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Song in a Rainstorm: The Story of Musical Prodigy Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins

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Born blind into a life of slavery, Thomas Wiggins was dismissed as a "useless burden." But through the loving protection of his family, he went on to become one of the greatest musicians of his time. From Tom's childhood on a plantation to his performances in the concert halls of Europe, Glenda Armand shares the beautiful and at times heartbreaking story of a long-overlook Born blind into a life of slavery, Thomas Wiggins was dismissed as a "useless burden." But through the loving protection of his family, he went on to become one of the greatest musicians of his time. From Tom's childhood on a plantation to his performances in the concert halls of Europe, Glenda Armand shares the beautiful and at times heartbreaking story of a long-overlooked musical great, the love that supported him, and the struggle for freedom.


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Born blind into a life of slavery, Thomas Wiggins was dismissed as a "useless burden." But through the loving protection of his family, he went on to become one of the greatest musicians of his time. From Tom's childhood on a plantation to his performances in the concert halls of Europe, Glenda Armand shares the beautiful and at times heartbreaking story of a long-overlook Born blind into a life of slavery, Thomas Wiggins was dismissed as a "useless burden." But through the loving protection of his family, he went on to become one of the greatest musicians of his time. From Tom's childhood on a plantation to his performances in the concert halls of Europe, Glenda Armand shares the beautiful and at times heartbreaking story of a long-overlooked musical great, the love that supported him, and the struggle for freedom.

30 review for Song in a Rainstorm: The Story of Musical Prodigy Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins

  1. 5 out of 5

    Vernon Area Public Library KIDS

    Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins was born into slavery on a Georgia plantation in 1849. At the age of six, Tom was able to play his first composition entitled Rainstorm and when he was eleven years old he became the first Black artist to perform at the White House. During the Civil War, people living in the south were going to concert halls to see Tom perform and when he was 17, he went to Europe for a tour and delighted audiences with his musical talent. Readers will enjoy this picture book about how Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins was born into slavery on a Georgia plantation in 1849. At the age of six, Tom was able to play his first composition entitled Rainstorm and when he was eleven years old he became the first Black artist to perform at the White House. During the Civil War, people living in the south were going to concert halls to see Tom perform and when he was 17, he went to Europe for a tour and delighted audiences with his musical talent. Readers will enjoy this picture book about how Tom’s natural affinity for hearing the sounds of nature as a child transformed his life and he became a professional and famous musician . The Author's Note has more information about Tom's life and family along with Resources and Selected Sources. This title is available as an e-book on Hoopla. Reviewed by: Liz Glazer, Youth and School Services, Vernon Area Public Library

  2. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    This is another historical Black icon that I wasn't familiar with, but am grateful to know now. Wiggins' talent and everything he accomplished is awe-inspiring and I'm definitely going to look into his story more. This is another historical Black icon that I wasn't familiar with, but am grateful to know now. Wiggins' talent and everything he accomplished is awe-inspiring and I'm definitely going to look into his story more.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mutually Inclusive

    Songs in A Rainstorm by Glenda Armand is an amazing picture book biography of Thomas Wiggins, also known as Blind Tom. I have to admit, I didn’t know much about Thomas Wiggins before I read this book, and I’m so disappointed in myself because his story is so incredibly inspiring! Thomas Wiggins was born without sight to enslaved parents in 1849. Thomas was what we would today call a musical savant. Shortly after Tom was born, his parents learned that their owner, Wiley Jones, planned to sell some o Songs in A Rainstorm by Glenda Armand is an amazing picture book biography of Thomas Wiggins, also known as Blind Tom. I have to admit, I didn’t know much about Thomas Wiggins before I read this book, and I’m so disappointed in myself because his story is so incredibly inspiring! Thomas Wiggins was born without sight to enslaved parents in 1849. Thomas was what we would today call a musical savant. Shortly after Tom was born, his parents learned that their owner, Wiley Jones, planned to sell some of his slaves. Fearing for their son, Tom’s parents secretly reached out to General James Bethune to prearrange their sale to him, due to his reputation as a “fair man”. The family was sold together, and Jones threw Tom in for free, calling him a “useless burden” But Jones was wrong. Tom was blind, but he was never useless. At the age of four, General Bethune’s daughters began to teach Tom to speak, and eventually to play the piano. When Bethune heard how well Tom played and how quickly he learned, he saw a business opportunity and began to manage Tom’s career as a professional musician. Against all odds, Thomas Wiggins followed his passion for music. Tom wowed audiences across the world and was the first African American to perform in the White House. I absolutely love the illustrations in this book. Brittany Jackson really brought Tom and his story to life. But my favorite part of Songs In a Rainstorm has to be the honesty. It doesn’t shy away from the ugly truths, like the reality of slavery or the fact that Bethune took the majority of the fortune Tom earned. I would highly recommend this book, especially for any little ones who are showing an interest in music. I would like to thank Albert Whitman & Company for providing me with a review copy of Songs In a Rainstorm. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to learn more about Thomas Wiggins and his story. Blog | Instagram | Facebook | Goodreads | Storygraph

