Elspeth Lorraine

Book Reviews

February 24, 2023

"The Green Piano” By Roberta Flack with Tonya Bolden Illustrated By Hayden Goodman

It’s our last book review for Black History Month and it ends with a bang! Or a clang! Or any other word you associate with kids playing piano. Ha! Musical prodigy and Grammy award winning Roberta Flack grew up with a musical and loving family that encouraged her dreams. Her father knew she wanted her own piano and when he saw a “ratty, beat-up, weather-worn, faded, stained, stinky” piano in a junkyard he took it home and spent hours cleaning and painting it a grassy green. She got piano lessons and began to sing along. “Gently, I touched the keys, my green piano already a part of me, notes flowing through my fingers to my body, to my soul.” This lyrical (I know this word seems overused but I promise it’s a specific word for books with text that “sings” and I’m not just too lazy to come up with a new word) picture book takes us through Flack’s childhood and ends with her dream of performing onstage.

Bits and Pieces: I was lucky enough to know about Roberta Flack’s legacy and voice before I read her book, but I enjoyed this particular moment in her childhood quite a bit. The green piano is the string that ties her career and love of music together in a neat bow. Aside from “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” and "Killing Me Softly” my favorite Flack song is “Compared to What”. I'm so pleased this book was published to reignite my enjoyment of her music. 

Not Sure About: I wish I knew what happened to the green piano. Did she keep it? Did it fall apart? Also it would have been amazing to see a picture of it. Roberta’s middle name is Cleopatra and it’s not in the book, but with a fire name like that, it should have been.

Favorite Part: Her dad not only fixed up the piano but… he tuned it! This is a crazy unique talent and I was so impressed. The piano illustrations were intricate and Hayden’s art made me want to dive into the pages and touch the keys and strings. Her work was done in gouache paintings with some details rendered digitally. 

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