When I first heard about Josephine Baker, way back in my youth, I found her fascinating. I don't know if it was the banana costume, the gyrating hips, or the life in France, but I was impressed. So when I heard there was a picture book bio, I decided to keep an eye out for it.
Josephine, The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell with illustrations by Christian Robinson is a sharp and arty book. It's written in free verse that is both effortless to read and expressive and intense. Many picture book bios don't cover an entire lifetime. This one does. I think Hurby Powell is able to do that because she uses dance and Baker's experiences with the segregated world she was born into as threads that keep her focused.
Baker's experience with segregation and work as a civil rights activist give this book another level of interest. As with Persepolis, it doesn't feel as if the reader (this reader, at least) is being instructed. A segregated world is just the well-defined setting for the book.
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