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Archive for January 25th, 2015

josephine cover

by Sam Juliano

Josephine Baker’s life is a story of oppression, resilience, geographical upheaval and heroism.  It is a story of segregation, racism, impoverishment and international fame.  It is a story of selflessness and discovering something you love more than life itself – something that both identified who you were and were inspired to become.  It is a story hope and resounding success.  A former dancer, Patricia Hruby Powell, has authored a six-chapter, 102 page picture book in free verse to page in homage of the legendary African-American dance icon, whose life is as fascinating as her professional climb to the top Mt. Everest.  Powell’s narrative is showcased in bold and italicized typography that exudes the dearth of discipline evident in the dancer’s life, but even more appropriately in accordance with the vibrant color, energy and flamboyance one associates with this art form.  The spacing, the use of capital letters, the variance of poetic line structure, the variant manner the prose is incorporated into black panels and pages with illustrations is gloriously dazzling and undisciplined, much as its subject’s life is. Powell is endlessly engaging, never afraid to convey the unconscionable aspects of American society during its darkest hours, always conveying the information towards its targeted young audience tastefully and starkly without ostentation. I particularly admired the author’s use of vintage Josephine Baker quotes to characterized and enhance the flow of the narrative, and a few of these include philosophical commentary that does pass judgement on the deliberately tame aspects of the narrative that deal with racial injustice.  Powell’s writing should rightly put her squarely in the Newbery race. (more…)

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