New Children’s Biographies of Malcolm X, Josephine Baker Out This Month

Not Just For Kids: Biographies aimed at children include Abraham Lincoln, Malcolm X, Josephine Baker and Thomas JeffersonIlyasah Shabazz, Malcolm X’s daughter, has written Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $17.99, ages 6-10), a sentimental book about his early life (sensitively illustrated by A.G. Ford).

Also available for elementary school readers is Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker (Chronicle Books, $17.99, ages 7-10), Patricia Hruby Powell’s scrupulously researched, high-spirited celebration of the color-line-crossing dancer, illustrated by Christian Robinson.

Writing in jazzy, syncopated free verse, Powell, a former dancer, finds the seeds of Baker’s passion in her hardscrabble St. Louis childhood. “I didn’t have any stockings … I danced to keep warm,” Baker explains. The author detects heat too in the frustration and fury fueled by racism, which she compares to hot lava, burning deep in the dancer’s soul and released like steam “in little poofs” when she performs.

Powell’s poetic voice details not only Baker’s rise to stardom, onstage triumphs and offstage heroism but also her disappointments, excesses and her descent into homelessness before a glorious return to the stage and funeral fit for a queen.

Robinson’s richly vibrant, sensually expressive illustrations also capture the dancer’s lithe power and passion. Robinson credits the work of Paul Colin, who created the La Revue Negre posters that propelled Baker to fame in France and beyond, as his primary inspiration. But his palette also evokes Jacob Lawrence’s “Migration Series,” adding emotional weight.

article via latimes.com

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