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A Voice Named Aretha

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  204 ratings  ·  46 reviews
From acclaimed author and illustrator pairing comes a beautiful picture book biography about the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin and how she fought for respect throughout her life.

Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul, a legend. But before she became a star, she was a shy little girl with a voice so powerful it made people jump up, sway, and hum along.

Raised in a house full
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published January 7th 2020 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
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A picture book biography on Aretha Franklin written by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Laura Freeman.

Aretha was the daughter of a famous preacher and grew up exposed to many famous black musicians and civil rights figures. She and her siblings sang in church all vying for their father's attention. Aretha always won out, small but with a big voice.

When she was ten (10) her mother died. She was heartbroken, but she persevered. A few months later standing on a chair behind the podium and
Books on Stereo
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Informative and revelatory introduction to the queen of soul.
Shaye Miller
Feb 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent picture book biography of the Queen of Soul following Aretha’s life from the time she was a shy little girl to the late years of her life when she was performing for presidents and known world-wide. We learn more about Aretha’s father, Reverend C. L. Franklin, about the famous visitors that frequented their home during Aretha’s childhood, and about the surprising death of Aretha’s mother before she turned 10. She climbed the ladder quickly, and by the age of eighteen she was ...more
Aug 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: k-3-biography
Aretha Franklin is one of my favorite singers of all time, and finding a beautiful biography about her life to share with elementary students has always been on my radar. A Voice Named Aretha tells her life story succinctly from her years as a young girl growing up in Detroit, where her famous preacher father entertained musicians and singers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Martin Luther King Jr., etc. in their home. Growing up in a musical family her talent was recognized early. Althou ...more
The Queen of Soul...
Sep 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021-3-6, 2021-6-8
This excellent biography captures Aretha Franklin's vitality and talent. Russell-Brown brings her joy of music alive as well as the courage Franklin displayed during the trying times she lived in. Student will appreciate her talent and committment. R-E-S-P-C-T is a message for all times. ...more
Dec 03, 2019 rated it liked it
A beautifully illustrated look at the life of the world-renowned Queen of Soul, a Voice Named Aretha is a sensational introduction to the artist’s life and body of work for young readers. Starting with Franklin’s beginnings as a choir member and soloist at her father’s church in Detroit, Russell-Brown (Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, 2014) highlights how a religious upbringing and ties to the burgeoning American Civil Rights Movement influenced her trajectory as a singer and an icon. While Fr ...more
Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*
A Voice Named Aretha by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Laura Freeman. NON-FICTION/PICTURE BOOK Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020. $18. 9781681198507



Aretha grew up in a home where her preacher father had a lot of connections with Civil Rights leaders. Aretha first started singing in church for her dad and her soulful sound was appreciated quickly. When Aretha got older, she started singing hit songs that gained national r
Laura Giessler
This picture book bio struck the difficult balance of having enough information and text, but not too much. The author includes interesting details about her childhood and her career, highlighting her raw talent, the emotional impact that her soulful singing had on people, her business savvy (e.g. payment due in cash before the show), and her commitment to civil rights (e.g. would only sing in venues open to all). Rough patches in her life were referred to--I could feel the pain when her mother ...more
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Explore the life of one of the greatest singers of all time in this picture book biography of Aretha Franklin. Aretha grew up in a family filled with music and talking. She was a shy little girl, but even from a young age had an incredible singing voice. Her parents left one another when she was a child, and she lived with her father. She adored her time with her mother until her mother died when Aretha was 10. She used music to express her feelings, moving to New York City at age 18. It was the ...more
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Music permeates every aspect of our lives. Daily there is a cadence and chorus of sounds. The hum of a furnace, air conditioner, a clothes or hair dryer, or a refrigerator inside our homes blend with the whistle of wind, birdsong, the howl of coyotes or the ringing of wind chimes. Reading or hearing a single word can add an entirely new series of notes to this familiar symphony.

Anyone who grows up near the Motor City and spends their life in Michigan has sung and danced to the music made by the
May 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
Summary: Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul, a legend. But before she became a star, she was a shy little girl with a voice so powerful it made people jump up, sway, and hum along. Raised in a house full of talking and singing, Aretha learned the values that would carry her through life - from her church choir in Detroit to stages around the world. When she moved to New York City to start her career, it took years of hard work before she had a hit song. In the turbulent 1960s, she sang about " ...more
A read-aloud-able, accessible introduction to the Queen of Soul. Doesn't ignore difficulties, but approaches them in a manageable way and sets up the reader for further conversation. Death of a parent, segregation, and marital difficulties are all touched on. Ample backmatter and author and illustrator notes round out the presentation of information.

