Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker
by Patricia Hruby Powell
illustrated by Christian Robinson
Chronicle Books, January 14, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher
I have a dancer in my room this year. She spends hours every week at dance. Was excited just before the holidays to get her toe shoes. One glance at this book and I knew she'd love it. She did, and agreed to write a guest review of it. Thank you, V!
I love the book Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell. I read it to my sister and she liked it too. Before I started this book I didn’t think she would be famous for things besides dancing. Josephine was born in 1906, so she was alive when the color of your skin still mattered. Josephine loved to dance. Josephine performed in the streets with The Jones Family. The Dixie Steppers needed an extra act, and The Jones Family won the job. They got to perform on stage! Josephine was so good the Dixie Steppers asked her to join their group. They were going to leave on a tour to Saint Louis, but at the age of thirteen Josephine was too young. But she went anyway. She told her sister not to tell their mom, so Josephine went with the Dixie Steppers.
Josephine became famous after Caroline Dudley invited her to Paris to perform in La Revue Negre. The name Josephine Baker was up in lights. She became rich. People sent her shoes, perfume, dresses. Josephine was all the rage! She made records and starred in movies. She danced through Germany, Russia, Egypt, Sweden, South America.
Josephine became a stunt pilot. She met a millionaire and married him. But he wanted her to live at home so she divorced him. In 1939 war erupted in France. So Josephine joined the Red Cross. But Josephine got Pneumonia. Newspapers reported her dead, but she got better, well enough to perform for the U.S. troops. She helped win the war for France and became a hero. Josephine was awarded France’s highest honor.
She married Jo Bouillon and started to adopt children of different races and from different countries. Josephine adopted twelve children in all. She called them her rainbow tribe. They lived in a mansion with a farm and resort, where visitors could stay. But Josephine spent money faster than she could earn it. She left so she could tour the world and dance and sing. She sold her gowns, her art, her jewels, but not enough money. Josephine was evicted. They lived off of friends and fans. At sixty-seven, Josephine booked a performance in New York City. The audience loved her. That led her to starting a new show in Paris called Joséphine. Her doctors told her to rest, she couldn’t. One night Josephine went to sleep and never woke up.
I think it was very extraordinary when Josephine joined the Red Cross and adopted children. She really was an amazing person.
The book Josephine is really unique. Some words have all capital letters and there are quotes from Josephine throughout the book. There are beautiful drawings and the sentences are arranged in a very specific, artistic way. (For a peek at the way the text dances across the page and the energy-filled illustrations, click here.)