JOSEPHINE

coverJ

***Book Giveaway Details*** CONTEST CLOSED ***Book Giveaway Details***

Today I’m posting my interview with Patricia Hruby Powell, author of Josephine. Josephine is a verse picture book biography and I’m in absolute book love! This book has beauty, fun, fire, heart, and truth. It’s a visionary picture book. It’s perfect.

Just look & listen:

On the opening page Patricia writes, “America wasn’t ready for Josephine, the colored superstar. PARIS WAS.” Well, I think this book is a superstar too and yep, there are going to be some readers who are not ready for it. In the video above I showed you a page that details young Josephine’s experience in an East Saint Louis race riot. Patricia uses the words murder and rape in a book intended for 7-10 year olds. Those are big words, I know. But Josephine was a LITTLE girl when she heard them, and I believe the BIG star with the BIGGER heart that she became cannot be described without using them in the book. I also love that the beauty of Josephine’s life, and of this book, cannot be sullied or denied because of those words written on one page of a life. A strong and important message for young girls. Even seven year olds.

I’m so pleased that Patricia was willing to be interviewed! Here we go…

1. Hi Patricia! First of all, I think the book is absolutely AMAZING, words, pictures, design — it is a superbly put together book. I’m in love with it and I’m in love with Josephine. She moved me to tears. But the book is unique, unusual, maybe even going to be controversial. When you wrote the beautiful verse text did you envision it as an illustrated book for 7-10 year olds?

I first wrote Josephine as a 1000 word picture book. After getting editorial feedback at a workshop, I re-wrote it for a young adult audience in verse envisioning black and white drawings inspired by Paul Colin’s poster art. (Never mind that no such format really exists). Submitted that way, I was asked by Chronicle Books to cut the word count down from 7500 words to 3000 words and delete the more adult parts. I sold that Josephine, a 3500 word piece, and then my visionary editor started adding stanzas from the 7500 word manuscript back in—or asking me to do that. So the piece evolved.

2. I read Josephine to my seven-year old, who hadn’t learned the words rape or murder yet, and I have some thoughts on why keeping those words in is so important (see above). How do you hope the book gets read? Why did you choose to keep those words in?

I wrote, “WHITE RABBLE-ROUSERS spread lies—said Negroes were invading white neighborhoods/ to steal, rape, and murder. White folks got scared.  Those ugly rumors incited some white folks/ to beat, murder, and burn BLACK EAST SAINT LOUIS.”

Those lies were the ugliest scariest terms that whites could conjure up. If you analyze it to its core, the fear of black men sexually forcing themselves on white women, nothing could be more frightening—more debasing—to a white racist. And that’s what the rumor-mongers wanted—to scare and incite a riot. It worked. It’s history. It has happened throughout history and continues today.

I’d explain it to kids when they asked. And of course that’s done differently for each child, for each parent, for each classroom, and teacher.

3. You are a dancer too, just like Josephine. What did you learn about her when doing your research that really spoke to you as a dancer?

When I saw footage of the young Josephine Baker dancing I was smitten. She was wild, original—she was unique. She improvised herself. That is, her dancing was her personality. And that personality was charming, flirtatious, joyous, on fire.

Patricia, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and congratulations on such a beautiful, visionary book!

❤ Robin

baker1

eyes

PS – to see more of Christian Robinson’s amazing art check out his interview on the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog!

***Book Giveaway Details*** CONTEST CLOSED ***Book Giveaway Details***

17 thoughts on “JOSEPHINE

  1. This sounds like the perfect book for Black History Month here in Ontario! I love Josephine Baker and this book would also be appropriate to share with older students! The artwork is amazing and the story is one that should be heard by children of all ages…could stimulate some awesome conversations!

  2. I am the librarain for Northwood Elementary. We studied the Harlem Renaissance this month and we learned about Josephine Baker; our dance teacher even taught the students a few of her moves!
    We would be THRILLED to receive this book; so happy that stories like this with amazing artwork are being shared of this beautiful time period and inspirational people like Josephine.
    I would love to share it with ALL the students at my school.

    Madame Petruzzi
    Media & Art Integration Specialist

    1. Hi Madame Petruzzi — you won the signed book! Send an email to: robin (at) blueeggbooks (dot) com with your mailing address and I will send along your beautiful signed book! Congratulations!

  3. Avery 4
    Thx for sharing, cannot wait to read. Inspired. Exhausted from finishing up #CisforChange the story of Cesar Chavez and your interview reminds me why we work hard to make heroes accessible to little ones. Thx.

  4. Thank you soooooo much Robin! I’m so excited that our school won–thank you so much for offering Josephine. It is on the Center for Multicultural Literature for Children’s best books for 2014!! Wooohooo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s