Beyoncé: Queen of the Spotlight by Ebony Joy Wilkins

 Beyoncé: Queen of the Spotlight by Ebony Joy Wilkins, Random House, 9780593124444, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Biography

What did you like about the book?  Lots of information about Beyoncé, up to 2020. She’s a busy lady, hence the need for constant updates. This book covers her entire life, from girlhood in Houston to her 2018 performance at Coachella (she was the first black woman to headline the festival). The tone is breezy and laudatory, and focuses on praising Beyoncé’s capacity for hard work. Numerous inserts and sidebars define unfamiliar people and terms (a brief history of R & B, minibiographies of all Girls Tyme members, a description of Star Search, etc.). Wilkins devotes considerable space to topics such as Beyoncé’s academic struggles, her management issues and her budding romance and eventual marriage to Jay-Z. The cover is very appealing: Beyonce in a black sequined outfit, hand on hip, hair in cascading blond ringlets, against a deep red background with a talk bubble reading “Power means hard work.” The book closes with a bibliography, timeline and index.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Oddly, there’s not a lot of attention paid to Beyoncé’s music. Instead, the book focuses on her career path. The illustrations are terrible. Possibly the series could not get permission to use photos or an actual likeness, but there’s no excuse for these stiff and flat black-and-white sketches that not only don’t resemble Beyoncé, but make her look like a white woman with grey skin. Fabulousness is part of her brand, but you would never know it from this book’s artwork. 

To whom would you recommend this book? Students in grades 3-5 who are writing reports or want to learn more about Beyoncé’s life. Trailblazers is a new series for Random House, so those who live for the next Who Was book from Grosset & Dunlap might enjoy it. I do think you’d also have to consider any one of the many photo-biographies available through educational presses (Capstone and Lerner both have new options for this age group) as more eye-catching alternatives.

Who should buy this book? Elementary schools or public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Biography section

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: January 12, 2019


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