image credit to Chronicle Books
Powell, Patricia Hruby. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. Pictures by Christian Robinson. Chronicle Books, 2014. 104 pages. Tr. $17.99, ISBN: 9781452103143
Extensively researched by both author and illustrator, Josephine tells the enthralling life story of African American performer and activist Josephine Baker. From the segregated slums of St. Louis, Baker rose to fame first in the black vaudeville circuit, then on Broadway. Suppressed by racism in American, Baker was embraced and adored in Paris, where she established herself as a superstar. Baker spent her life shattering glass ceilings and fighting for a world in which all races could live in harmony.
This fascinating biography is conveyed through poetic free verse that emulates Baker’s passion for music, dance, and expression. The illustrations, painted in rich acrylic, take their cue as much from Josephine’s exuberant personality as from the text. Short quotes from Josephine herself, obtained from sources that are cited in the endpapers, punctuate the text and make the story come alive. Back matter includes notes from the author and illustrator, further reading, and quotation sources.
Baker is objectively portrayed as a multi-dimensional character with both strengths and flaws. Baker’s history addresses topics like segregation, racism, and war and places the biography in a context for school curriculums. Readers of all ages will become immersed in this beautiful book in which the words, pictures, and subject matter are equally vibrant.
Galing, Ed. Tony. Illustrated by Erin Stead. Roaring Brook Press, 2017.  pages. Tr. $16.99. ISBN: 978-1-62672-308-5
Age Range: 4 - 9
Tony, a strong but gentle horse, and his driver deliver milk, eggs, and butter in the early morning hours. The late Ed Galing’s poem, combined with the incomparable artwork of Erin Stead, capture a beautiful moment, a memory, from another age. “Tony was all white/ large, sturdy,/ with wide gentle eyes/ and a ton of love.” The poem unfolds quietly, offering only a few words or lines set far to one side of each two-page spread, a choice that encourages the reader to pause and allows the pictures to fill the space. Tony and his pre-dawn world are tenderly rendered in pencil with foggy green and gold undertones, achieved through Gomuban monoprinting. Some spreads are filled with a background of mottled green ink while others are mostly cream with just a smudge of gold under the pencil drawing. This contrast in light, combined with the distance between drawings and text, draws readers into the moment and evokes a sense of remembering. Stead (A Sick Day for Amos McGee, 2010), conveys Tony’s gentle demeanor through a portrait-like perspective and subtle yet precise details. Even the velum title page that, when turned, lifts away the bibliographic information to reveal the single first word of the poem – “Tony” – sets the stage and tells the reader that this story will be special.