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Before the legend of Billie Holiday, there was a girl named Eleanora. In 1915, Sadie Fagan gave birth to a daughter she named Eleanora. The world, however, would know her as Billie Holiday, possibly the greatest jazz singer of all time. Eleanora's journey into legend took her through pain, poverty, and run-ins with the law. By the time she was fifteen, she knew she possess Before the legend of Billie Holiday, there was a girl named Eleanora. In 1915, Sadie Fagan gave birth to a daughter she named Eleanora. The world, however, would know her as Billie Holiday, possibly the greatest jazz singer of all time. Eleanora's journey into legend took her through pain, poverty, and run-ins with the law. By the time she was fifteen, she knew she possessed something that could possibly change her life—a voice. Eleanora could sing. Her remarkable voice led her to a place in the spotlight with some of the era's hottest big bands. Billie Holiday sang as if she had lived each lyric, and in many ways she had. Through a sequence of raw and poignant poems, award-winning poet Carole Boston Weatherford chronicles Eleanora Fagan's metamorphosis into Billie Holiday. The author examines the singer's young life, her fight for survival, and the dream she pursued with passion in this Coretta Scott King Author Honor winner. With stunning art by Floyd Cooper, this book provides a revealing look at a cultural icon.


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Before the legend of Billie Holiday, there was a girl named Eleanora. In 1915, Sadie Fagan gave birth to a daughter she named Eleanora. The world, however, would know her as Billie Holiday, possibly the greatest jazz singer of all time. Eleanora's journey into legend took her through pain, poverty, and run-ins with the law. By the time she was fifteen, she knew she possess Before the legend of Billie Holiday, there was a girl named Eleanora. In 1915, Sadie Fagan gave birth to a daughter she named Eleanora. The world, however, would know her as Billie Holiday, possibly the greatest jazz singer of all time. Eleanora's journey into legend took her through pain, poverty, and run-ins with the law. By the time she was fifteen, she knew she possessed something that could possibly change her life—a voice. Eleanora could sing. Her remarkable voice led her to a place in the spotlight with some of the era's hottest big bands. Billie Holiday sang as if she had lived each lyric, and in many ways she had. Through a sequence of raw and poignant poems, award-winning poet Carole Boston Weatherford chronicles Eleanora Fagan's metamorphosis into Billie Holiday. The author examines the singer's young life, her fight for survival, and the dream she pursued with passion in this Coretta Scott King Author Honor winner. With stunning art by Floyd Cooper, this book provides a revealing look at a cultural icon.

30 review for Becoming Billie Holiday

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    This book is a collection of over 100 wonderful poems. Eleanora Fagan better known as Billie Holiday, had a very tough life. Carole Boston Weatherford catches a lot of the little details and aspects of Billie Holiday's life and is able to put them into a series of amusing poems. I first picked up this book because I was looking for a poem for a poetry assignment. I finished reading this book because after I had found the poem I was looking for, I read more of Weatherford's poems. I got hooked on This book is a collection of over 100 wonderful poems. Eleanora Fagan better known as Billie Holiday, had a very tough life. Carole Boston Weatherford catches a lot of the little details and aspects of Billie Holiday's life and is able to put them into a series of amusing poems. I first picked up this book because I was looking for a poem for a poetry assignment. I finished reading this book because after I had found the poem I was looking for, I read more of Weatherford's poems. I got hooked on her poetry right away and at the end I hadn't even noticed I finished the book. I would recommend this book to Kareena because when I had read my poem that I got from the book, she really seemed to enjoy it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Read this striking collection of poetry while listening to a Billie Holiday record, preferably something from her earlier years. I chose The Quintessential Billie Holiday Columbia Jazz Compilation 1933-1935 (Vol 1) on vinyl. Electrifying, my friends. Electrifying (So ends the shortest review I've ever written.) Read this striking collection of poetry while listening to a Billie Holiday record, preferably something from her earlier years. I chose The Quintessential Billie Holiday Columbia Jazz Compilation 1933-1935 (Vol 1) on vinyl. Electrifying, my friends. Electrifying (So ends the shortest review I've ever written.)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Simone

