A little-known episode in legendary blues singer Bessie Smith's career comes to life in this playfully fictionalized account. (Picture book. Ages 5-8)

A little-known episode in legendary blues singer Bessie Smith's career comes to life in this playfully fictionalized account. Emmarene Johnson is thrilled when Smith comes to Concord, N.C., for a concert, and she goes to the tent set up on the outskirts of town in the hopes of peeping in through the flap. There she sees the Night Riders gathering, torches lit and obviously up to no good. Acting on the little girl's warning, Smith confronts the hooded Klansmen and faces them down. Holyfield's bright acrylics place Emmarene right at the center, keeping the focus on her and her glamorous idol as she tells her story. There is an unresolved tension here between narration and content, as Emmarene's cheerily positive telling never admits to the stark terror the encounter would seemingly evoke. Stauffacher provides a contextualizing author's note that fleshes out the details of the actual event but also regrettably implies that the Ku Klux Klan was a phenomenon of the early 20th-century South. Given that this is likely to be many readers' first introduction to both Smith and the Klan, it is too bad that it is not more substantial. (Picture book. Ages 5-8)