Reviews for Harlem's Little Blackbird


Booklist Reviews 2012 June #1
*Starred Review* In Washington, D.C., at the opening of the last century, a little girl grew up in an itty-bitty house listening to her mother sing spirituals. The girl, Florence Mills, could sing, too, and had enough faith in herself to believe she'd become a star. And so she did, singing on stage in the U.S. and London while also facing discrimination. When she first sang in Washington, D.C., the friends she brought with her weren't allowed to sit in the audience. But Mills was an activist before the word was even invented, and she refused to perform unless her friends were allowed in. With a text that stylistically sings yet is packed with information, the book introduces a woman who, though part of the Harlem Renaissance, is not well remembered by history, perhaps because none of her music was ever recorded, nor was she ever filmed. Another element that will draw readers to the book is Robinson's art. Simple collage shapes with a folk-art appeal capture everything from the warm relationship between Mills and her mother to her decision to forgo the Ziegfeld Follies for a show that introduced young black talent. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
This picture-book biography of songbird Florence Mills highlights her humble beginnings as a "daughter of former slaves, who grew up in a teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy house" before chronicling her rise to fame during the Harlem Renaissance and the strides she made for African American artists. Robinson's inventive mixed-media art beautifully complements Watson's lulling prose. An author's note expands on Mills's benevolent spirit.

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Kirkus Reviews 2012 September #2
Watson's biographical distillation of the life of jazz singer and dancer Florence Mills is endearing and affectionate, at just the right level for very young readers. The child who "lived in a teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy house" won singing and cakewalking contests all over Washington, D.C., and became famous dancing with her sisters. When Florence was a young teen, the girls performed in Harlem's Lincoln Theatre in New York, and from there, Florence landed roles in Shuffle Along and From Dover Street to Dixie, introducing jazz to white audiences and mesmerizing crowds. Robinson's big-eyed portrayal of Florence and her work is terrific: jazzy, geometric and lively. The city scenes, stage moments and glimpses of Florence on- and offstage are sweetly retro; 20 blackbirds on stylized, blooming branches on both front and back endpapers add charm to the work overall. Mills' generous personality comes through clearly, and Watson aptly uses lyrics from Mills' songs to help emphasize the story. Watson describes Florence's decision to turn down a part in the Ziegfield Follies for chances to perform with other black actors and singers and to continue to "use her voice for more than entertainment"--to sing for equal rights. Young readers and listeners will feel the thrill of her success here and in London and the sadness of Florence's death at age 31. Her brief life is well worth celebrating, and here it is done well. (Picture book/biography. 3-8) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection Reviews 2013 January/February
Florence Mills rose from an impoverished daughter of former slaves to an international musical star during the Harlem Renaissance. This colorful, boldly illustrated picture book biography brings to life this talented and determined young woman. As a child she learned that her voice could change hearts and minds. She put her values of social justice ahead of personal success. This biography will open children's eyes to Florence Mills' civil rights struggles as she brightens lives with her music and charity. The simply told life story is profound and memorable. Patty Sands, Educational Reviewer. Beaverton, Oregon. RECOMMENDED Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 December #4

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 3â??8. Illustrator's agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Oct.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

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 3â??8. Illustrator's agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Oct.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 October

K-Gr 3--While there are no cordings of her voice, singer Mills left a lasting mark in other ways-most notably with her efforts to bring attention to rising black performers and her compassion for the sick and poor. Born in 1896, she became known for her lovely voice and energetic stage presence as a child. Yet even with the rave reviews she received, she endured painful acts of prejudice. Her friends were refused entry to a theater in Washington, DC, to watch young Mills sing and dance, and later, when she was invited to perform in London, white passengers on the ship refused to share the dining room with her and her entourage. Mills was feisty, refusing to perform unless her guests could watch the show, and she turned down the chance to be the first black woman to perform in the Ziegfeld Follies in favor of joining shows that gave young black performers their chance to shine on stage. There's a cheerful, singsong quality to Watson's writing, but it doesn't diminish the impact of racism in Mills's life. Robinson utilizes cut paper and ink in rich earth tones to create a folk-art style that's audacious and warm, much like the performer herself. This is a wonderful book for introducing a trailblazer in entertainment and equality.--Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR

[Page 119]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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