Synopses & Reviews
Zora and Langston. Billie and Bessie. Eubie and Duke. If the Harlem Renaissance had a court, they were its kings and queens. But there were other, lesser known individuals whose contributions were just as impactful, such as Florence Mills. Born to parents who were former-slaves Florence knew early on that she loved to sing. And that people really responded to her sweet, bird-like voice. Her dancing and singing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired songs and even entire plays! Yet with all this success, she knew firsthand how bigotry shaped her world. And when she was offered the role of a lifetime from Ziegfeld himself, she chose to support all-black musicals instead.
Fans of When Marian Sang and Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa will jump at the chance to discover another talented performer whose voice transcended and transformed the circumstances society placed on her.
"Watson (A Place Where Hurricanes Happen) pairs with first-time illustrator Robinson for a subdued but striking telling of the life of Florence Mills, following her journey from 'the daughter of former slaves, living in a teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy house' to international stardom as a singer and performer. Robinson's chunky mixed-media collages have a vibrant palette and angularity that nods to Harlem Renaissance artists like Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence, while removing some of the sting from the discrimination Mills was exposed to, even as a child. In a memorable early scene, a young Mills refuses to perform at a whites-only club until her black friends can be snuck in to watch: 'If they can't go in there, I'm staying out here!' she insists. Although Watson makes Mills's musical talents clear (an author's note reveals that her 'voice was never recorded, and no films of her performances exist'), weight is also given to her generosity, even at the height of her stardom, cementing the idea that the potential for greatness lies within everyone. Ages 3 – 8. Illustrator's agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Renée Watson has worked as a teaching-artist for more than 10 years, teaching creative writing and theater to elementary, middle, and high school students. She also uses writing and drama therapy to work with youth and adults. Renée lives in New York, NY.