“Mister and Lady Day: Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her” is the story of a dog and his famous companion, Billie Holiday. It’s about how even the most successful person might feel insecure at times — and how a dog can change that, at least for a while.
Author Amy Novesky writes, “But sometimes stars don’t feel like shining. They need someone to listen. That’s what friends are for. Lady Day’s dogs were her best friends of all.”
Lady Day had many dogs, both large and tiny, but her favorite was Mister, a a boxer who accompanied her almost everywhere. “When Lady performed at glamorous Harlem clubs, Mister sat beside her before the show. Porters brought him plates of thick steak and bowls of water.”
When Lady Day had to leave “for a year and a day,” she wondered if Mister would remember her when she returned.
The story is based on the real life of Billie Holiday. The last page is a summary of her life, including the fact that she was sentenced to one year in prison for drug possession. It includes a picture of Holiday with a beautiful boxer.
Vanessa Brantley Newton, the illustrator, must also be commended for her lovely and creative pictures. Throughout the pages, backgrounds are shown as sheets of music or beautiful longhand writing. Sidewalks and walls, floors of Holiday’s dressing room are carpeted in ticket stubs and letters. One beautiful double-page shows Holiday and Mister out at night strolling on a sidewalk that’s made of piano keys. In that scene, the coat and shoes are reminiscent of a coat and shoes that Newton’s mother actually wore.
Newton said, “Back in the 30’s and 40’s, fur coats were really big in fashion. Folks loved them. They wore them as a status symbol of sorts. The picture is really a picture of my mom, Shirley Ann Brantley. She was the muse for that scene. My mom loved to dress up. She never had a real fur coat because she loved animals too much, but she would sport fake fur with the best of them. The shoes are taken right from my mama’s closet. She loved shoes, and I remember these awesome seafoam green shoes. Billie and my mom had the same great taste in clothing.”
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover picture book which was purchased. The publisher is Harcourt Children’s Books.
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