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Jazz Age Josephine: Dancer, singer--who's that, who? Why, that's MISS Josephine Baker, to you! Hardcover – January 3, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

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."
BOOKLIST, November 1, 2011, *STAR

Jazz Age Josephine
Jonah Winter, illus. by Marjorie Priceman. S&S/Atheneum, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4169-6123-9 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.

--Publishers Weekly, November 28, 2011, *STAR

"Using the rhythm and pacing of blues lyrics, Jonah Winter (Diego) unspools the biography of dancer, singer, performer and activist Josephine Baker. Marjorie Priceman's (One of Each) loose line and expressive gouache-and-ink illustrations evoke the sensuality of the dances that rocketed Baker to the top.... Brava!" -- Shelf Awareness

* "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..... In any consideration of noteworthy lives, Baker stands tall and sparkles as a determined, brave and singular woman of color."
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2012 *STAR

"Winter’s language—bursting with the riffs and rhythms of the Jazz Age—will have kids shaking and shimmying. Winter has a great ear for sketching out the life of the entertainer Josephine Baker, from the miseries of her childhood in St. Louis to her triumphant success in Paris. It's an ebullient, kinetic ride, kept in constant visual motion by Marjorie Priceman's swirling lines and jazz-hot colors."
--New York Times Book Review

Winter, Jonah

Jazz Age Josephine

Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. 2012. 40pp. $16.99 hc. Atheneum (Simon & Schuster). 978-1-4169-6123-9. Grades PreK-3

This title is a picture book biography of Josephine Baker. Growing up in the jazz age of the 1930s, she got her start in a chorus line in New York City. Because her talents were never fully recognized in the United States, she went to Paris, where she became famous. The text style is appealing, easy-to-read, and fits the jazz theme. Colorful illustrations show lots of expression and motion. The cover depicts Josephine dancing and will entice the reader to open the pages and take a look. Children will enjoy reading this easy biography. Sue N. Howard, Educational Reviewer, Memphis, Tennessee

Recommended

--Library Media Connection, May/June 2012

"Priceman's exuberant style fits Baker perfectly as she dances across the pages.... Winter does an incredible job of charting Baker's triumphs and the glorious silliness of her stage acts in hip and lively verse while underscoring the persistant sadness of her exile."
--San Francisco Chronicle

About the Author

Jonah Winter is the author of Barack, Dizzy, Diego, and Atheneum’s own Sonia Sotomayor, and Roberto Clemente, to name a few. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Marjorie Priceman
has won Caldecott Honors for Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss and for Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride, which she also wrote. She lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416961232
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416961239
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 0.3 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #854,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

I think it will be a wonderful book for our little girls and their self esteem.
Jacque Cartwright
Marjorie Priceman's illustrations for this picture book biography are vivid, brilliant and full of motion, perfect for a book about a jazz dancer.
Big Dave
I think it would be hard to get an older child to want to pick up the book thinking it a "baby" book.
Hyde Park Doll

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Hedera Femme VINE VOICE on February 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's not your typical kids' picture book. On the outside, it shares the vibrant artwork and simple vocabulary, a sense of musicality in the writing, and a lesson of some kind, but it is more than this. There are very few books that speak to the black experience in this country, both historically and the shadows that still linger in pockets of society. That is not to say the book is outwardly political, as some critics might suppose, no--it merely touches on some truths that, sooner or later, anyone of any background will experience in some way, and it is our duty to prepare our children for everything in life. This book does so with optimism and pride and teaches the lesson to hold your head high, to be true to yourself, and never to be a victim. It is deceptively simple, but packs a punch.

The writing echoes the theme of jazz with a percussive flavor, a rhythm mirrored by the bright streaks of color and shapes that scream of exuberant dancing. A parent and child could have a great time reading it together, playing with sounds, and talking about a difficult topic in a positive way.

