Thursday, January 29, 2009

Becoming Billie Holiday -- book review

Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (WordSong/ Boyds Mills Press, 2009)
Billie Holiday aka Eleanora Fagan, was probably one of the greatest jazz singers of all times. Yet she came by this greatness 'through the back door': fatherless, often in orphanages, poor, being turned away from hotels and restaurants because of her 'color,' and being mistreated by the men in her life. She performed and recorded in limited tours with bands like Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. In this tribute to Holiday, renowned poet Carole Boston Weatherford, has written narrative poems each representing one of the songs Holiday had performed successful through 23 years, when she was just "becoming" a star. Says Weatherford, "The young woman who speaks through these poems is Billie Holiday before heroin and hard living took their toll." (Cooper's sepia-toned artwork is "created with a subrative technique, using erasers to make shapes from a ground of paint. The shapes were then enhanced with mixed media, mostly oil based, layered ina dray brush fashion") Both poetry and art is an extraordinary combination. * 2007 Honor Book - Coretta Scott King Award.
(for mature young adult and adult readers)