Reviews for Jazz Age Josephine

Booklist Reviews 2011 November #1
*Starred Review* Even though the ranks of picture-book biographies of significant artists (many of whom kids have likely never heard of) have swollen considerably in recent years, this one about the singer, dancer, and all-around entertainer Josephine Baker still manages to dazzle. Much of the credit for this goes to Winter, who only loosely follows the tried-and-true format of using the artist's life as an inspirational model to embrace talent, work hard, overcome adversity, and follow one's dreams. The biographical details--how she would dance on the streets of St. Louis for spare change as a girl, got her big break as a chorus girl in New York, and then found fervent acclaim in Paris as a "symbol of the American Jazz Age"--are covered in broad strokes, with more attention given to recreating the style and swagger of her onstage performances. With pages that sometimes have little more than riffs on "Boodle-am boodle-am boodle-am SHAKE," Winter's syncopated language dances nearly as much as the energized, loose-limbed figures in Priceman's kinetic artwork to convey the spirit, as much as the life, of the subject. An author's note supplies more concrete biographical details, but the true potential in this book lies in its ability to get little ones whipped up into an ebullient, dancing fizz, sharing in the joys of rhythm. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
Blues-reminiscent rhymes tell the story of the dance and civil rights icon Josephine Baker's climb from penurious St. Louis childhood to Jazz Age era fame in France. Winter finds the right way to introduce an unconventional, groundbreaking artist to a young readership; Priceman's gouache and ink illustrations energetically dance on the page. An author's note further details Baker's accomplishments.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 January #1
The African-American singer and dancer was idolized in France because of her extraordinary talent as a stage performer and scorned in the United States because of her color. Winter recounts Baker's desperately poor childhood in St. Louis, her breakthrough into show business in New York and her move to Paris at the height of the Roaring Twenties in flight from racial prejudice. There, she dazzled audiences with her risqué musical routines and colorfully scanty costumes, especially the famous fake-banana skirt. Winter, a prolific author of picture-book biographies, uses rhyming couplets and verbal riffs, accentuated by lively typeface, for a highly energetic telling. "It's the Shake, / the Shimmy, / and the Mess Around! / No one sleeps / when she's in town!" Priceman, a Caldecott Honor recipient, uses her trademark swirling lines and bright colors in inks and gouache to show off Baker's fantastic moves at almost cinematic speed. Not in the text but in the author's note is information about Baker during World War II, when she worked for the French Resistance. That grateful country gave her medals and buried her with honors. More recently, Diana Ross and Beyoncé have copied her moves. In any consideration of noteworthy lives, Baker stands tall and sparkles as a determined, brave and singular woman of color. (author's note) (Picture book/biography. 5-10) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 November #4

The life of entertainer Josephine Baker isn't an easy one to translate to the picture book form, but Winter and Priceman attack her story with a gusto worthy of Miss Josephine herself. Opening with her impoverished childhood in St. Louis, Mo., Winter (Barack) uses the riffs and rhythms of the blues music structure to show how a young Josephine embraced an energetic stage presence early on ("So Josephine made funny faces, stuck out her tongue, and crossed her eyes./ Yes, Josephine made funny faces, stuck out her tongue, bugged out her eyes"). Leaving town due to racial strife, Josephine fled to New York City, broke onto Broadway, and--fed up with racist roles she was asked to play--decamped for France. Winter switches up his rhythms to match the mood, first with jazzy staccato blasts ("Gay Paree!/ Josephine!/ Here's an act/ they've never seen!") and later with a more contemplative ballad. Caldecott Honor artist Priceman (Hot Air) contributes exuberant gouache and ink paintings that capture Josephine's every impish facial expression and knee-knocking, hip-shaking dance move. It's a rollicking tribute to a remarkable, trailblazing woman. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC

School Library Journal Reviews 2012 January

Gr 3-6--Born into poverty in St. Louis in 1906, Freda Josephine McDonald, aka Josephine Baker, met her surroundings with humor, entertaining dance moves, and an unshakable belief in happy fairy-tale endings. She left home while just a teen and her natural gifts led her to the New York City stage where the clownlike dances of her childhood evolved into the signature moves of polished adult expression. Eventually she went to Paris where enthusiastic followers of the Jazz Age praised her dark, exotic beauty and her talent. While the rhyming text echoes the blues, Priceman's swirl of watercolor images capture the story's various moods. A multipage tribute to Parisian nights and the Eiffel Tower is electric with bold reds, pinks, oranges, and purples in a series of movements reminiscent of the entertainer's vibrant performances. While the text rhythm of blues and scat accompany smoky shadows, images of jazz musicians flit past angled approximations of Baker's original dance moves. Images and text present an introduction to the terminology and style of early jazz. This heartfelt tribute to Baker serves as a marvelous introduction to the era.--Mary Elam, Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX

[Page 143]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.