4.5 out of 5 stars
Strange Fruit by Gary Golio (author) and Charlotte Riley-Webb (Illustrator) is an absolutely wonderful picture book about Billie Holiday’s famous song with the same title.
*** UPDATE: I’m happy to report that I have since seen a copy of the physical book and the font used and the size of the words is much easier to read that way! Yay! ***
This picture book for older readers tells the story of how the racism protest song “Strange Fruit” came into being in 1939. This is also the story of two outsiders – Billie Holiday, a young black woman raised in poverty, and Abel Meeropol, the son of Jewish immigrants – whose combined talents created a truly unforgettable song. (Source: Goodreads)
The first thing you notice in this book are the illustrations. They are vibrant and seemingly leap from the pages. They’re sort of brash and crazy, but they’re absolutely beautiful and just right for this book. I’m not sure of the medium. They appear to be either oil paint or pastels. Perhaps even oil pastels. Whatever was used, the broad strokes and vibrant colors combine just perfectly.
The story line of the book is well told and moves along at a decent pace. The prose is well written and it’s definitely a story that deserves to be, even needs to be told. It’s not a real nice story as far as “happy ever after” and making you smile all the way through, but it’s a needed story and a well written one. It will make you think. It may cause difficult discussions between you and any children you read it with, but it’s an important story to tell and an important piece of history (and unfortunately, to a point, part of current events as well) that needs to be discussed.
The only reason this picture book did not get 5 stars from me is because I felt that at times, the text was difficult to read because of the vibrant illustrations and the small font used. Now, I did read this book as an eBook and not in print format. Perhaps it is easier to read the text in the print format. Other than that small issue, this book is phenomenal and I highly recommend it to everyone. Those who are fans of Billie Holiday will certainly appreciate it, but I believe that it’s a great book for everyone, not just those who are fans.
*** I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions are my own. ***
About the Author and Illustrator
Gary Golio is an artist and acclaimed picture book author. His Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow was a New York Times bestseller.
Charlotte Riley-Webb, a professional visual artist with a career that spans more than 40 years, resides in the Atlanta area.