Sunday, October 5, 2014

Josephine - Words by Patricia Hruby Powell and Pictures by Christian Robinson

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker
Words by Patricia Hruby Powell
Pictures by Christian Robinson

Format: hardback

Publisher: Chronicle Books
Copyright: 2014
Pages:  104

Genre: Biography
Source: library
Age range: 7 - 10 years

Summary from Chronicle Books:

In exuberant verse and stirring pictures, Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson create an extraordinary portrait for young people of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker, the woman who worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world. Meticulously researched by both author and artist, Josephine's powerful story of struggle and triumph is an inspiration and a spectacle, just like the legend herself. 

Written in free-verse, with an unusual layout for the text, it took me a couple pages to get into the swing of things (mostly because I was expecting a straight biography), but once I got into the rhythm I didn't want to stop reading. The book takes you from Josephine's childhood in St. Louis, into the streets with her as a performer, and onto the stage as the toast of Paris. Josephine Baker was more than just a groundbreaking entertainer, she also played a role in WWII.  It is a pretty amazing story.

The first 16 pages of the book are available at
Segregation and the impact it had on her self-esteem and career are central to the story. The book manages to take on some of the complexity of her life without oversimplifying it too much, creating a child friendly introduction to a woman often called the first African American superstar.

One of the things I immediately wanted to do once I finished was to go out and find out more about Josephine Baker - grab an adult biography. I am just old enough that my mother talked about her so I have dim memories of her - now I want to know more about her life and times.

Here a short video for the book which shows you the style ...

BTW - here is a brief intro to the real Josephine Baker (warning brief upper body nudity - after all this was Paris in the 1920s!)

I read Josephine to my kids last night, they both gave it a thumbs up too. They also became very curious about the times she lived in and about what happened to the children in her Rainbow Tribe.

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