Making Their Voices Heard

Today’s Perfect Picture Book is the story behind a photograph, a great example of how “a picture is worth a thousand words.” After seeing a photograph of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, author Vivian Kirkfield dug into the story of a special friendship and found a way to share that with kids. 

Ella Marilyn coverTitle: Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

Written by: Vivian Kirkfield

Illustrated by: Aleanna Harris

Little Bee Books, 2020, nonfiction

Suitable for ages: 6-10

Themes/topics: discrimination, friendship, perseverance

Ella and Marilyn.
On the outside, you couldn’t find two girls who looked more different.
But on the inside, they were alike—full of hopes and dreams, and plans of what might be.

Ella Fitzgerald’s velvety tones and shube-doobie-doos captivated audiences. Jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington couldn’t wait to share the stage with her, but still, Ella could not book a performance at one of the biggest clubs in town—one she knew would give her career its biggest break yet.

Marilyn Monroe dazzled on the silver screen with her baby blue eyes and breathy boo-boo-be-doos. But when she asked for better scripts, a choice in who she worked with, and a higher salary, studio bosses refused.

Two women whose voices weren’t being heard. Two women chasing after their dreams and each helping the other to achieve them. This is the inspiring, true story of two incredibly talented women who came together to help each other shine like the stars that they are.

Activities and Resources:
Choose another performer mentioned in the story, such as Dizzy Gillespie or Lena Horne and learn a little bit about them. Create a class collage of artists.

Music: Generate a list of kinds of music and listen to different kinds such as jazz, classical, and more. Which type of music do you like best? Why?

Write about a time you helped a friend with a problem OR a time a friend helped you.

Fold a piece of paper in half. Draw yourself on one half of the page and a friend on the other half. In the middle, from one side to the other, write three “connections” you and your friend have. These connections could be interests, problems, talents, situations, or any kinds of ideas you share.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” Use a picture to create your own story. Does the picture show the beginning, middle, or end of the story? Use your imagination to write the story of what happened.

Why I like this book:
There’s lots to love in this story. Not only do we see two women who overcame difficult childhoods make their way in the world, but we see the power of a friendship that most would not have expected. Despite being so different on the outside, both women knew what it meant to be judged by their appearance. Each understood the other’s pain. What a great example of how we all deserve respect and need to have our “voices heard”—and also how we all have something valuable to give others when we offer our friendship.


Visit author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books for a plethora of picture books listed by title and topic/theme, each with teacher/parent activities and resources.

Visit the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge on Kid Lit Frenzy on Wednesdays for more great nonfiction books for kids!

10 thoughts on “Making Their Voices Heard

  1. Yes! I’ve got this one on my list to read! I really like your “connection” activity. What a great visual for kids to see and articulate the ways they “connect” with a friend. It might also be interesting to draw lines that flow away from each child, showing that you don’t have to have everything in common to be friends. Thanks for a great rec!

    Liked by 1 person

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