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The Legendary Miss Lena Horne

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  331 ratings  ·  96 reviews
Celebrate the life of Lena Horne, the pioneering African American actress and civil rights activist, with this inspiring and powerful picture book from award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford.

You have to be taught to be second class; you’re not born that way.

Lena Horne was born into the freedom struggle, to a family of teachers and activists. Her mother dreamed of
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published January 24th 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  331 ratings  ·  96 reviews

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Jon(athan) Nakapalau
Lena Horne had to struggle for everything she accomplished...her story is inspirational to everyone - old and young alike.
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
I visited our local library today and got an opportunity to read another picture book biography about a famous woman for Women's History Month.

This is a thoughtful biography of one of America's most memorable and dynamic performers, Lena Horne.

I appreciated that Ms. Weatherford focused as much on Ms Horne's activism and her ability to stand up for her rights as on her singing and acting.

I remember watching her singing on The Muppet Show (the Author's Note mentions that her duet with Kermit the
A very good biography of Lena Horne, fit for young children.
Bethany M. Edwards
Celebrate the life of Lena Horne: an actress who broke the glass ceiling and broke down racial barriers with a microphone in her hand.
“You have to be taught to be second class; you’re not born that way.”
Lena Horne was born into a family of teachers and activists.
Her mother dreamed of being an actress, and like most little girls who adore their mothers, little Lena followed in her footsteps.
Like most struggling actresses, Lena lived out of a suitcase until MGM offered Lena something incredible—t
Laura Harrison
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: omg-cant-wait
This is one of the most beautiful picture book biographies I have ever seen. The cover art is swoon worthy. Large format picture book that details Lena Horne's life. I am thrilled that a biography about this inspirational woman was created. Children should be aware of her struggles and her many accomplishments. Fabulous!
The extraordinary look at this iconic performer.
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Born into a family of educators and activists, Lena Horne grew to be an African-American star and civil rights activist. As a child, Lena’s parents dreamed of making it big. Her father was a street hustler and her mother was an actress. As a small child, she was left with her grandmother in Brooklyn while her parents sought their fortune. From her grandmother, Lena learned about the value of education, good manners, and black pride. But soon Lena’s mother returned and took Lena on the road with ...more
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Fantastic art, wonderful writing, a great book for children looking beyond the typical picture book.
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book tells the story of Lena Horne, the famous singer, actress, and activist, born in 1917 in Brooklyn, New York. It begins with a quote by her as the epigraph: “You have to be taught to be second class; you’re not born that way.” Lena never accepted the judgment of white America. As the author observes:

“Lena Horne was born into the freedom struggle. At two, she became not just one of the youngest members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, but also a cover gi
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 3-6-biography
"You have to be taught to be second class; you're not born that way." This quote from Lena Horne defines her approach to life. As a child brought up in a family of highly successful teachers, activists, a Harlem Renaissance poet, and a dean of a black college, she was taught black pride, good manners, and the importance of a good education. Lena celebrated a lifelong love of reading, and at the age of two became the cover girl of the the NAACP Branch Bulletin. She was the daughter of an actress ...more
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Before we could afford a television set the place of prominence in our living room was filled by our radio and record player combination furniture. By today's standards it was huge; a large unit with the record player sliding out like a file cabinet drawer in the front. It played 78RPM records and 45RPM with an adapter. My parents loved listening to their favorite music when they were not working. One of my dad's favorite singers was Lena Horne. If I close my eyes I can travel back in time, list ...more
A celebration of the life of Lena Horne with a special emphasis on her civil rights work. I like the way the text reads; it's not a straightforward biography, though it does contain all the basic info readers will need to understand Horne's formative influences and the era she grew up in and lived/worked. I like that the tone of the text feels conversational as though this is an oral story being passed down to the younger generation.

The mixed media artwork is phenomenal. I like all the texture t
Before reading this book my only exposure to Miss Lena Horne was a brief appearance she made years ago on The Cosby Show. After reading this book I have a much greater appreciation for the talents as well as courage of Miss Lena Horne. Show business has such fame and fortune associated with it that sometimes it's easy to overlook the challenges. And to be a black woman in show business at a time when segregation and Jim Crow laws were still in effect was even more challenging. Weatherford does a ...more
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens-music
A wonderful book about a phenomenal woman. When I found this gem, I had to add it to my music related children's books, even though I have retired from the classroom. I have always loved jazz and been enamored with Lena Horne having bought her discs in college and heard in her live on Mondavi vineyard in Napa Valley in the late 70's. She was the consummate artist in concert. This book offers children a thorough look at her life, not just of music, but breaking racial barriers and her activism. S ...more
Gary Anderson
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Lena Horne would turn 100 this year, and The Legendary Miss Lena Horne is a worthy tribute to this icon. Although Horne may be largely unknown to today’s youngest readers, author Carole Boston Weatherford provides an engaging narrative for Horne’s life and career that touches on the Harlem Renaissance, Jim Crow South, prejudice on stage and screen, the civil rights movement, and ends with a nod to how “black stars now gleam on red carpets and reap box-office gold.” The text is accompanied by Eli ...more
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Picture book biographies are hit and miss for me. I have certain expectations and when they aren't met I can be disappointed (or surprised depending on which way it goes). I look for books that don't have too much text, are formatted like a picture book (rather than nonfiction), and that TELL A STORY. I'm also picky about back matter.