    Author: Carole Boston Weatherford Publisher and Date: Wordsong, 2008 Summary: This is a collection of over 100 poems written about Eleanor, other wise known as Billie Holiday. Almost all the poems Weatherford wrote in this book are titled with titles from songs Billie Holiday wrote and sang. Although Billie Holiday is known as one of the greatest jazz singers, these poems brutally describe the hardships of molestation, poverty, and hard work that brought her to not only the spotlight but to become Author: Carole Boston Weatherford Publisher and Date: Wordsong, 2008 Summary: This is a collection of over 100 poems written about Eleanor, other wise known as Billie Holiday. Almost all the poems Weatherford wrote in this book are titled with titles from songs Billie Holiday wrote and sang. Although Billie Holiday is known as one of the greatest jazz singers, these poems brutally describe the hardships of molestation, poverty, and hard work that brought her to not only the spotlight but to become a strong, independent women who was saved by her voice at the young age of 15. Review: Not only was I captivated by the expressions and body language of Billy Holiday illustrated as a little girl. Although some of the oil based illustrations look simple at a first glance, such as Billy Holiday leaning on a cement step with her eyes closed and the sun behind her, the emotions that come from the illustrations alone show a complex world of sadness, fear. Many of the poems are in free verse, expressed as the voice of Billy Holiday. This book is targeted towards older readers because of the content. In the free verse poems Love For Sale, followed by Time On My Hands and Lady’s Back in Town, Weatherford wrote about Holiday and her mother being sent to jail for prostitution and described the harsh, cold period of time with comparisons such as, “Harlem was a black sea that parted each night for white partygoers with money to burn and cares to shed. I was swept up by the tide.” (page 58). This book left me with an overwhelming feeling of pain but at the same time, strength. It tells a powerful story.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joana

    I really enjoyed this book. It is told in verse and also has illustrations throughout it, but the way the story is told is so captivating that I couldn't stop reading! This follows a African-American young girl who grows up in a difficult situation: her mother got pregnant really young and couldn't take care of he. Her pregnancy was shameful on the family, so there was no one to take care of "Billie" when she was a baby. She went from family to family, and ended up getting herself in a lot of tro I really enjoyed this book. It is told in verse and also has illustrations throughout it, but the way the story is told is so captivating that I couldn't stop reading! This follows a African-American young girl who grows up in a difficult situation: her mother got pregnant really young and couldn't take care of he. Her pregnancy was shameful on the family, so there was no one to take care of "Billie" when she was a baby. She went from family to family, and ended up getting herself in a lot of trouble in her life. At a very young age she had to go through things to escape poverty, that would break a lot of people's minds. However she stayed strong and found her love in jazz music, which when she "becam[e] Billie Haliday." I really enjoyed this book! I thought it was captivating and beautiful! I am really glad that I picked it up, because I really took something from it: the circumstances in which you were born, do not determine where you end up. You can become whoever you want, you just have to fight for it! Really enjoyable. Definitely recommend it to people 16/17 and older. Trigger warning: this book deals with poverty, prostitution and racism.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Linda Lipko

    Found in the young adult section of the library, as I was reading this book, I felt the cover should have notations that the some of the subject matter contained adult content. No doubt about it, the life of Eleanora Fagan was exceedingly difficult. Finding her voice and learning to accept the praise took her on a journey with joys and sorrows. Discarding her birth name given by her unwedded mother, she took the last name of her father, also a musician, and became Billie Holiday, who was most lik Found in the young adult section of the library, as I was reading this book, I felt the cover should have notations that the some of the subject matter contained adult content. No doubt about it, the life of Eleanora Fagan was exceedingly difficult. Finding her voice and learning to accept the praise took her on a journey with joys and sorrows. Discarding her birth name given by her unwedded mother, she took the last name of her father, also a musician, and became Billie Holiday, who was most likely the best jazz singer to date. With parents who abandoned her, a neighbor who raped her, and a drug addiction that ruined her, the reader feels sorry for the things that occurred beyond her control, and then saddened by the choices she intentionally made that could have taken her on a better journey if different options were pursued. Told in a series of 100 poems, each with a heading borrowed from the title of her songs, and writing accompanied by background illustrations that leap off the page, this is a book that calls the reader to learn more about this legend named Billie Holiday.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Wardrip

