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Friday, January 24, 2014

Je vous présente: "Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker"

Way back somewhere in, oh, say, high school French class, it might have been, I once did a report on Josephine Baker. So I have been peripherally aware of her existence for some time. But how much one forgets in the decade (okay, 2 decades!) since high school.
Disclosure: I am an amazon affiliate. This post contains an affiliate link.

And so I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of Chronicle Books' Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, by Patricia Hruby Powell, to review for Multicultural Children's Book Day.

The publisher sums up Josephine thus:
In exuberant verse and stirring pictures, Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson create an extraordinary portrait of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker, the woman who worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world. 
 Well said, Chronicle Books. And here's my take:

What I loved:

The Artwork of Christian Robinson
A fascinating life story is always a good start in a biography, but in the case of Josephine, it is the artwork that sets this book apart. Billed as a book for ages 7-10, and certainly appropriate for that range, the artwork actually gives Josephine the feel of an eclectic and quirky coffee table book, the likes of which one finds in the gift shops of the great art museums around the world. Josephine is just as easily a book for adults as it is for children!

Click image to see more on Scribd.

Multicultural Mentions
How fabulous that Josephine mentions more than a dozen countries (lending itself to some fun map exploration!), encourages the bridging of racial boundaries, and promotes world religions as being worthy of respect. What more could a world-focused family ask for in a book?!

The Inclusion of French
As the title of this post might attest, I am a huge fan of code mixing. I love seeing, or writing, a few contextually obvious words of another language amidst the text of the primary language. Although fewer than 10 French expressions are included, they are fun ones, easily assimilated by language savvy kids. C'est magnifique!

A caveat:

Mature Themes
As I mentioned, the artwork in Josephine allows this book to be enjoyed long past the 10-year old top margin it is billed for. On the other end of the spectrum, however, some 7 year old children may not be ready for the depth and breadth of issues mentioned in Josephine. You might want to wait on Josephine for a year or two if your 7 year old has had minimal exposure to concepts and vocabulary such as: nickel whisky shots, race riots, the term "out of wedlock", multiple marriages/divorces, the description of men in white hoods (whose name I won't mention, to avoid coming up in web searches), etc. Children will certainly face all these topics eventually, but it could be a lot all at once for some 7 year olds, so judge your audience wisely.

Thank you!

From beginning to end, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. Many thanks to Chronicle Books for sending it, and a heartfelt congratulations to author Patricia Hruby Powell and artist Christian Robinson on their job well done! I wish you many successes with Josephine, and your future endeavors!

Want more Josephine?

Just in time for the the release of Josephine, Chronicle Books is offering some fun FREE materials for children.

Print a beautiful poster by book illustrator Christian Robinson, 
try your hand at this fun animal drawing activity
and make a cute little banana bracelet inspired by -ahem- "the" skirt!

How about more multicultural children's book reviews? 
Check out these bloggers:
2GirlsLostInaBook · 365 Days of Motherhood · A Bilingual Baby · A Simple Life, Really? · Africa to America · After School Smarty Pants · All Done Monkey · Andi’s Kids Books · Anita Brown Bag  · Austin Gilkeson · Barbara Ann Mojica ·  Books My Kids Read · Bottom Shelf Books · Cats Eat Dogs · Chasing The Donkey · Children's Book-a-Day Almanac · Children's Books Heal · Church o Books · CitizenBeta · Crafty Moms Share · Discovering The World Through My Son's Eyes · Early Words · Flowering Minds · Franticmommy · Gathering Books · GEO Librarian · Gladys Barbieri · Going in Circles · Growing Book by Book · iGame Mom · I’m Not The Nanny · InCulture Parent · Itsy Bitsy Mom ·Just Children’s BooksKid World Citizen · Kristi’s Book Nook · Mama Lady Books · Mama Smiles · Mission Read · Mother Daughter Book Reviews · Mrs AOk · MrsTeeLoveLifeLaughter · Ms. Yingling Reads · Multicultural Kids Blog · One Sweet World · Open Wide The World · P is for Preschooler · Rapenzel Dreams · School4Boys · Sharon the Librarian · Spanish Playground · Sprout's Bookshelf · Squishable Baby · Stanley and Katrina · Teach Mama · The Art of Home Education · The Brain Lair · The Educators' Spin On It · The Family-Ship Experience · The Yellow Door Paperie · This Kid Reviews Books  · Trishap’s Books · Unconventional Librarian · Vicki Arnold · We3Three · World for Learning · Wrapped in Foil 

And of course,
Many thanks to the generous sponsors of Multicultural Children's Book Day!
Author Susan Fayad


  1. Julie, what a deep and wonderful review! I am agreeing with all your points. I had to explain to my 7 year old a lot of terms, especially whiskey shots and out of wedlock. My favorite though was the word "effervesced". And it's a good thing that I can read and understand French, so I could read French phrases to my daughter.

    1. Yes, Josephine does provide its share of opportunities for discussion, n'est-ce pas?! But how did I miss the appearance of "effervesced"? Oh well, a good reason to read this beautiful book again!

  2. I love how detailed your review is! I will definitely pin this for future reference since my little one is only 5 yrs. old, but I'm sure he would enjoy learning about the countries with Josephine! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yes, Josephine will be a fun twist in learning about countries (and a lot of other worldly topics!) when he's a bit older. I think my 5 year old will enjoy this in a few years, too.

  3. Love this detailed and honest review! Looks like an interesting book.

    1. Yes, interesting and fun. A winning combination in a book, right?!

  4. Looks like a great book, but what is with the term out of wedlock being used. I am not sure I like that.

    1. Yes, I imagine that term will catch people on both sides of the "issue" a little off guard. Fortunately, it's a passing moment. It can either be used as a teachable moment, or might not even be noticed, depending on the child.

  5. Julie thanks for this great review of Josephine. I can hardly wait to read this book. So glad I got sneak peak over here. Thank you for celebrating Multicultural Children's Book Day with us. It's wonderful to get to know you and your blog. Happy Reading.

    1. Thank you, Mia. It has been such fun taking part in this wonderful project!

  6. Your caveat is spot on. Fantastic review. Happy #MCKLitDay!
    ~Cool Mom
    for The Stanley & Katrina Gang

  7. awesome review. I especially appreciate that you included the amazing art work to really capture everyone's attention. Thank you for the warning about reading this to a younger audience, I think my nearly 7 year old is ready for it, but that is an important decision for parents to make.

  8. The blog might quite possible have the cutest header graphics that I have ever seen! :) Great review of a great book too. Thanks for participating in MCCBD!

    1. Thanks, Franticmommy, on both counts! Both the header and the book review were fun projects. Thanks for getting the MCCBD going!