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.
Songs in a Rainstorm is officially released on January 1, 2021, but you can preorder it anywhere you purchase books, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links. I will receive a small commission from purchases made using these links, at no additional cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you.)
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.