    Reviewed by Julie M. Prince for TeensReadToo.com Billie Holiday does not have a happy life story. After all, she sang the blues for a reason. A biography written in verse seems only appropriate for a woman who lived her life in song -- whose only reliable escape was via music. Weatherford uses Holiday songs as poem titles throughout the book, which, in addition to the first person perspective, serves to bring the reader close to the narrative. While the story of Holiday's life is disturbing, Weat Reviewed by Julie M. Prince for TeensReadToo.com Billie Holiday does not have a happy life story. After all, she sang the blues for a reason. A biography written in verse seems only appropriate for a woman who lived her life in song -- whose only reliable escape was via music. Weatherford uses Holiday songs as poem titles throughout the book, which, in addition to the first person perspective, serves to bring the reader close to the narrative. While the story of Holiday's life is disturbing, Weatherford does a fantastic job of pulling readers in for an occasional close-up, and in giving them much-needed distance -- room to breathe. Subtlety is key, and both author and artist seem to realize the delicate balance. Floyd Cooper used a subtractive technique for the gorgeous illustrations, meaning he used erasers to make shapes and then enhanced them with mixed media. The heavily textured, sepia tones flow seamlessly into the verse. Then we have the book itself, smooth to the touch, but grainy and old school. Billie Holiday all over. This publisher, Wordsong, created a perfect marriage of author & artist, then packaged the work brilliantly in a book for the ages.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Green

    Billie Holiday's life is chronicled by Carole Boston Weatherford's poetry in this collection. We learn about Eleanora Fagan's parents and early life, and follow her through her turbulent teen years, moving from Baltimore to Philly to the place where she felt drawn - Harlem and finally became Billie Holiday. A creation all her own, these heartfelt poems convey a sense of rebellion, independence, and longing - all of which we hear through Holiday's songs. Tackling hard issues head on - like a sexu Billie Holiday's life is chronicled by Carole Boston Weatherford's poetry in this collection. We learn about Eleanora Fagan's parents and early life, and follow her through her turbulent teen years, moving from Baltimore to Philly to the place where she felt drawn - Harlem and finally became Billie Holiday. A creation all her own, these heartfelt poems convey a sense of rebellion, independence, and longing - all of which we hear through Holiday's songs. Tackling hard issues head on - like a sexual assault by a neighbor, her dismissal by her father, and her moth-to-flame attraction to the night life, Weatherford casts a poetic light on the whole picture. This biography is moving, musical, and evocative just like its subject, with smoky and dark art to accompany it. Highly recommended for grades 6-10. Nonfiction/Informational Coretta Scott King award Weatherford, C.B. & artist Cooper, F. (2008). Becoming Billie Holiday. Boyds Mills Press, Inc.: Pennsylvania.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ch_beth Rice

    Becoming Billie Holiday takes readers on the journey of Eleanora Fagan as she transformed from a troubled youth into jazz musician Billie Holiday. Carole Boston Weatherford beautifully tells the singer’s fictional memoir through free verse poems. Weatherford’s words are beautifully enhanced with the dramatic art of Floyd Cooper. I recommend using this book with older students as it describes events in Eleanora’s life from rape and reform school to racial segregation. The story will lead to deep Becoming Billie Holiday takes readers on the journey of Eleanora Fagan as she transformed from a troubled youth into jazz musician Billie Holiday. Carole Boston Weatherford beautifully tells the singer’s fictional memoir through free verse poems. Weatherford’s words are beautifully enhanced with the dramatic art of Floyd Cooper. I recommend using this book with older students as it describes events in Eleanora’s life from rape and reform school to racial segregation. The story will lead to deep conversations and discussions on overcoming challenges and becoming the person you knew you could be.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey Bangert

    A good biography, notable for not shying away from the adult situations in Billie ' life, including rape, prostitution, and arrest, all by age 14. The verse makes it easy to read and the focus on her early life makes it fast paced. It might make a good companion to Navigating Early for readers looking to know more about the singer, who is mentioned repeatedly. Unfortunately, though good quality, the muted colors of the pictures may not appeal much to young readers, though they do match the often A good biography, notable for not shying away from the adult situations in Billie ' life, including rape, prostitution, and arrest, all by age 14. The verse makes it easy to read and the focus on her early life makes it fast paced. It might make a good companion to Navigating Early for readers looking to know more about the singer, who is mentioned repeatedly. Unfortunately, though good quality, the muted colors of the pictures may not appeal much to young readers, though they do match the often somber tone of the book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Charlize

