Becoming Billie Holidayby Carole Boston Weatherford
Before the legend of Billie Holiday, there was a girl named Eleanora. In 1915, Sadie Fagan gave birth to a daughter she named Eleanora. The world, however, would know her as Billie Holiday, possibly the greatest jazz singer of all time. Eleanora's journey into legend took her through pain, poverty, and run-ins with the law. By the time she was fifteen, she knew she
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I feel like "experience" is a truly fitting adjective for this text. I would actually recommend it to children and adults alike, not only because of the richness in historical value, but also because the stories of Holiday's life that are told through this medium create a rich experience for all readers. I believe, however, that Weatherford's most phenomenal accomplishment with the text is that it communicates the story in a very similar way to the songs and jazz style of Billie Holiday-her signature style of singing just behind the beat, improvising in subtle but profound ways. All of that, although not represented in the same way, is brought to life throughout the text. I recommend this to all readers. -Lindsey Miller, www.lindseyslibrary.com
Billie Holiday does not have a happy life story. After all, she sang the blues for a reason. A biography written in verse seems only appropriate for a woman who lived her life in song -- whose only reliable escape was via music.
Weatherford uses Holiday songs as poem titles throughout the book, which, in addition to the first person perspective, serves to bring the reader close to the narrative. While the story of Holiday's life is disturbing, Weatherford does a fantastic job of pulling readers in for an occasional close-up, and in giving them much-needed distance -- room to breathe.
Subtlety is key, and both author and artist seem to realize the delicate balance.
Floyd Cooper used a subtractive technique for the gorgeous illustrations, meaning he used erasers to make shapes and then enhanced them with mixed media. The heavily textured, sepia tones flow seamlessly into the verse.
Then we have the book itself, smooth to the touch, but grainy and old school. Billie Holiday all over. This publisher, Wordsong, created a perfect marriage of author & artist, then packaged the work brilliantly in a book for the ages.