scientist, one a singer. Professor Einstein, who had immigrated from Germany to the United States just a few years prior during Hitler’s rise to power knew what it was like to be “an outsider in one’s own country.” Professor Einstein offers Ms. Anderson a place to stay and the two quickly become friends, enjoying each other’s company and sharing a love of music.

Lisa Rose’s vivid words and Isabel Muñoz’s warm artwork portray the connection and friendship between these two seemingly very different historical figures. Though the characters are adults, children will relate to themes of exclusion, offering and accepting help, and developing friendship.

Though Professor Einstein is the secondary character in this story, I find that it meets the Sydney Taylor Book Award criteria. Without stating them directly, the book is brimming with Jewish values—human dignity, social justice, tikkun olam. In addition, it portrays how terrible the situation was for Jews in Germany even before World War II began—a time period that is often forgotten for the horror that comes soon after, but an important historical context to remember today. And the story is an affirmation that all of us who strive for justice and human dignity are connected.

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Reviewer Karin Fisher-Golton is a freelance children’s book editor and the author of the board book My Amazing Day: A Celebration of Wonder and Gratitude; retellings of folktales for a reading program; and poems in several anthologies. She is a member of the Board of Advisors for Multicultural Children’s Book Day. Read more about her work at