    This book was about Billie Holiday, and how she grew up. It talks about her whole life all the way up until her death, and there are a lot of details. This book gave me so much information about Billie Holiday, and it shows me how great of a person she was. It even shows the struggles that she went through when her father left her with her mother when she was a child. She says "How could you pack your banjo and big-band wishes and run to New York, leaving Mom to care for me as best she could alo This book was about Billie Holiday, and how she grew up. It talks about her whole life all the way up until her death, and there are a lot of details. This book gave me so much information about Billie Holiday, and it shows me how great of a person she was. It even shows the struggles that she went through when her father left her with her mother when she was a child. She says "How could you pack your banjo and big-band wishes and run to New York, leaving Mom to care for me as best she could alone without a cent from you? What kind of father would do that?" I have come to love Billie Holiday as a person even though she is no longer alive she inspires me and she probably inspires many others. I'm glad that I read this book and recommend it to anyone in middle school or highschool.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anoka County Library

    Written by Samara B. on Jan 21, 2021 A book of poems written by Carole Boston Weatherford telling the story of the metamorphosis of poor Eleanora Fagan into the legendary singer Billie Holiday. The poetry was an incredibly powerful way to hear the story of Lady Day's life as an unexpected child, born to a mother who was just a girl herself, who was passed from one temporary home after another, but remained persistent in her quest for a better life growing up. Floyd Cooper's artwork is beautiful, Written by Samara B. on Jan 21, 2021 A book of poems written by Carole Boston Weatherford telling the story of the metamorphosis of poor Eleanora Fagan into the legendary singer Billie Holiday. The poetry was an incredibly powerful way to hear the story of Lady Day's life as an unexpected child, born to a mother who was just a girl herself, who was passed from one temporary home after another, but remained persistent in her quest for a better life growing up. Floyd Cooper's artwork is beautiful, too. I read the whole book in less than two hours. Loved it!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mary Cummings

    Defined in the afterword as a "fictional verse memoir [...in] first person poems titled after her songs," Becoming Billie Holiday is a beautiful book of poetry that collectively tells of Holiday's tragic young life. The text ends a little abruptly, and I wish it gone further into her life into adulthood. Side note - Best read with Billie's tracks playing in the background. ;) Defined in the afterword as a "fictional verse memoir [...in] first person poems titled after her songs," Becoming Billie Holiday is a beautiful book of poetry that collectively tells of Holiday's tragic young life. The text ends a little abruptly, and I wish it gone further into her life into adulthood. Side note - Best read with Billie's tracks playing in the background. ;)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne Dix

    What a tragic yet talented woman Billie Holiday was! This short, free verse biography is beautifully written and doesn't shy away from all the grit and grime in Billie's young life: rape, working in a brothel, abandonment by her father, transient living...Talk about rising up! Grades 8 and up. What a tragic yet talented woman Billie Holiday was! This short, free verse biography is beautifully written and doesn't shy away from all the grit and grime in Billie's young life: rape, working in a brothel, abandonment by her father, transient living...Talk about rising up! Grades 8 and up.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Monique

    Outstanding poems and beautiful illustrations.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Karyn Buchanan

    The poetry comes off the page as the reader travels back in time to meet “Lady Day.” Her life was a song that had to be sung, and her strength, talent, and journey are awe-inspiring.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Charlene Doland

    Lovely biography in verse.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Wertlieb

    Did not know it was a juvenile book. It was good and if I were younger in high and looking for a book about jazz singers this was fine. Laid out in an interesting way

  18. 4 out of 5

    wildct2003

    Early life and career of the singer set in verse inspired by and titled by the songs she sang.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sena Ntumy

    The story is very good, you can picture Holiday's life easily. But it reads more like a story, rather than a poem, in my opinion. Would recommend regardless, though. The story is very good, you can picture Holiday's life easily. But it reads more like a story, rather than a poem, in my opinion. Would recommend regardless, though.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Book Buying With Katie

    A lovely biography in verse.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Davina

    Inspired by spending too much time with this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Patty

