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.