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Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage

de Alan Schroeder

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"A biography of African American entertainer Florence Mills, an internationally renowned dancer, singer, and comedian of the Harlem Renaissance era, focusing on how she began her career as a child. Includes author's note and historical photographs"--Provided by publisher.
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Es mostren totes 4
Exuberant illustrations pair nicely with the text in this picture book biography of Florence Mills, an African-American performer at the turn of the 20th century. The text of the book focuses on her childhood, while an author's note fills in the rest of her career and her untimely death from tuberculosis. Photos of Florence are also included.

This is a great addition to the picture book biography shelves. ( )
  abbylibrarian | Nov 10, 2012 |
This book, based on a true story, focuses on the childhood of Florence Mills, “the sweetheart of the Harlem Renaissance.” Flo, born in 1896, grew up in “Goat Alley” – one of the poorest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. Blessed with talent, she started performing when she was just three, earning small change and winning local dance contests. When she was seven, she actually got to appear at the Bijou Theater. The book ends when Florence and her father see her name up in lights at the Bijou, and they head off for ice cream in celebration.

An extensive author’s note at the back of the book tells the rest of the story. Florence, as pretty as could be, continued to sing and dance, performing up and down the Atlantic seaboard. She got married in 1921, and also joined the case of the hit musical “Shuffle Along.” Her popularity increased and she performed in London and Paris. The Prince of Wales reportedly went to see her show thirteen times! As the author marvels, “Her fans included Charlie Chaplin, Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and songwriter Irving Berlin, who considered her the ‘greatest of all colored performers.’”

Reading on, I was stunned and saddened to learn that Florence developed tuberculosis and died in November of 1927, just 31 years old. Thousands attended her funeral in Harlem. Duke Ellington’s composition “Black Beauty” is believed to have been written in her memory.

Evaluation: Admittedly I was more interested in what happened to Florence Mills later in life than her start as a precocious child star. But children will no doubt be thrilled to learn that even they can be recognized as stars by adults, and grow up to be wonderful successes. And the watercolors by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu that illustrate her childhood manage to convey the infectious joy that Flo was said to share with all around her. ( )
  nbmars | Aug 11, 2012 |
Baby Flo tells the story of Florence Mills (1895-1927), a figure who may have been one of the greatest performers of the 20th century, but is little known today. This speculative biography combines with gentle watercolors by Ying-Hwa Hu to paint a picture of a happy childhood in Washington, D.C. and her entry into vaudeville at six years old. The author’s notes flesh out her life story. Sadly she died of tuberculosis at age 31 leaving no film and few audio recordings. I would pair Baby Flo with When Marian Sang (Marian Anderson 1897 - 1993) because the women were roughly the same age. This review is based on the digital version from netgalley.com ( )
  rwilliamson | Jul 5, 2012 |
In the golden age of vaudeville, few had the talent of Florence Mills. This biography captures the flavor of Mills' first performances from the local butcher shop to the marquis of the famed Bijou Theatre in Washington, DC. Lush watercolor illustrations reminiscent of the style of Jerry Pinkney evoke the theatricality and spitfire energy of "Baby Florence," portrayed as being as delighted to dance down the street as on the stage. This biography offers young readers a glimpse at an African-American artist who, albeit at the top during her life, is rarely known by children today. Highly recommended. (84) ( )
  activelearning | Apr 11, 2012 |
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"A biography of African American entertainer Florence Mills, an internationally renowned dancer, singer, and comedian of the Harlem Renaissance era, focusing on how she began her career as a child. Includes author's note and historical photographs"--Provided by publisher.

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