Monday, June 17, 2013

"I Call My Baby My Sugar:" Mister and Lady Day: Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her by Amy Novesky

Billie Holiday loved to sing. As a girl, she sang along to her favorite songs on a borrowed gramophone.

She dreamed of being a star...

... and a star she became--the Great Lady Day.

But sometimes stars need someone to listen.
That's what friends are for.

Lady Day's dogs were her best friends of all.

Billie Holiday sang all kinds of songs, and Billie Holiday had all kinds of dogs.  She had a pocket poodle and two tiny Chihuahuas, Chiquita and Pepe. She had a long-eared beagle, a Great Dane called Gypsy, and a terrier with a name that spoofed the song "Besame Mucho" named Bessie Mae Moocho.  But her best friend was a big brown boxer called Mister.

Mister was almost always with Billie. He wore sweaters she knitted for him, and a fur coat just like hers for chilly late-night walks.  He growled when rude fans jostled to get near the star singer. He kept her company in her dressing room in ritzy night clubs, snacking on the steaks Billie ordered for him, and even waited for her in the wings when she sang on stage at Carnegie Hall.

Lady Day was famous for singing the blues.

But the sadness of her songs didn't matter to Mister.

As long as he could hear her, he was happy.

Billie Holiday's life had its good times and its bad times, but she always had Mister, who was always ready to listen to her sing.  Then, during one bad time she had to be away from her best friend for a year. That's a long time for a dog.

Would he remember her at all?

Then, there he was!

Running down the train platform, Mister leaped on Lady!

Amy Novesky's forthcoming Mister and Lady Day: Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013) flows like one of Billie's easy-going jazz songs, focusing on the love and support that she found in her companion dog Mister, her most loyal and best friend.  Novesky's simple storytelling style is enhanced by Vanessa Newton's  photo-inspired period illustrations in charcoal, gouache, and collage, which appealingly portray the stylish Lady Day, glamorously gowned with her signature magnolias in her hair, and in her more informal moments cuddling barefoot on the rug with Mister, singing "Sugar, I Call My Baby My Sugar," to him. (See Billie and Mister in her dressing room here.)

"This introduction to the jazz great has tons of kid appeal," says School Library Journal..

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