A little-known encounter between Albert Einstein and vocalist Marian Anderson is the subject of The Singer and the Scientist, a picture book written by teacher and children’s picture book author Lisa Rose of West Bloomfield.
For most people, the mention of Albert Einstein conjures up the scientist with wild white hair who developed the theory of relativity. But not many know that during his early years in America as a refugee from Nazi Germany, he befriended Marian Anderson, a Black vocalist who, despite her fame, was denied a hotel stay after her 1937 performance to an all-white audience at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre.
This little-known encounter between Einstein and Anderson is the subject of The Singer and the Scientist (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2021), a picture book written by teacher and children’s picture book author Lisa Rose of West Bloomfield.
Though Kar-Ben releases books on the lighter, younger side, Rose said she appreciates that the publisher also recognizes the value of picture books that take on more serious topics. While her other books — like Shmulik Paints the Town (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2016) and A Zombie Vacation (Apples and Honey Press 2020) — are “read to a child in your lap” books and distributed through PJ Library, The Singer and the Scientist is meant to be read in an upper elementary school classroom setting. Accompanied with a teacher’s guide, it can be used as an entry point to discuss racism and antisemitism, Rose added.
Rose, a writing coach at Waterford Montessori Academy, was inspired to write this book after discovering this “untold gem” of a story from Einstein’s life.
“I have always been fascinated by Einstein, and this book looks at a side of his life that few people know about,” said Rose. “Many people did not know that the town of Princeton was segregated and that as a recent Jewish immigrant who escaped Nazi Germany, Einstein felt more comfortable living among his Black neighbors and tutored many of their children in math.”
Rose’s latest book at press time is currently not part of the PJ Library and is available for purchase online through Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Bookshop. She is also hoping to take the book to more audiences through a virtual book tour.
During her college years at the University of Michigan, Rose set out to be a playwright but switched her focus to education. Rose said, as a Jew, she has always been interested in African American culture, history and literature, taking many courses that delved into the topic. She had previous teaching positions in Highland Park and Pontiac, where most of her students were Black.
“We [as Jews and Blacks] share common experiences of hurt and struggle for equality and acceptance,” Rose said. “With this book, I wanted to show how Black and Jewish communities can come together as allies and work for equality. In my personal life, I have seen too many instances of confrontation between our two communities, and I wrote this book asking people to take a step back and realize that, historically, we are on the same side.”
At home, Rose said her daughter Victoria, 12, has cherished her collection of PJ Library books.
An initiative of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, PJ Library began in 2005, and each month sends free Jewish books (and music) to children between the ages of 6 months and 9 years old. A newer PJ Library program called PJ Our Way allows older readers, between ages 9-11, to select an age-appropriate Jewish book or graphic novel each month, also at no cost.
As one of Michigan’s only PJ Library authors, Rose said she has gotten to know others who live across the country through a Jewish children’s literary group called Meshuggenahs.
“PJ Library has created a positive, supportive community not only for the families who enjoy these books but also for the authors who write them,” said Rose, a lifelong member of Temple Kol Ami in West Bloomfield.
“Nothing beats the experience of sharing a book with your child in your lap at home. It’s even more exciting to meet online and connect with the authors of these books and share that instant connection as authors and colleagues.”