Celebrating Josephine Baker : One for Me and One for You

Well, technically, it’s One for Me and Two for You, but we are generous with our Book Pairing Suggestion for this month.
While you share these two “dazzling” picture books about the amazing Josephine Baker with younger readers, you’ll also want to dig into the fascinating bio of this talented and tormented woman.

Picture Books for Young Readers:

JosephineJosephine:  The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson

A story of struggle and triumph comes to life in this vibrantly illustrated picture book, rich with the eloquent language of verse.  Josephine Baker began her life in the slums of St. Louis and became an world-honored performer and civil rights advocate.  She is famed for “dancing her way to the top” including performances at Carnegie Hall and Paris theatres. Readers are also drawn into the fascinating time period in which she lived and performed, struggled and succeeded.  A meticulously researched and beautiful picture book!


Jazz-ageJazz Age Josephine:  Dancer, Singer–Who’s That, Who? Why, That’s MISS Josephine Baker to You! by Jonah Winter, Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

More than a biography of a fascinating woman and artist, this gorgeously illustrated picture book is also an ode to the Jazz Age.  The voice, rhythm, and magic of the blues and jazz are key elements of the writing.  Baker’s activism, dancing, and performing come alive in pages that can only be described as exuberant.   A wonderful companion book with The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker.


Adult Biography:

JosephineJosephine: The Hungry Heart by Jean-Claude Baker and Chris Chase

Josephine ‘s life story is told with candor,  incredible detail and rich research into time and place.  As the picture books demonstrates, her story of struggle takes her from poverty to world-traveler and heroine.  Still recognized as a national hero for her work in the French Resistance during World War II, Josephine was also idolized as a superb artist and performer. But this bio doesn’t shy away from her shadow side. Josephine was also, as one critic put it, “a monster who made Joan Crawford look like the Virgin Mary.”  She adopted 12 children of different races from all over the world and called them her Rainbow Tribe–and they suffered with her when her manic episodes rocked her. As a side-note, this is a must-read if you are enchanted by the Paris cabaret scene!

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