A life devoted to self-expression through dance and racial harmony is celebrated in this lavish, lengthy picture book.
Writing in free verse, former dancer Powell pays homage to the fabulous Josephine Baker. Baker rose from a childhood of poverty and race riots in St. Louis, Mo., to dance in New York and Paris, the city where she finally achieved fame and escaped American segregation and racism. Grateful to the French, she worked as a spy during World War II and later adopted 12 children from around the world: She called them her Rainbow Tribe. The author excels at describing Baker’s innovative and memorable dance routines and her fantastical life in Paris, where she walked her pet leopard, each adorned with a diamond choker. The book is arranged as stage acts, each covering a segment of her story. With this device, Powell and Robinson create an air of expectancy before the curtain rises and a time to reflect and admire as it falls in front of a stage strewn with flowers. Robinson’s stunning acrylic paintings depict elongated figures and recreate Baker’s movements and costumes with verve and dynamism. The page design features well-placed text, occasional quotes and vibrant hues, further complementing its striking subject.
An extraordinary dancer and woman is here celebrated with style and empathy. (author’s note, artist’s note, further reading, quotation sources) (Poetry/biography. 6-12)