Amy Says Read This

Seriously, you should totally read this.

Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter

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Winter, J., & Priceman, M. (ill.) (2012). Jazz Age Josephine. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781416961239

Annotation: Josephine was a natural performer and became a hit on Broadway, but as an African American woman in the 1920’s, she only received humiliating roles. So she moved to Paris, where she was embraced as a symbol of the American Jazz Age.

Reaction: I didn’t know anything about Josephine Baker before reading this story, but as I learn more, her life was fascinating. She used her natural skills to change her own life, and she held onto her dignity by not performing the degrading acts New York audiences wanted to see. She became hugely famous in France, and then had a major role in the 1960’s Civil Rights movement. More than that, Wikipedia says she helped the French Resistance in WWII and earned a military honor. I feel like this is a woman that more schools should teach, as she is a great role model. I think this book would be great to use in a classroom to teach 5th graders about different styles of poetry as well as history of both the 1920’s and as a segue into the Civil Rights Movement.

This is a long poem, full of repetition, rhythm and rhyme. Winter’s style and Priceman’s illustrations made me think of those fast, frantic jazz songs. It felt like a scene in some movie, a whirlwind of sound and movement. I love the way Winter includes onomatopoeia by spelling out the jazz music Josephine dances to in Paris: “Boh doh doh-dee-oh,” “boodle-am boodle-am boodle-am SHAKE!” and more.

I loved Priceman’s art in this book. She used lots of bright colors and fluid lines to get across the tone of the story and movement that makes up Josephine Baker’s history. The reader can imagine all the illustrations going on to finish the dance steps drawn. The art is full of energy and excitement. Also, looking at pictures of Josephine, Priceman really captured her smile and expressive eyes.

Media Used: Gouache and ink

Author’s Website: None

Illustrator’s Website: None


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