    She begins her journey as Eleanora Fagin. Born into poverty to a single mother in 1915 Philadelphia, disregarded by her father, and raised by a myriad of Baltimore relatives, Eleanora overcomes staggering obstacles to become the incomparable Billie Holiday. Weatherford recounts this biography in verse and presents a revealing account of a young girl, who suffers rape, reform school, prostitution, and jail all before her fifteenth birthday. The poems are told in first-person, using the names of B She begins her journey as Eleanora Fagin. Born into poverty to a single mother in 1915 Philadelphia, disregarded by her father, and raised by a myriad of Baltimore relatives, Eleanora overcomes staggering obstacles to become the incomparable Billie Holiday. Weatherford recounts this biography in verse and presents a revealing account of a young girl, who suffers rape, reform school, prostitution, and jail all before her fifteenth birthday. The poems are told in first-person, using the names of Billie Holiday’s songs as titles suggesting that she was destined to be a singer, even when she didn’t know it. The text is by turns lyrical, reflecting the small but emotive voice of Billie Holiday, and severe, exposing the stark reality that was her childhood. “With the microphone, my voice was an ocean, deep as my moods, and the audience dove in,” conjures up a personal and heartfelt sentiment, whereas the selection, “For me, the back of a hand was better than the back of a head, better than being ignored,” imparts plainly and bluntly the harsh realities of her childhood. Weatherford takes the reader on an excursion through a time and place where prejudice and racism were a fact of life, but consideration and appreciation of a singular talent also exists. Weatherford completes the journey when Billie Holiday reaches her apex at the age of 25 and sings the song that will become her signature; the haunting “Strange Fruit.” The illustrations, presented in dreamy sepia tones, evoke the smoky atmosphere of the many clubs at which Billie performed. They provide another layer to the verse, complementing the text and echoing the many facets of Billie Holiday’s life. Also included is a list of concise biographies of people who played important roles in Billie Holiday’s life, as well as references and further reading and listening suggestions. This stunning portrait affords a window into the early life of a jazz icon that many consider the best jazz singer ever.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Toby

    I find it interesting that all of the Coretta Scott King Author Honor books are poetry, a genre that some students find difficult, but also a genre that can express strong feelings in a few well-chosen words. In Becoming Billie Holiday, author Carol Boston Weatherford explains in her author note, 'the young woman who speaks through these poems is Billie Holiday, before heroin and hard living took their toll.' This fictional memoir begins with Billie, or rather, Eleanora's birth in 1915 and ends I find it interesting that all of the Coretta Scott King Author Honor books are poetry, a genre that some students find difficult, but also a genre that can express strong feelings in a few well-chosen words. In Becoming Billie Holiday, author Carol Boston Weatherford explains in her author note, 'the young woman who speaks through these poems is Billie Holiday, before heroin and hard living took their toll.' This fictional memoir begins with Billie, or rather, Eleanora's birth in 1915 and ends with her first performance of Strange Fruit at the age of 25. In between, the prose poems and evocative illustrations, by 2009 CSK Illustrator Medalist Floyd Cooper, immerse readers in both Holiday's own life and the world in which she grew up. The book opens with a quotation from Tony Bennett: 'When you listen to her, it's almost like an audiotape of her autobiography. She didn't sing anything unless she had lived it' and in fact, each poem that tells her first person story is the title of one of her songs. And yet, even in verse, Billie Holiday's life is explored in detail; the book also includes references, recommended reading, and an afterward for those who want to know more. Most students however will want to follow-up by listening to her music, the soundtrack of her emotional life. Author Weatherford's language is lyrical. Consider, for example, the poem titled Love for Sale: 'Harlem...was a sea of black folks, striving to rise from fields to factories or from hard luck to street hustles, flowing through clubs and churches, grooving on jazz and Jesus.' In a classroom, reading Becoming Billie Holiday would be an engaging introduction to a study of the Harlem Renaissance.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ronni