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alissa Tsaparikos

    This is a picture book biography about Thomas Wiggins, a musical prodigy who was born blind and as a slave. I really enjoyed this book. It tells of Tom's life from beginning to end, which is great for kids who need a simple explanation but also need the whole life of the figure they are learning about. The story also contains dates throughout, making it easy for Tom's life to be made into a timeline. I appreciated the backmatter which went deeper into the story and explained a bit more about how This is a picture book biography about Thomas Wiggins, a musical prodigy who was born blind and as a slave. I really enjoyed this book. It tells of Tom's life from beginning to end, which is great for kids who need a simple explanation but also need the whole life of the figure they are learning about. The story also contains dates throughout, making it easy for Tom's life to be made into a timeline. I appreciated the backmatter which went deeper into the story and explained a bit more about how Tom was taken advantage of by people most of his life, but the story itself remained light because of it's focus on Tom and his achievements rather than the darker parts of the story. Jackson's illustrations were fantastic, bringing the story to life with great detail and color. Overall a great biography addition for public and classroom libraries.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Doe Boyle

    This lively book, punctuated by boldface words that reflect the sounds that blind pianist Thomas Wiggins was able to recreate on a keyboard, is a fascinating look at the life and remarkable talent of a person with unique gifts and formidable circumstances. Enslaved since birth and deprived of the astonishing income he produced through his musical performances, Tom will inspire many readers to prevail against their own challenges--and to align themselves in advocacy for those who are exploited. T This lively book, punctuated by boldface words that reflect the sounds that blind pianist Thomas Wiggins was able to recreate on a keyboard, is a fascinating look at the life and remarkable talent of a person with unique gifts and formidable circumstances. Enslaved since birth and deprived of the astonishing income he produced through his musical performances, Tom will inspire many readers to prevail against their own challenges--and to align themselves in advocacy for those who are exploited. The illustrations here are charming and cheerful, but they also subtly reveal the injustice and challenge of a life in which personal agency and achievement was hard won--and completely astonishing. Glenda Armand and Brittany Jackson have made this story brilliantly accessible to young readers.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    I received an electronic ARC from Albert Whitman & Company through Edelweiss+. Elementary level biography that draws readers into the world of slavery and the risks for those who were differently abled at the time. Tom was born blind and his mother did her best to protect him by convincing a different master to purchase the family. As he grew, both families observed his musical talent. Armand does not mask the exploitation by the Bethune and his family. Tom was marketed and performed but did not I received an electronic ARC from Albert Whitman & Company through Edelweiss+. Elementary level biography that draws readers into the world of slavery and the risks for those who were differently abled at the time. Tom was born blind and his mother did her best to protect him by convincing a different master to purchase the family. As he grew, both families observed his musical talent. Armand does not mask the exploitation by the Bethune and his family. Tom was marketed and performed but did not reap the benefits of his talent. Lovely illustrations reveal Tom's world as Armand spins out the tale of his life. Informative text included at the end along with resources for further study.

  7. 5 out of 5

    AMY

    This is a beautifully illustrated picture biography of a man from Georgia who became a music legend. Tom's parents were slaves and he was born blind. They were sold to another owner who took Tom in and allowed his daughters to teach him. One day he discovered a piano they had in their home. He learned to play the piano and surprised everyone with his raw talent. It is an inspiring book that students will enjoy. Be sure to read the author's note at the end. Highly recommended for Grades 3-5. This is a beautifully illustrated picture biography of a man from Georgia who became a music legend. Tom's parents were slaves and he was born blind. They were sold to another owner who took Tom in and allowed his daughters to teach him. One day he discovered a piano they had in their home. He learned to play the piano and surprised everyone with his raw talent. It is an inspiring book that students will enjoy. Be sure to read the author's note at the end. Highly recommended for Grades 3-5.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Annamarie Carlson (she, her)

    Read about the life of Thomas Wiggins. Born a blind slave, his parents were afraid he would be deemed a "useless burden"--but Wiggins had an ear for music, becoming one of the greatest musicians of all time. Read about the life of Thomas Wiggins. Born a blind slave, his parents were afraid he would be deemed a "useless burden"--but Wiggins had an ear for music, becoming one of the greatest musicians of all time.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Katelynne

    Wow, what an interesting story! I knew nothing about Tom Wiggins and I was so happy to learn about him. The art is gorgeous but it is a little Disney-ish which might make this one less memorable for some readers.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jenn Adams

    A smidge long, but lovely story. Art was solid. Surprised I've never heard of him! Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for this eARC in exchange for my honest review. A smidge long, but lovely story. Art was solid. Surprised I've never heard of him! Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Gaum

    Gorgeous illustrations in this book about the blind piano prodigy Thomas Wiggins. The slave owner and his family were depicted a little too nicely, in my opinion, however.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    4.5

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    An important story that centers the brilliance and creativity of musical genius Tom Wiggins who was born blind and enslaved. A powerful, much needed picture book narrative.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    An outstanding picture book biography! I felt a strong connection to Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins almost immediately and it was a joy to watch him grow and excel throughout the book. Highly recommend. An outstanding picture book biography! I felt a strong connection to Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins almost immediately and it was a joy to watch him grow and excel throughout the book. Highly recommend.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andréa

    Amazing talent, but kind of a sad life, although I am aware it could have been much worse given the circumstances. Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

  17. 5 out of 5

    leah wood

  18. 4 out of 5

    Patricia (Punky Bookster)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christy

  20. 5 out of 5

    Leslee

  21. 4 out of 5

    Caralen

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elise Johnson

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  25. 4 out of 5

    ASE

  26. 4 out of 5

    Annese

  27. 5 out of 5

    Margo Jantzi

  28. 4 out of 5

    Katy

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

  30. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

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