Jazz Age Josephine

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Jazz Age Josephine

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You don’t have to be a fan of jazz music to love and appreciate Jazz Age Josephine: Dancer, Singer, who’s that, who? Why, that’s MISS Josephine Baker, to you! You should, however, be a big proponent of the power of reinvention, activism, and the kind of gritty guts that helped catapult Josephine Baker to stardom in the 1920s.

This beautifully illustrated children’s book carries the young reader from Baker’s childhood growing up in a poverty-stricken area of St. Louis, Missouri (or, as the book honestly describes, a place where she slept on floors, covered with newspapers, and surrounded by rats) to her adopted homeland—a glamorous 1920s Paris. Along the way, Baker lived the life of a hundred women—from performing as a chorus girl in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance, to becoming the first African-American woman to star in a major motion picture, to assisting the French Resistance during World War II and becoming a champion of civil rights, alongside Martin Luther King, Jr.

Needless to say, author Jonah Winter and illustrator Marjorie Priceman focus less on Baker’s burlesque roots and more on the obstacles she overcame in her life in order to make her dreams come true. Children will be dazzled by her story and the luminescent drawings, which include a hot orange Eiffel Tower set against a purple and fuchsia sky. Older kids may ask tons of questions about her unorthodox upbringing and career path, which may serve as the ideal opportunity to discuss segregation, “the Lost Generation,” and any number of other interesting historical happenings.

Or, they may simply want to know more about Baker’s pet cheetah, Chiquita. Can you blame them?

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