PB 14:14 Day 3 – Jazz Age Josephine

If you haven’t already, do some blog-hopping and check out all of the fantastic picture book reviews that are part of the PB 14:14 Challenge!  Today, I’m looking at how Jazz Age Josephine dances through the pages with wordplay and rhyme.

Title: Jazz Age JosephineJazz Age Josephine

Author: Jonah Winter

Illustrator: Marjorie Priceman

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012

This biography of flapper-era Parisian performer Josephine Baker is filled with all kinds of wordplay, from repetition to rhyme to nonsensical scat.  What makes the wordplay especially strong is that it does not distract from Josephine’s story, but supports it, dragging out the hard times with repetitious blues and spinning into her success with punchy musical lines.  The wordplay supports the changing tone and reflects the emotion and attitude as well as culture that Josephine Baker exuded.

In describing the poverty and oppression that Josephine’s lived through in her youth, the author uses long, heavy lines:

Well, she was born up in St. Louis, and she grew up with those St. Louis blues.

Yes, she was born in old St. Louis, and she grew up singin’ nothin’ but the blues.

She just had one old ragged dress and a pair of worn-out old shoes.

…which transition to shorter, livelier lines to reflect a lighter era:

It was the Jazz Age now, 

year of 1925:

jumpin’ jazz bands, sassy haircuts – 

yes, the good times had arrived!

…and finally:

Boodle-am Boodle-am Boodle-am SHAKE! Boodle-am Boodle-am Boodle-am SHAKE! 

Zee-buh-dop zoo-buh-dop zee-buh-dop ZOW! Zop zop zop zop zoo-buh-dop ZOW!

Hard to believe it’s the same book, right?  The language changes as drastically as Josephine’s dramatic persona and the times she went through, from deep hardship to dazzling success.



Filed under Picture Books

12 responses to “PB 14:14 Day 3 – Jazz Age Josephine

  1. Sounds awesome! I had an agent once ask me if I could write a little more like Jonah Winter. He is truly awesome. He always mirrors his writing to the personality of the person he writes about. Very cool. Thanks for sharing those passages.

  2. That’s so funny that an agent asked you that! I agree that he’s awesome, but I also think you should keep writing like you. 🙂

  3. Definitely a winner for word play and rhyme!

  4. ManjuBeth

    I love the musical quality of the words. I need to check this PB out.

  5. Such a great book, and I love the illustrations too. Great job highlighting the changing rhythms and word play!

  6. What a great post Laura. You captured how the author uses word play to add to the whole story. I really want to read this to get a better idea of how it is done!

  7. Thanks, everyone! Hope you enjoy the book as much as I did. I recommend reading it somewhere you can practice your scat and maybe even bust out a couple of dance moves!

  8. Laura, this book is jazzy! Love the quotes and how you showed how word play relates the atmosphere of the time of her life. Great review, gotta find this boppin’ book!

  9. Love love love this book, Laura! The perfect choice for word play, that’s for sure. And you’ve given me an idea for my post for tomorrow…it will be word play and character…yay!
    Great review – so glad to meet you via Christie’s PB 14:14 challenge. 🙂

  10. that’s cool how the language changed throughout to reflect the mood. This book sounds simply Zee-buh-dop zoo-zow and WOW!

  11. winemama

    I’ve been meaning to check out this book, great post!

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