Tag Archives: Patricia Hruby Powell

Review: Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell

Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker
Patricia Hruby Powell
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Chronicle Books
Published December 1, 2013

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

In exuberant verse and stirring pictures, Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson create an extraordinary portrait for young people 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. Meticulously researched by both author and artist, Josephine’s powerful story of struggle and triumph is an inspiration and a spectacle, just like the legend herself.

My Review

I must have purchased this book when it was on sale a while ago and then forgotten that I had it until today when I was searching through a list of nonfiction e-books that I own. I’m sure I bought it because of having read and really enjoyed Patricia Hruby Powell’s book LOVING VS. VIRGINIA, which is about a couple involved in the civil rights case to legalize interracial marriage.

Since I’d read that book, I knew I loved Powell’s emotive storytelling, so I was really excited when I saw that she’d written another book, this one a biography.

When I started reading, I intended to kind of just skim the first few pages and get a feel for the book so I could put it in my blogging calendar… but I couldn’t stop reading. I fell headfirst into the incredible story of the bright, indomitable spirit of Josephine Baker and didn’t surface until the last page. She’s amazing. The stories of her performances, her daring, her ability to make audiences roar with laughter captivated me. And THEN.


World War II happens, and she becomes a spy for the Allies. She writes messages in invisible ink on her music sheets. I was blown away, but honestly, I shouldn’t have been, because that’s exactly the kind of courage and boldness that run throughout her entire story. What a truly amazing person.

At any rate, I loved this book. It’s a pretty quick read, but between the beautiful illustrations and the strong, spare storytelling, this is a book that demands to be read. I can’t even say how much I loved it. And now I only want to know more about Josephine Baker! I had no idea who she was before picking up this book, and I’m only sorry it took me until now to learn about her.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

This book tells the life story of Black dancer, actor, and performer, Josephine Baker. The story shows her feelings in response to segregation and racist/colorist behavior around her.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Brief mentions of her marriage.

Spiritual Content
Josephine adopted twelve children from various countries and brought them up with the spirituality of their cultures. She wanted to show that people of different races and religious values could grow up side by side and love one another like brothers.

Violent Content
Brief mentions of war.

Drug Content

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Review: Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell

Loving vs. Virginia
Patricia Hruby Powell
Illustrations by Shadra Strickland
Chronicle Books
Available January 31, 2017

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Summary from Goodreads
From acclaimed author Patricia Hruby Powell comes the story of a landmark civil rights case, told in spare and gorgeous verse. In 1955, in Caroline County, Virginia, amidst segregation and prejudice, injustice and cruelty, two teenagers fell in love. Their life together broke the law, but their determination would change it. Richard and Mildred Loving were at the heart of a Supreme Court case that legalized marriage between races, and a story of the devoted couple who faced discrimination, fought it, and won.

My Thoughts
Somehow I missed the fact that this story is told in verse—which is admittedly ridiculous, since it’s one of the first things stated about LOVING VS. VIRGINIA. Actually, I thought I would be reading a more traditional narrative relating the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, so discovering the stark, emotive poetry in which Mildred and Richard tell their stories surprised and delighted me.

Each chapter paints a specific scene in the tale of their love. The poems create a sense of time and culture in few words and really drew me into the emotions of the characters. Fans of novel-in-verse storytelling and of historical fiction and romance should definitely read this book. Honestly, I felt like reading LOVING VS. VIRGINIA made me stop and think about how short a time ago in our history a man and woman were denied the right to love one another and be married because of their race.

I loved the message of hope and triumph in the story and the inclusion of historical timelines and other information. Those helped craft a larger understanding of what was happening in the country at the time this story really happened.

Recommended for Ages 13 up

Cultural Elements
This novel in poetry follows the historical story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and black woman who fell in love and married in a time when interracial marriage remained illegal in their home state of Virginia. The novel shows some of the experiences of racism and prejudice against the couple and their friends.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
No explicit descriptions of sex, but readers do understand that Richard and Mildred have sex before getting married. Mildred becomes pregnant with his child more than once. At one point she makes a comment about how a man has needs—saying that she may feel guilty about having sex with him, but kind of a shrug of the shoulders, men-have-needs. I feel like, within the historical context, that kind of thinking may have been the understanding between men and women, but I wish that somewhere the author had addressed it or hinted about the lack of balance and equality in that idea. (Men are not excused from responsibility for their sexual conduct on the grounds that they “have needs”.) This might be an angle to discuss with readers either as a parent or within a classroom setting.

See violent content.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
Mildred spends time in jail because she married a white man. The jailer threatens her, marching male prisoners past her cell and insinuating that he might let them assault her. It’s brief and without graphic description, but may be startling to some readers.

Drug Content

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.