Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

5.0 2
by Patricia Hruby Powell, Christian Robinson

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Coretta Scott King Book Award, Illustrator, Honor
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, Honor
Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, Nonfiction Honor
Parent's Choice Award
Wall Street Journal's 10 Best Children's Books of the Year List
Bologna Ragazzi Nonfiction Honor 2014

In exuberant verse and stirring pictures, Patricia Hruby Powell and

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Coretta Scott King Book Award, Illustrator, Honor
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, Honor
Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, Nonfiction Honor
Parent's Choice Award
Wall Street Journal's 10 Best Children's Books of the Year List
Bologna Ragazzi Nonfiction Honor 2014

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 11/04/2013
Segregated American clubs were willing to let African-American dancer Josephine Baker (1906–1975) perform, but they wouldn’t let her use the front door. Powell (Frog Brings Rain) chooses a potent metaphor for Baker’s hidden anger: “hot magma, molten lava, trapped within.” When Baker arrived in France, the country embraced both her artistry and her blackness, and “Her deep volcanic core—filled with emotion, filled with music—erupted.” Robinson (Rain!) draws round faces gazing with amazement at the woman onstage whose pearl necklace flies one way and whose hips swing the other. Baker’s entire life spreads out in this tapestry of words, from a St. Louis childhood surrounded by music to her triumphs all over Europe—followed, sadly, by debt and illness. Robinson’s naif, folk-style figures look like puppets, and make some grim moments easier to endure (“Those ugly rumors incited some white folks/ to beat, murder, and burn black East St. Louis”). Although Powell’s focus is on Baker, the contrast between segregated America and welcoming France will not be lost on readers. Ages 7–10. Author’s agent: Anna Olswanger, Liza Dawson Associates. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"An engaging read aloud with many possibilities for discussion, follow up research and writing.but it doesn't have to be an educational lesson's just a fun read."—Cindy Dobrez, Bookends, a Booklist Blog"

A triumph of a strong, determined African-American woman over prejudice and parochialism. And it makes for a gripping tale."—The Denver Post"

A spectacular collaboration, a spotlight on an unforgettable lady."—Design of the Picture Book

Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
The bold design and free-wheeling, free-verse style of this book mimics its subject, the legendary African-American dancer Josephine Baker. This book is less a traditional picture book biography than a dance of words across a field of rich color and around stylized images. Patricia Hruby Powell weaves quotes from Josephine into this nonfiction story about her childhood in the St. Louis slums, her chorus-line work on Broadway and her amazing first trip to the Paris. Christian Robinson’s acrylic paintings capture the exuberant, big-hearted spirit of Josephine, who said of herself: “I wore my heart on my toes and my soul on my lips.” In the book she is seen dancing the Charleston, strolling with her pet leopard in Paris, and even spying for France during World War II. This is an exceptional biography, as bold, bright and compelling as its subject. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum; Ages 8 to 12.
School Library Journal
★ 02/01/2014
Gr 5–8—This charming biography invites readers to step inside the vibrant and spirited world of performer and civil rights advocate, Josephine Baker. Robinson's paintings are as colorful and rich as Josephine Baker's story, offering page after page of captivating and animated illustrations and rhythmic text, which is written in blank verse. In a few short and well-organized parts, readers learn the story of one of the world's most well known female performers who danced and sang her way from the poor and segregated streets of St. Louis to the dazzling stages of Paris all the way to Carnegie Hall. Text and illustrations work in tandem to accurately document Josephine's extraordinary life and the era in which she lived. Clear and lively descriptions of Josephine's story play out creatively in the text, introducing readers to basic principles of poetic structure in storytelling and offering an accurate portrait of a woman who fought for racial equality and civil rights through her life's passion: performance. Reluctant readers of nonfiction and poetry lovers alike will be drawn to this book's musical, theatrical nature, making for a fun, enriching, and holistic reading experience. This unique and creative work is a first purchase.—Natalie Braham, Denver Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-10-20
A life devoted to self-expression through dance and racial harmony is celebrated in this lavish, lengthy picture book. Writing in free verse, former dancer Powell pays homage to the fabulous Josephine Baker. Baker rose from a childhood of poverty and race riots in St. Louis, Mo., to dance in New York and Paris, the city where she finally achieved fame and escaped American segregation and racism. Grateful to the French, she worked as a spy during World War II and later adopted 12 children from around the world: She called them her Rainbow Tribe. The author excels at describing Baker's innovative and memorable dance routines and her fantastical life in Paris, where she walked her pet leopard, each adorned with a diamond choker. The book is arranged as stage acts, each covering a segment of her story. With this device, Powell and Robinson create an air of expectancy before the curtain rises and a time to reflect and admire as it falls in front of a stage strewn with flowers. Robinson's stunning acrylic paintings depict elongated figures and recreate Baker's movements and costumes with verve and dynamism. The page design features well-placed text, occasional quotes and vibrant hues, further complementing its striking subject. An extraordinary dancer and woman is here celebrated with style and empathy. (author's note, artist's note, further reading, quotation sources) (Poetry/biography. 6-12)

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Product Details

Chronicle Books LLC
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.30(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.80(d)
790L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

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Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Answer. It sounds like areally good book.Did she adopt all12 kids at once ? I think it would be hard to raise them all at once in their different cultures. Ms. Baker sounds wonderful!!!!!!!
This_Kid_Reviews_Books More than 1 year ago
Josephine Baker loved to dance. As a young girl in poverty in St. Louis, Missouri, Josephine danced to keep warm (for she had no stockings). Ms. Baker grew up in a time of segregation and didn’t have the chances that she would have if she were white. Josephine decided she would show the world and make it as a dancer and performer. When given the chance, young Ms. Baker hooked up with some vaudeville performers as a dancer. Her energy and out right silliness stole the show from the other dancers. When denied access to join the troupe on their voyage to Europe, Josephine sneaked on board to get away from segregated America. Nothing would stop Josephine. In France, Josephine soon became a star, and became even more famous throughout her travels in Europe. She even became a spy for France during World War II. She lived her dream. First I have to say, you pretty much feel like dancing after reading this book! This is an awesome biography about a person I’d never heard of before and  I learned a lot. Ms. Baker sounds like she was a great person. Larger than life, like they say. I like how she adopted 12 children from around the world and raised them in their own cultures and religion. That was neat. I also think that Ms. Powell described the culture of segregation that Ms. Baker grew up in very well and showed how Josephine Baker overcame it and rose above it. The form of the  book is nice too. I like the way some words are emphasized by capitalization and it is told in a cool prose. That was a nice touch. I find it cool that Ms. Baker had a leopard. Christian Robinson’s illustrations are amazing and magnificent and capture Ms. Baker’s spirit very well. *NOTE - I got an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.