This book checks all my boxes. Bonus: I was so interested in the story that I finished it without my kid. Ha! As someone who had never heard of Lena Horne before th
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: young African American and Women's history requests
Recommended to June by:
Simple introduction to Lena Horne's life. From birth, cover girl as youngest member of the NAACP at 2, auditioning as a teen for the Cotton Club, cutting her first record at 18, sleeping in the bus when she fronted an all-white band, first ever studio contract for a black actress and her one-woman war against black stereotypes, her undisclosed (for 3 years) interraicial marriage to Lennie Hayton, her support of civil rights movement, and her Gramy and Tony Awards, honorary degrees from Howard an ...more
Ms. Hartling
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
So its tricky to rate because the pictures are wonderful, the writing is informative. But the style is less than perfect.
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture, read-2017
An outstanding book with beautiful illustrations!
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sugarman-2017
Cindy Richard
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great story about Lena Horne's activism and acting career highlighted by captivating illustrations. The paintings were so lovely that I wish I had them as art to put on my wall.
M.M. Hudson
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"You have to be taught to be second class; you’re not born that way."
What a powerful statement that was said by Miss Horne and one she proved time and time again through her actions and words. This book gives a complete account of her life from birth, career, and death(that can be found in bibliography notes).

Growing up, I often saw movies that featured Lena Horne and found her to be a talented and a beautiful woman. Her voice was lovely.

Of course being of "privilege" I had no idea what her li
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Lena Horne was an African American entertainer. She sang with both big bands and jazz bands, danced on stage, starred in movies and even put her career on hold to help fight for civil rights! Lena was an important advocate for civil rights. She refused to perform in movies where she played a maid or a mammy, and saw parts given to white women that she would have been perfect for, except racist opinions and Jim Crow laws prevented the studios from using her talents more. She sang at civil rights ...more
Stephanie Tournas
This inspiring picture book biography of Lena Horne really shines. From candid descriptions of racism, to the colorful oil paint and collage illustrations, the book succeeds in painting a rich portrait of the African-American singer's long and storied life. I loved that the author didn't flinch in portraying Horne's struggles with cruel Jim Crow rules even as her notoriety soared. Weatherford shows that Horne's struggles - racism, single motherhood, making ends meet - echoed the times and the st ...more
As a child of the 1970s, I remember watching Lena Horne singing with Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street. Whenever she would appear on television, she always had the most engaging smile and beautiful singing voice. This picture book biography, takes readers on a journey through her early years and her determination to fight against racial injustices wherever she encountered them. This book is so well-researched and beautifully illustrated that I think that it would be a great resource to have on th ...more
Kay Leslie
Very nice introduction biography of Lena Horne. Great illustrations. The author included the fact that Miss Horne won a Grammy, a Tony and honorary degrees, but did not say for what exactly. It would have been helpful to the reader to include for what specifically those were given, in author's note or on fact page at the end. Her birth date was included in the body of the book but nothing about the date of her death - a timeline would have been helpful.
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
There is always a need in a school library collection for more biographies of females, it seems. This one is fabulous, but the life of this legendary vocalist is filled with the strife of racism throughout the journey and is at times painful truth for the reader. Lena Horne was a strikingly beautiful woman and she deserves the future generations to know her civil rights work as well as her music. There is a bibliography, though no timeline.
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book focused on the biography of Lena Horne focusing especially on her personal and professional struggles due to racism. Although there were many challenges throughout her life, Lena didn't let them keep her down. Bright, beautiful illustrations accompany this story along with an author's note, bibliography, and further reading/listening/viewing section in the back matter.
Mary Sanchez
Lena Horne comes to life in this beautifully illustrated biography done in collage. The text includes quotes and I especially like one that speaks of her personal and others' struggles with freedom. "You have to be taught to be second class; you're not born that way."
Introduces readers to Jim Crow America as experienced by an African American singer and actress.

The image from the March on Washington is powerful.

To be very picky, a timeline would have been nice, but truly the layout, text and illustrations are superior.
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Carole Boston Weatherford is a children's book author and poet who "mines the past for family stories, fading traditions, and forgotten struggles." A number of Weatherford's books tell the stories of African-American historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Jesse Owens, and Billie Holiday. Other books recount historical events such as the Greensboro Sit-ins and the bombing of the Sixteenth Stree ...more