Great book!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kim L VINE VOICE on February 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I wondered what a children's book about the legendary Josephine Baker would be about. Let's face it, despite her many accomplishments, the image most people have of her is wearing a skirt made out of bananas and not much else. This book, though, is mostly about her early life before she left for Paris at the tender age of 19. Baker's story is nothing if not inspirational. Born into poverty in St. Louis, Baker was determined to make more of her life than what was handed to her. I did not know that when she went to NYC the stage roles she got were mostly those that made a mockery out of African-Americans. It's little wonder she left for France and remained there for most of her life.

The illustrations in this book are lovely and add greatly to the story. Overall, a fine intro to a true legend of the 20th century.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Tanenbaum VINE VOICE on February 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Although it's early in the year, this new picture book by Jonah Winter about African-American singer and dancer Josephine Baker is already one of my favorites! Josephine Baker was born in St. Louis in a poor family, living in a shack with rats and no heat and went on to become an iconic performer in Paris, one of the symbols of the Jazz Age. At an early age, she learned to be a clown, dancing and making silly faces for money. Her talents would provide her a ticket out of what Winter calls the "general misery of her childhood." When she gets to New York, she winds up in the chorus line, where she performs in blackface. Looking for better opportunities, she left for France, which became her adopted country and where she wasn't "scorned for the color of your skin."

What's so special about this picture book? Several aspects make it a stand-out title. First, the rhythm of the text, which just demands to be read aloud, put to music and to become a dance number. Winter perfectly captures the vital rhythms of the dance age in the quirky rhythms of his poetry:

"Josephine, oh Josephine, you know you're in the big time now.
Josephine, oh Josephine,
grown up and in the big time now,
makin' people hoot and whistle
every night you take your bow."

And we can't forget the incredibly exuberant illustrations, done in gouache and ink, by two-time Caldecott honoree Marjorie Priceman, illustrator of Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin and others. You can see an extended excerpt of the artwork at Simon & Schuster's site. The vibrant colors, movement and energy of the artwork remind me of Matisse and other painters from Paris in the 1920's, and are a perfect fit for Winter's rhythmic text.

While this picture book does not detail all the aspects of Baker's life, an author's note provides some further biographical details on her history. This is a great title for both Black History Month and Women's History Month as well.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Latin Pod VINE VOICE on February 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I read Josephine Baker's biography several years ago and also watched THE JOSEPHINE BAKER STORY, with Lynn Whitfield, back in the 90's. Just like with any children's biographical version of historical figures, this book only deals with the essence of her life, and not with some of the details that could be considered titillating. Therefore, only the truly spunky, adventurous and inspiring aspects of her life are portrayed. In addition, the book is written in a poetic manner that flows smoothly, and the art work compliments it beautifully through the use of vibrant colors and jazzy illustrations. This book will help children better understand a period of our American history that should not be repeated, as well as gain an understanding of the importance of the civil rights movement and of racial integration. I can't wait to read and discuss JAZZ AGE JOSEPHINE with my GT students!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Catherine W. Hughes on April 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This rhythmic, musical picture book tells the story of Josephine Baker, singing and dancing to fame, from Missouri to New York and Paris, becoming a symbol of the Jazz Age in the 1920's. Children, ages 3-6, will like this lively book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jacque Cartwright VINE VOICE on February 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is so beautifully illustrated that I was actually sitting here with my eyes and mouth wide open! I give the book 5 stars for the illustrations alone.

Some seem to have a problem with some of the phrases in the book that may be "heavy" or "political" It is what it is and it what it was..happened. It is strictly up to the parent to tell their children about it..or they will find out on their own. It may not be about the life of Lady Josephine, but at some point racism rears it's ugly head. Better for me to read it with my children, have them ask questions and explain it myself, than for them to wait until someone treats them the same way. Whether you know it or not..rascism still exists.

For the most part it is a good little book that introduces the children to Josephine Baker and how she chose to dance to the beat of her own drum. I think it will be a wonderful book for our little girls and their self esteem.

Did I mention the illustrations are beautiful? lol I recommend this book, and if you read it to your children you can always omit those 2 phrases that cause trouble and save it for a later date.
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