Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song

Gary Golio, illus. by Charlotte Riley-Webb. Millbrook, $19.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4677-5123-0
Golio’s powerful narrative turns on two moments plucked from Billie Holiday’s career. The first: quitting Artie Shaw’s band after enduring the latest in a long line of discriminatory incidents. The second key moment is Holiday’s first performance of “Strange Fruit,” which initially elicits discomfort from the audience (“A few people nearly got up from their seats and left”), followed by thunderous applause. Riley-Webb (Seed Magic) uses sweeping, flame-like brushes of color to heighten the story’s emotional intensity; the lyrics of the song appear in the closing pages, along with in-depth details about Holiday’s career and the cultural context of “Strange Fruit,” including the history of lynching in the United States. It’s a potent reminder of the power of art to combat intolerance and hate. Ages 8–12. Author’s agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/13/2017
Release date: 01/01/2017
Hardcover - 978-1-5124-2837-7
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