    Some of the poems in this verse biography are stunning, many simply tell the story in first person. It's fictionalized, but in a way everything about Lady Day is fictionalized, and this is just one of the books that admits it. Poems are titled after songs & include lots of references to other names in jazz, swing, film, and stage. The author included bios of these other figures in the back, as well as a bit of biographical info on Billie's later life. Illustrated, too. I was surprised the library Some of the poems in this verse biography are stunning, many simply tell the story in first person. It's fictionalized, but in a way everything about Lady Day is fictionalized, and this is just one of the books that admits it. Poems are titled after songs & include lots of references to other names in jazz, swing, film, and stage. The author included bios of these other figures in the back, as well as a bit of biographical info on Billie's later life. Illustrated, too. I was surprised the library put this in the J section, both before and after reading it. Lots of music, culture, and historic references that likely won't make sense to younger readers--and because it's in verse, some of the contextual clues are obscured. I also wondered how the book would handle the reality of Billie Holiday's life while remaining kid-friendly. It handles it okay, keeping the truth in tact without being heartbreakingly tragic. The story cuts off at her dad's death and her first singing of "Strange Fruit," which means a lot of the hard stuff in the book happens "to" Billie, and her "bad choices" are limited to the then-legal reefer and boozing. Basically. The depiction of racism in Depression era America (and post) is probably the best way EVER to introduce the topic to young readers--through the real life descriptions of what one person encountered. I'm more than certain there are plenty of more censorious adults who would disagree that the material belongs in the J section. Tattered Cover list this as grades 8 and up--that seems about right to me.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Becoming Billie Holiday is an interesting way to pull together Eleanora Fagan's life, from her rough childhood to the famous artist she becomes. Carole Boston Weatherford created these poems based on the events of Billie's life. The developmental areas that are addressed consist of growing up during the depression, rape, poverty, prostitution, growing up without a father, as well as various other struggles along her way to fame. Teens will definitely be able to relate to many of these issues. I Becoming Billie Holiday is an interesting way to pull together Eleanora Fagan's life, from her rough childhood to the famous artist she becomes. Carole Boston Weatherford created these poems based on the events of Billie's life. The developmental areas that are addressed consist of growing up during the depression, rape, poverty, prostitution, growing up without a father, as well as various other struggles along her way to fame. Teens will definitely be able to relate to many of these issues. I feel this book would be a great source for a biographical report about Billie Holiday. I found it particularly interesting learning about how she created her name of fame. The style of this book is what caught my attention. I believe that teens will be attracted to the poetry since it's a different genre than most non-fiction works. The characters are very believable because the poetic descriptions that Weatherford uses are vivid and in great detail. After reading this book, I have a much better understanding to the tough life that Billie Holiday endured and how she overcame many obstacles to achieve her lifelong goal as a singer. To promote this book of poems, I would tie it in to a unit about jazz musicians or the depression. Reading several poems may also make a great book talk. P4Q4J

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Beautifully illustrated and written verse free verse novel about singer Billie Holiday. I, like a lot of other people, did not know much about her other than she was a singer in the 30s/40s and sang that song about lynching called "Strange Fruit". I grew up listening to big band and swing, but I was never really exposed to her, but more to Ella Fitzgerald, since that is who my parents/grandmother listened to. Billie Holiday led a really hard life and she was constantly being abandoned by her par Beautifully illustrated and written verse free verse novel about singer Billie Holiday. I, like a lot of other people, did not know much about her other than she was a singer in the 30s/40s and sang that song about lynching called "Strange Fruit". I grew up listening to big band and swing, but I was never really exposed to her, but more to Ella Fitzgerald, since that is who my parents/grandmother listened to. Billie Holiday led a really hard life and she was constantly being abandoned by her parents, was raped as a young girl and went to reform school. This was all by the age of 15 and then she finally made it to Harlem and began singing for real, though her fame didn't come for awhile. I guess all the hardship and strife of her life made her really strong and determined to make a place for herself in the world. The back of the book features 21 biographies of other famous people mentioned in the book, so that teens have more of an idea of who they were. The author did her research well and her references were listed along with further reading/listening. The illustrations looked like pastels, but as it is described in the back of the book "Floyd Cooper's art for this book was created with a subtractive technique, using erasers to make shapes from a ground of paint. The shapes were then enhanced with mixed meda, mostly oil based, layered in a dry brush fashion."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Turea

    Becoming Billie Holiday is a unique biography of iconic jazz and blues singer Billie Holiday. This is not your typical non-fiction book. This text tells Holiday’s story through beautiful narrative poetry and stunning, colorful illustrations. Though this looks like a picture book for younger students, the content is geared toward older students creating a nice balance to the run-of-the-mill trade books used to teach history. Reluctant readers will be drawn to the illustrations, and the poetic for Becoming Billie Holiday is a unique biography of iconic jazz and blues singer Billie Holiday. This is not your typical non-fiction book. This text tells Holiday’s story through beautiful narrative poetry and stunning, colorful illustrations. Though this looks like a picture book for younger students, the content is geared toward older students creating a nice balance to the run-of-the-mill trade books used to teach history. Reluctant readers will be drawn to the illustrations, and the poetic format makes the text less dense, though it still effectively tells the story. Billie Holiday’s life was wrought with difficulties, and this book does not shy away from that fact. It outlines her life story from her birth and younger years through to adulthood. It discusses her family, her experiences with racism, and inspirations to write her songs. It spends some time discussing one of Billie Holiday’s most famous songs: Strange Fruit. The poetry discusses the racist times of the nation in depth and even uses some racial slurs for emphasis. This book may not be for younger years, or those students who are uncomfortable with franks discussions about race and class. However I think it is a great tool to teach about the jazz era and the life of Billie Holiday. I most definitely would recommend this book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    BookChampions

