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 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!
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.