Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage
By Alan Schroeder
Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying Hwa Hu
The author’s note that precedes the opening text of the book on the verso piqued my interest. Alan Schroeder indicates that for historical accuracy, Baby Flo’s debut was not in a butcher shop as portrayed in the book, but in a less savory establishment. Hmm. Also, the change of her last name at age four is well documented. Schroeder writes, “Her parents presumably did not think that a black woman could make it in show business with the last name of Winfrey.” Little did they know.
While I didn’t find myself a huge fan of the cover design and cover art (and I do generally judge a book by its cover) I was pleasantly surprised once I opened the book and perused the interior illustrations. Looking at the faces of her parents as they realized what a talent they had on their hands, and knowing the stories of young talent in our country during current times, I wonder about their motives. But at the same time, with a bleak future and a child just jumping at the chance to perform, I hope that they did what was right both for their daughter and their family.
The story starts out much as a tall tale might, except for that it is a true tale. Baby Florence Mills worked her way from Goat Alley to Bijou Theatre and as she grew older, to New York and even London. I enjoyed reading the story of Florence Mills’ early years, but appreciated the author’s note with photographs of Florence even more. Tragically, film footage or audio recordings have not surfaced of Florence Mills remarkable performances as part of the Harlem Renaissance.
Published 2012 by Lee and Low Books
I received a galley copy of Baby Flo from a publisher's preview event during KidLitCon.