The Little Piano Girl

Written by Maryann Macdonald & Ann Ingalls
Illustrated by Giselle Potter

Houghton Mifflin

(Ages 4-7)

What if you loved music more than anything? Suppose you had just learned to play the piano. Imagine that your family has to move to a new city and you have to leave your piano behind. People don’t like you in the new city because of what you look like. How will you make yourself feel better?

Mary Lou Williams, like Mozart, began playing the piano when she was four; at eight she became a professional musician. She wrote and arranged music for Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and was one of the most powerful women in jazz. This is the story of Mary Lou’s childhood in Pittsburgh, where she played the piano for anyone who would listen.


Children’s Book of the Month, March 2015, the Ella Fitzgerald Foundation. 
15 Great Children’s Books about African American Musicians and Dancers, WOSU Public Media.


“Acknowledging Mary’s long, worldwide career as an elegant, accomplished performer “in beautiful shoes,” this sweet tribute neatly fills a niche in the panoply of titles about jazz greats.”


“Potter’s naive, doll-like figures, poised in their slightly tipsy, extravagantly patterned domestic settings, recall the mannered portraiture of the colonial period. With a steadily growing collection of picture books on jazz greats now available for the story time set, it’s nice to see a strong female musician take her place on the shelves.”

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“The book is full of sounds – the sound of the train taking her away from her home, the thunder when she pounded on the keys, the rain when she tapped them. The reader can feel Mary Lou’s joy, as they can feel her sadness at other times in her young life. This is a book for not only children and jazz aficionados, but for all music lovers who keep on performing, learning, and playing against the odds.”

Trish Marx, New York

“I am ordering the book to have in my library, because it is so uplifting. It is a highly motivational story for young people (and anyone). The story follows the amazing talent and determination of a delightful little girl despite the odds against her, and tells how she grew up to be a great woman in the jazz world.”

Norman, Missouri