Swing Sisters: The Story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm by Karen Deans

Published by Holiday House

Summary:  Piney Woods Country Life School was a remarkable school for African-American orphans in Mississippi.  In 1939, the school’s director organized an all-girl band to raise money for the school.  He called the group the Sweethearts, and they played big band music at schools and churches around the state.  When the girls graduated, they decided to move to Washington, DC to try to make a living.  Eventually, they traveled all over the country, playing for crowds as large as 35,000.  Their biggest concern was making great music; when some of the women left, their replacements were of different races, which made for some complications when touring in the south.  The Sweethearts went on a six-month USO tour of Europe during World War II.  After the war, it was hard for them to make a living with their music, and the group broke up, but they had opened doors for women of all races in the music business.  Recommended for grades 2-4.

Pros:  This inspiring nonfiction picture book reminded me of the movie A League of Their Own about women baseball players from the same era.  It would be fun to share some of the Sweethearts music after reading this.  Here’s a YouTube clip that looks just like one of the illustrations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WczP3PyHt20

Cons:  Too bad these women couldn’t make enough money to keep the band alive after World War II.

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