Patricia Hruby Powell, pictures by Christian Robinson. Chronicle books, 2014. Review copy. This adorable 8" x 10" full color hardback book is a treasure trove of inspiration and information on the glorious life of Josephine Baker. Baker was born in a hard scrabble life in East St. Louis in 1906. Growing up with poverty, discrimination, race riots, and a family that loved ragtime music and dancing away your troubles, Josephine learned to triumph with pizzazz. Nothing kept her down and she never took No for an answer. She ended up owning the stage from New York to New Orleans to Paris, France. She won hearts with her wild style and flashing joy. She learned to fly and became a stunt pilot. During WWII she joined the Red Cross and worked as a spy for the resistance. She was awarded France's highest honor, the Legion d/Honneur. After the war she remarried and adopted 12 children from different countries and races, bringing them up in their own religions. She called her family her "Rainbow Tribe". Due to her generosity and extravagance she ran out of money, in spite of continuing to travel and perform for adoring crowds. She was struggling financially at the end of her life, but still performing at Carnegie Hall right before she died.
Powell and Robinson have done extensive research to support telling and showing this amazing story of a heroic, trailblazing American wonder woman. Children and adults alike will delight in the free verse celebration of her speaking out for justice, her charm and her creative bursts of dance and comedy in the face of seething segregation. Powell and Robinson have selected particularly interesting and stimulating aspects of Josephine's life, such as her passion to dance and her delight in flamboyant costume. She had a pet leopard while living in Paris, for example, and took "Chiquita" for walks in a diamond collar. The illustrations are bold and dramatic, with simple figures expressing intense expressions of Josephine's joie de vive.
See a trailer for the book and read exerpts at the publisher Chronicle Book's page. Read an interview with author Patricia Hruby Powell at Michelle Markel's blog The Cat and the Fiddle. Powell blogs "What Would Josephine Do?" at the Nerdy Book Club blog. And check out Jule's post at Seven Impossible Things for more artwork from Robinson, including some exploritory cover designs.
Poetry Friday this week is hosted by Trisha at Miss Rumphius. Take a moment to enjoy some delights!
Don't forget to go over the the Cybils blog this week and nominate your favorite new children's books (books published between Oct. 16, 2013 through Oct. 15, 2014). Nominations are only open until Oct. 15!!! There are seven categories of books. I nominated Josephine for the Elementary and Middle Grade Nonfiction category. There are still some excellent books that haven't been nominated yet!! Check out the lists here. Semifinalists will be announced in January, and the winner in each category is announced in February. Previous winners are listed at the Cybils blog.