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Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

Last updated Friday, March 2, 2018

Author: Patricia Hruby Powell
Date of Publication:
ISBN: 1452103143
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Mar. 2018

Synopsis: In exuberant verse and stirring pictures, Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson create an extraordinary portrait for young people of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker, the woman who worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world. In a few short and well-organized parts, readers learn the story of one of the world's most well known female performers who danced and sang her way to the dazzling stages of Paris all the way to Carnegie Hall. Text and illustrations work in tandem to accurately document Josephine's extraordinary life and the era in which she lived.

Note to readers:
•  Author Patricia Hruby Powell uses free verse poetry to tell the story of Josephine Baker.
•  Each chapter can stand on its own. Suggestion: start at "For the first time in my life, I felt beautiful" (about halfway through the book.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  By looking only at the pictures, who do you think Josephine was?
•  When and where do you think this story takes place after looking at the illustrations?
•  Who are your favorite dancers, singer, and performers?


•  Segregated- set apart from the rest or from each other; isolate or divide
•  Color Blind- not influenced by racial prejudice
•  Erupted- explode with fire and noise, resembling a volcano
•  Baffled- puzzling, confusing, bewildering

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What do you think is unique about Josephine? What did she love?
•  What were the problems Josephine had to overcome and how did she do so?
•  Why do you think Josephine felt beautiful? Was she welcomed?
•  Why do you think the audience loved watching Josephine perform?
•  This biography of Josephine Baker was written in free verse (verse whose rhythm is not regular or smooth and even). Why do you think the author chose poetry for conveying the story of this famous dancer?*

Craft ideas:
•  Make her wristband from the show (see Pinterest page for instructions)
•  Draw what other wild animals Josephine might have had (sheet provided)
•  Have kids generate their own poetry by creating a found poem. First, students select 10-15 words written in large font located throughout the book. The words should then be arranged in a way that tells about Josephine’s life, describes something about her character, or provides a glimpse into the struggles she encountered.*
•  Make some musical instruments (ie rain maker, drum)
•  Check our craft ideas on Pinterest!

Special activities:
•  Show them how flappers danced. Practice!
•  Ask them to show the groups a dance move.


*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!