    Becoming Billie Holiday is a verse novel telling the story of Billie Holiday's early life, leading up to her performance of "Strange Fruit" at the Café Society. The book includes some 100 free-verse poems, each bearing the name of one of Holiday's songs (because as quoted in the epigraph, "she didn't sing anything unless she had lived it"), and some absolutely breathtaking artwork by Floyd Cooper. I don't know how I feel, on a personal level, about verse novels. The problem I have with the ones I Becoming Billie Holiday is a verse novel telling the story of Billie Holiday's early life, leading up to her performance of "Strange Fruit" at the Café Society. The book includes some 100 free-verse poems, each bearing the name of one of Holiday's songs (because as quoted in the epigraph, "she didn't sing anything unless she had lived it"), and some absolutely breathtaking artwork by Floyd Cooper. I don't know how I feel, on a personal level, about verse novels. The problem I have with the ones I have read is that while a handful of the poems are lyrical and could stand on their own, the majority of them feels like prose broken up into lines and stanzas. That is not necessarily a bad thing, so long as the story and characters are compelling, and Weatherford does have provocative material here. While the poetry didn't stun me, I did like learning more about Billie Holiday, and some moments in the book, usually when accompanied by a piece of artwork, did move me. But the bottom line: Becoming Billie Holiday is going to be an excellent tool in my classroom to teach students about writing biography, about doing research, and about genre.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne Hsu Feldman

    This collection is definitely a bit uneven. Not all poems are superb but there are enough with poetic success to pull me through, with interest and enjoyment. Unfortunately, nice lines like this is not commonplace for this title: p. 49 a suitcase full of hard luck There are, in my view, too many ready-made phrases (cliches) that show a certain amount of laziness on the poet's part like "I was the cat's meow." (p. 41 bottom of page) or "hot enough to fry an egg" (p.45). I did feel that I got to kn This collection is definitely a bit uneven. Not all poems are superb but there are enough with poetic success to pull me through, with interest and enjoyment. Unfortunately, nice lines like this is not commonplace for this title: p. 49 a suitcase full of hard luck There are, in my view, too many ready-made phrases (cliches) that show a certain amount of laziness on the poet's part like "I was the cat's meow." (p. 41 bottom of page) or "hot enough to fry an egg" (p.45). I did feel that I got to know who Billie Holiday was a little more but it seems that one can get all the "info" in a short entry in a collective biography book -- and there just not enough looking into her feelings and soul. Some of the illustrations do nothing to illuminate or expand the text. At times they even diminish the impact. For example, on pages 36 and 37, the picture depicts the moment before the rape. It does not have much intensity and I simply can't understand why depicting this particular moment...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I have mixed feelings about this book. Billie Holiday is one of my favorite singers, her voice moves me, so maybe I had unrealistic expectations for this book. Or maybe because this is a teen book, the author didn't really want to delve into the darkness that was in her life. There is absolutely no mention of herion addiction in the poems whatsoever. In the author's note at the end, Weatherford mentions it, and says that she wanted to tell a story about Billie before drugs darkened her life. Hmm I have mixed feelings about this book. Billie Holiday is one of my favorite singers, her voice moves me, so maybe I had unrealistic expectations for this book. Or maybe because this is a teen book, the author didn't really want to delve into the darkness that was in her life. There is absolutely no mention of herion addiction in the poems whatsoever. In the author's note at the end, Weatherford mentions it, and says that she wanted to tell a story about Billie before drugs darkened her life. Hmmm....well usually if someone becomes a herion addict it's because they already have issues in their lives. However, Weatherford does touch on some of the tragedies in Billie's life, like being raped, managing to make them both appropriate for teens and not sugar-coating them. Plus the titles of all the poems are the names of songs that Billie sang, so that was a creative and nice touch.

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