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Strange Fruit

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  298 ratings  ·  84 reviews
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.
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published February 1st 2017 by Millbrook Press (Tm)
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Average rating 4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  298 ratings  ·  84 reviews

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Gary Anderson
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a tough one. “Strange Fruit,” a protest song about the lynching of Black Americans, was Billie Holiday’s powerful signature. In concert and on record, her rendition was chilling and emotional.

So, Gary Golio’s attempt to develop a picture book based on Billie Holiday’s association with “Strange Fruit” is ambitious but fraught with the potential to be inappropriately graphic for some young readers. Golio seems aware of the tricky territory. The first part of the book deals with Bill
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An unusual and powerful picture book about Billie Holiday and her signature song, Strange Fruit. Dark, thoughtful and extremely moving, this is a book that could be used very effectively in a middle school classroom. Gary Galio's text has lyrical strength and Charlotte Riley-Webb's somber acrylic illustrations swirl and pulse on the pages.
Alex  Baugh
This picture book biography for older readers tells two stories that are intertwined. First, it is the story of Billie Holiday’s life, a life was never easy right from the beginning. Her mother left her with an older half sister when she was a baby. At 10, Billie ended up in a reform school for something that wasn’t her fault. After she finally went to NYC to live with her mother, both of them ended up in jail when Billie was 14.

But Billie Holiday loved to sing and jazz was her style of choice.
This picture book serves an excellent first exposure to the story behind Billie Holiday and the song Strange Fruit. This small taste can encourage kids to learn more about the song, Billie Holiday, the 1930s and 1940s, songwriter and poet Abel Meeropol, and variety of other relevant topics. The author notes are a must read.
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
While I didn't like this as much as his previous book about Jimi Hendrix, this book is an excellent introduction to Billie Holiday and the song. I think it treats the subject of lynching with the respect it deserves, while also not being too much for the age group it is aimed at to handle.
Sarah Donovan
May 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
I think the storytelling is abrupt, even harsh at times..." The audience loved Billie's voice so much they threw money right onto the floor. It was a bright beginning."

The illustrations are beautiful.
Cheryl Neer
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-youth
Use this powerful picture book with topics of Social Justice, Jazz and Civil Rights for middle school students. Do remember to read the author notes as well.
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: info-bios
This is a great picture book for older readers. This tells the story or Billie Holiday and Abel Meerpol coming together to create music. This book tells the story of challenging racism. These two people of different color came together and paved the way for the civil rights movement.
The illustrations were also very colorful and unique.
K.C. Gardner
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
The art is beautiful and the story touching. There are facts in the back.
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful illustrations. The text does not shy away from the hard truths of "Strange Fruit" or Billie Holiday's life, but still remains appropriate for older children.
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Billie Holiday had survived a rough childhood that saw her jailed at age 14 and become a successful jazz singer. Despite her success though, she was still forbidden to do things that her white band members were allowed. She had to hide in rooms, take freight elevators and pretend to be someone different in order to stay in hotels and not sleep on the tour bus. This was all dangerous and eventually she quit. She found a new place to sing in Cafe Society, the first jazz club that welcomed African- ...more
Startlingly raw depiction of the song "Strange Fruit" and how Billie Holiday came to be known for singing it.
Edward Sullivan
Charlotte Riley-Webb's swirling, pulsating illustrations are vivid and filled with intensity but Golio's text is disappointing. I understand this is written for younger readers but there is very little about lynching in this book, either in the story or in the author's note, even though it's supposed to be a story about one of the most powerful statements ever made on that evil American legacy. How about recommending some readings or websites about lynching? How about Chris Crowe's excellent boo ...more
Amy Nicole
This short book is part autobiography, part explanation of Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday. This book was a nice introduction to Billie Holiday's song, but I really would have liked more detail within the story as to the impact that the song had. Considering how chilling and poignant the song itself is, I expected a similar tone in the book. This would still be a nice way to share protest songs with upper elementary students, though.

I received a copy of this ebook from NetGalley in exch/>I
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would recommend this for all to read.

A lot of People don't know what Black People had to endure in this Country just to Survive and make a Living.
Cynthia Daniels
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A stirring, beautifully written rendition of childhood and early career of Blues songstress Billie Holiday. Billie's rough life was fueled by her love of jazz music and her desire to sing. She refused to scrub floors like her mother. She had a plan to be somebody. Her singing in New York City nightclubs moved listeners to throw money at Billie's feet while she sang. Her voice was her instrument and she could improvise with her voice to play with the melody and lyrics of the instruments, she simp ...more
Ben Truong
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song is a children's picture book written by Gary Golio and illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb. It is a cursory biography Billie Holiday and her protest song "Strange Fruit" came to be.