The illustrations shine: bright and bold with ample and deliberate use of purple and gold to represent her as musical royalty. And of course, pairs
Nov 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Vibrant rich colors, chosen specifically to evoke Aretha's complex voice as the Queen of Soul, make this book attractive from the first page. Her early life as a performer in a charismatic preacher's family, where she learned to sing through strong emotion moves on to her career as a successful performer and later chart-breaker. I put on some of her songs to listen -- it seemed to fit.

The end pages are also interesting. A more detailed story of Aretha's life, then short essays by the writer and
Jenn Adams
Love the endpapers (illustrations of Aretha Franklin vinyls) but the rest of the art wasn't really my thing.
This picture book biography strikes a good balance in terms of the amount of Aretha's story that we get. We hear about hard times she went through, and how she triumphed over them, but we aren't met with huge chunks of text on each page.
In the back, there is a more detailed biography for adults/older children, as well as a song list and some sources if you want to delver deeper into her li
Christina Potter Bieloh
Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting picture book biography. I would have loved the inclusion of more personal stories about her childhood, but I did learn quite a lot about her life.

The illustrations are my favorite part of the book. They are so beautiful. I love the illustration of her dressed in yellow and singing for her church as a child. I also love the illustration of her singing for President Obama. Overall, it's a beautiful book!
Jul 26, 2020 added it
Shelves: f-and-g
I hope this book can serve as a gateway or reinforcement of Franklin's music, but it had a "dancing about architecture" vibe to it. I was surprised at what was included in this book and what wasn't, but I guess I'm not too familiar with biographies for kids. The artwork was pretty nice, but didn't seem to represent Franklin's form, and the expressions of people in the background could be odd enough to distract the reader. ...more
“Aretha’s music didn’t just soothe her pain, it inspired black people, women, and people of all colors to stand up for justice.”

From a shy girl to the Queen of Soul, this is the story of a singer whose voice helped “make people feel good and to make the world a better place.” Her life wasn’t easy, losing her mother at an early age, but she allowed her music to help ease her pain. She was civic minded and generous of spirit.

Additional information is given in a note in the back.
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was ok
Unfortunately, I felt like this book was SUPER choppy. It had no real coherent "timeline" of her life. It was also very much just a surface look at her life. I think a picture book biography should do a good job of telling the person's story...especially important points in that person's life. This book fell flat in doing that. So, I think if you are looking to fill your library with more quality stories of historical figures of color (especially women of color), you should look elsewhere. ...more
Mar 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Grades 3-5
This is a beautiful picture book biography of the Queen of Soul. It explores her childhood, early career, and success as a music legend. There is plenty of information to write a school report. Be sure to read the additional information and author notes at the end of the book. The illustrations are outstanding and bring the story to life. Highly recommended for Grades 3-5.
This new picture book biography on the legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin was a bit of a mixed bag. The book didn't have as much biographical fact as I had hoped, but the illustrations are beautiful. I would purchase for collections with no other biographies of Franklin. ...more
Mary Kate
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a gorgeously illustrated, well-researched book about an amazing person! It’s one I’d highly recommend for kids and adults. I love that it included a more detailed biography at the end, plus authors’ notes and references.
A great introduction to the "Queen of Soul", Aretha Franklin. Learning about her childhood and upbringing definitely brings a new layer of understanding and appreciation to her music. Very interesting story. ...more
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I put on a soundtrack of Aretha while I read this book. It made it that much more fun. I love how bright and colorful the illustrations are, especially how Aretha is in yellow in almost every layout. She stands out on the pages, just like she stood out in her singing career.
Dec 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Nice combination of words and pictures to introduce someone to the Queen of Soul. Ends with two pages of additional text and 2 photos with more background. List of her songs, notes, sources, and author and illustrator notes.
Note to self: reread a physical copy. Overdrive's was choppy and, I suspect, not representative of the beauty of the illustrations/layout. Very impressed by the detail and breadth of the backmatter and citations. ...more
Oct 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Vibrant illustrations and a well done introduction to the great Aretha Franklin,
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I especially adore Freeman's use of royal colors, and an abundance of yellow, on Aretha in many spreads. One of the most gorgeous picture books I've looked at this year. ...more
Kathy (Bermudaonion)
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.25 stars
Alana "Loni"
Jan 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
I loved the art, and I love Aretha, I just wanted a little more from the storytelling?
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