Reviews for Baby Flo : Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage

Booklist Reviews 2012 May #2
Growing up in poverty in a Washington, D.C., neighborhood in the early twentieth century, Florence Mills had a remarkable talent for singing and dancing. She learned the cakewalk, and her daddy taught her the buck-and-wing dance, and from early childhood, she dazzled everyone, performing at age three on the stage of the Bijou Theater and for powerful Washington audiences. Kids will be caught by the always appealing story of child stardom. The vibrant watercolor pictures on unframed double-page spreads show the small black girl blissfully singing and dancing at home, nervous on stage, and then performing to ecstatic applause. A long author's note with sepia photos fills in the story of the remarkable success that Mills enjoyed as an adult, performing for fans such as Charlie Chaplin, Paul Robeson, and Irving Berlin until her early tragic death. A stirring picture-book biography. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
Florence Mills was born an entertainer. This brightly illustrated, inspiring story follows "Baby Flo" from her days of singing in the streets of Washington, DC, to her on-stage debut at age seven. An author's note includes a brief biography of her years as an entertainer during the Harlem Renaissance and her early death from tuberculosis at age thirty-one.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 March #2
Florence Mills, dancer and singer, was the sweetheart of the Harlem Renaissance. From childhood, Baby Flo entertained her family and her neighbors in Washington, D.C. Her parents put her on stage when she was 3 years old, entered her in cakewalk contests and had her entertain the rich and powerful at their homes. Fame came early in the vaudeville production The Sons of Ham. Mills went on to perform to great acclaim in stage productions in New York and in London. Unfortunately, she died in 1927 at the age of 31 and was mourned by thousands at her Harlem funeral. Duke Ellington's composition "Black Beauty" is believed to have been written in her memory. Schroeder concentrates his story on her very early years, leaving her exciting adult career and life to a lengthy afterword. The watercolor illustrations feature a perpetually smiling Flo, smiling family, smiling neighbors and smiling passersby. She is not well known today because there are no known recordings or film footage, and unfortunately, this title presents an overly perky perspective on an African-American performer born to former slaves. There should be a better balance between the actual text and the information in the author's note. Kudos for the effort, but a more illuminating text and more suitable illustrations would have made this a much better title. (author's note, photographs) (Picture book/biography. 3-7) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 February #3

Growing up in Goat Alley--"in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Washington, "--Florence Mills loved to sing and dance. At age three, she began performing for local businesses and, although she burst into tears during her first stage performance (she received abundant applause anyway), Mills's reputation as a singer began to grow among the elite of Washington. Despite Mills's and her family's poverty, the watercolor illustrations from the husband-and-wife team of Van Wright and Hu have a joyous glow; young Mills almost always has a smile on her face and a lively pose to match. End pages provide photographs of Mills (1895-1927) as an adult and a detailed description of her career as an entertainer--one that ended early, when she died of tuberculosis at age 31. Ages 6-11. (Mar.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 June

Gr 3-5--Mills started singing for others at the age of three in Goat Alley, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Washington, DC, as she made laundry deliveries with her mother. Her dancing won many contests by the time she was six: she was a darling of the city's elite and her name was in lights at the local Bijou Theater by the time she was seven. Little Florence's beginning years as a performer are highlighted here as she enchanted those who admired her fast-flying feet and ability to sing popular favorites with unfettered joy. Narrative text set in a rather small font includes exuberant dialogue as soft watercolor scenes from full-page spreads to small portraits reveal the love on the faces of her family and impromptu audiences. This brief memoir traces Baby Florence's steps as she grows in size and confidence from the beaming smiles of her cakewalk to church or her bubbling energy in a simple shuffle-ball-change step. Maturing at the height of the Jazz Age, Mills was beloved by top entertainers of her age: Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, Paul Robeson, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and Charlie Chaplin. An author's note is enhanced by photos of the adult Mills and commentary about her successes--her singing and dancing in the U.S. and abroad, her "flair for comedy"-and her tragic death at age 31 from tuberculosis. An accessible biography of a prominent Jazz Age personality.--Mary Elam, Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX

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