Bessie Smith (1894-1937) was a Chattanooga born and raised performer best known as the Empress of the Blues. This children's picture book, that can inspire old as well as young, tells the true story of an incident that happened in the summer of 1927. A proponent of taking the music to the people who knew that accommodations or African-Americans were problematical at best in the South, she had a train that took her and her entourage and her tent to many venues throughout the South. On this day the Klan appeared at the tent where she was performing in Concord, North Carolina. Made aware of their presence, Bessie Smith urged her entourage to go with her to investigate, but they all became frighted. She, personally, went and cussed out the Klansmen and told them to take their sheets and go home. Then she got back on the stage and resumed her performance! In this picture book, the one who discovers the Klansmen is a little girl, Emmarene Johnson, who cannot afford admission so she is peeking under the tent flaps, and it is she who first sees the Klansmen and warns Bessie Smith. "The book is based on a true event, dressed up a little for dramatic effect; Stauffacher replaces the musician who actually sounded the alarm with Emmarene and tells the story from her point of view. This tale of courage would make a fine addition to units on the Civil Rights movement." –Marianne Saccardi. "This book is dramatic fare, and kids will enjoy the story of a strong woman scaring off bad guys. Holyfield's thickly painted pictures are full of snap and sizzle, with gamine Emmarene making a good counterpoint to sassy, high-stepping Smith." Ilene Cooper. The author lives in Michigan and has written books for middle schoolers.
New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2006. 32 un-numbered pages illustrated by John Holyfield. 9.5: X 10.5" hardback in dust jacket.