When i'm in the Westend of Glasgow visiting my old home town I always go on a book hunt. The Westend has the most amazing bookshops and before I had kids I could spend a full day floating from one shop to the other in search for the perfect book.
Fast forward two children later and there is no time for dillydallying around book shops searching for the feminist literature of my dreams. The girls have zero patience for my love of books and their hands are never clean, it's almost impressive. However, luckily Byers Road now has a great little Waterstones right there on the street, with a fantastic children's book section that Vivienne and Ophelia love to lose themselves in.
On my most recent visit I stumbled across this wonderful book that wasn't even on my radar and as soon as we read it in the shop I knew it had to come home with us.
It tells the story of Ella Fitzgerald as you would imagine it. How Ella loved to sing, how hard she (and her fellas) worked travelling all over the country singing, playing music, making people happy. It is also the story of racism. Racist people who would not allow Ella to sing in their clubs because she was black and the incredible story of how she would not give up no matter how much hate she endured or how many doors were slammed in her face. But it is also the story of something else, maybe something not expected.
What really moved me about this book is that it's also the story of friendship, of sisterhood and what it means to be a good ally. I wasn't aware of the friendship between Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald before we read this book. I didn't know that Marilyn Monroe called a club that refused to allow Ella Fitzgerald to sing because she was black and told them she would attend and bring the press if they allowed Ella to sing. That in turn Ella taught Marilyn to sing.
We live in a world where racism is still as strong as it was then in the 1950's. How do we speak about these things with our children? How can we make all these huge, complex issues into relatable, enjoyable information. I want Vivienne and Ophelia to be good allies. I want them to raise the voices of people of colour and raise the voices of their sisters and oppressed people whoever they me be. Ella Queen Of Jazz is a beautifully illustrated book that goes a little way to start to gently introduce these complex issues to our littles while enjoying a beautifully illustrated bedtime story together.