A Life of Song Celebrates Overlooked Activism of Ella Jenkins, the “First Lady of Children’s Music”

This February, Gloo Books will publish A Life of Song: The Story of Ella Jenkins (The First Lady of Children’s Music), a picture book biography about Ella Jenkins, the beloved children’s musician who used music as a tool to fight racism. 

Written by Dr. Ty-Juana Taylor, A Life of Song uplifts the career of a Black woman who crossed boundaries to share multicultural folk music with children at a time of segregation and Jim Crow laws. Well known for her appearances on Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Jenkins is lesser known for her role in the Civil Rights Movement. But over the course of her career, she introduced young listeners to music from around the globe; performed at Martin Luther King Jr.’s Illinois Rally for Civil Rights at Soldier Field; and became the first Black woman to host her own show for children in Chicago. Her decades-spanning career laid the groundwork for many of today’s children’s musicians, and she even went on to win a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. 

“Ella Jenkins is an amazing musical figure that many may have heard about, but unfortunately know little about,” notes author Dr. Taylor. “Ms. Jenkins has used music as a tool to bridge and unite people across the world, especially in the highly divisive times of the U.S. Civil Rights era. Hopefully, readers will carry on her legacy of uniting by sharing this book with others, and in the process I hope that it makes them smile and sing.”

“As politicians and other organizations try to alter the history children across the U.S. learn, it’s more important than ever that we shine a light on stories that have been overlooked. Ella’s is one that has directly touched children for decades and one that should be celebrated,” says Gloo Books founder Karen Chan. Not only will her story empower young readers, but also adults. She shows us all the power of courage and connection in the fight against inequality.” 

Releasing the year of Jenkins’s 100th birthday, during Black History Month, and just in time for Women’s History Month, A Life of Song is out February 27 and available directly from GlooBooks.com.