February, at least in my part of the world is Black History Month, which I plan to read one children's book, particularly a biography, which pertains to the subject everyday this month. Therefore, I thought that this book would be apropos for today.
Gary Golio's fondness for music and his awareness that songs can have an impact on listeners, often opening their hearts to what's wrong in the world around them, result in this account about one song. The book provides a brief introduction to the life and times of jazz and blues singer Billie Holiday and how she came to sing a protest song that was a departure from her usual material. The song, "Strange Fruit," was written by Abe Meeropol, a teacher enraged by a photo of a lynching he had seen. ...more
Laura N
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-review
I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song tells the story of Abel Meeropol’s song “Strange Fruit” made famous by singer Billie Holiday. I really like non-fiction picture books. They make historical events and individuals accessible to young children. Non-fiction books can be daunting for new readers. They are usually thicker than what they normally read, have a lot of words and not very ma
Stephanie Bange
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This picture book biography of the late singer Billie Holiday focuses on her difficult childhood and the racism she experienced as a Black jazz singer in white clubs singing with all-white bands. When Barney Josephson opened his integrated club, Café Society, Billie was invited to perform. One day songwriter Abel Meeropol wrote a song about lynching, based on his reaction to a photo and disgust with the violence and racism against African Americans. He asked Billie to perform the song. While she ...more
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an unusual picture book, one all about a song. I was surprised to see this particular song used as the basis for a picture book, but one for older readers makes sense; it's a historically significant song that needs some background explanation for children. In a way the book is a little bit of a biography of Billie Holiday, briefly detailing her hardships growing up and where she was in her career when she was given this song to sing, having quit Artie Shaw's band after becoming fed up w ...more
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I feel like the only person in the world who has not heard of the song Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday. I started studying Ms. Holiday for the upcoming Summer Reading Program at the library where I work. When I listened to the song with accompanying pictures on YouTube, needless to say it was shocking. Having said that, I was completely unable to comprehend how that subject matter would translate into a children's picture book, but somehow, it works. The artwork by Charlotte Riley-Webb is passio ...more
May 06, 2017 rated it liked it
It's always good to see a book about Billie Holiday, and this song addresses is a very important topic not often addressed in books for kids. The oil paintings are sometimes evocative of deep emotions, but are uneven in effectiveness. The smears and sometimes swirls of color echo the idea of jazz, but I can't tell if the same motivation is behind fact that Billie looks different (sometimes markedly) in all the pictures, and if they weren't gathered together in a book I'd never have said they wer ...more
Solange Guillen
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Souther trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood on the trot,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia, sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of buying flesh!
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is most appropriate for an older children. Golio provides information about Holiday's life and the impact of the song, "Strange Fruit". He also incorporates the racism and segregation Holiday experienced while growing up and alludes to the fact that Holiday's life was much darker than the book could portray appropriately. Parents and guardians might want to research a tiny bit to know why Holiday was sent to a reform school ("At 10, she ended up in a reform school for colored girls, al ...more
Raven Black
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Is there a rating higher than FIVE? I don't usually get this excited over a book. And really, in the end this is just a really good book. However, the fact they talk about lynching in a children's book (though tastefully done. If such a thing is possible) is a real eye-opener for how far books have come. The afterwards covers her death without being graphic. Same with the other subjects. Therefore an older child would be fine, but I'm not sure I want to have this discussion with a 4-5-6 year old ...more
Covers the early life of Billie Holiday and how she became the singer of an iconic song. I was surprised at how carefully it explains the meaning of the song without watering it down for the audience.

The illustrations are full of color, texture, and movement. It's striking how clear all the black figures and faces are and how all the white ones smear and fade into the background, esp. the hands.
Dec 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: art
This book focuses on Billie Holiday's career as a singer up through performing "Strange Fruit" at Cafe Society. Her childhood is mentioned briefly but in a kind of flashback mid-story. The rest of her life is described in a bit more detail in the end notes.

The book talks about the kinds of segregation and discrimination that Holiday encountered in music at the time.

The illustrations are bright, abstract acrylic paintings. Lots of color and movement.
Miss Sarah
Dec 04, 2017 rated it liked it
A picture book biography of Billie Holiday focuing on her life surrounding and during the debut of the song strange fruit. This book is about Starnge fruit and it's impact and the events leading up to Billie singing it not a complete focus on her life. Afterword gives more context about times and her life. elementary and up. strong and powerful
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very interesting. There was a lot I didn't know about her and this book piqued my interest. It is obviously written for children, so the harsher parts of her life were glossed over, but I may pick up a biography in the future along with some CDs. The illustrations were also nicely done. I love the warm colors and abstract brushstrokes. It fits with the jazz theme nicely.
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Gary Golio is the author of several best-selling and award-winning musical picture-book biographies, including Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow, When Bob Met Woody, and Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane’s Musical Journey. Gary Golio lives in Hudson Valley, New York.
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