Wednesday, June 9, 2021

DOROTHEA'S EYES: A Picture Book Biography and Giveaway

 I hope you are enjoying hearing about terrific curriculum resources as much as I am enjoying sharing them. It's a win-win! I learn about how to write an inspirational and informative nonfiction picture book, and you have a chance to win one! Today's selection, Dorothea's Eyes (Calkins Creek, 2016) features iconic photographer, Dorothea Lange, and is written by talented author, Barb Rosenstock with period-perfect illustrations by G√©rard DuBois. In the text and illustrations, see if you notice something a little bit different about how this biography is written. (Note: The quotations in red are the way they appear in the book--that's not the answer!)


Dorothea Lange's grey-green eyes look at the world around her and sees "dimpled shadows scattering an orange peel. Swirled-pattern pricks in a walnut sewing table. Repeating rectangles of New Jersey row homes."

After her parents split up, her mother finds a job in a city library and Dorothea attends a school full of poor immigrants. She is Different and Lonely.

But, she is also Watchful. Curious. So, after school she,
spies into crowded tenements where fathers, home from peddling, read newspapers, and mothers wash dishes, clothes, and babies in rusty sinks--happy and sad mixed together. 
Dorothea pretends she's invisible all the time.


And all the time, Dorothea sees with her eyes and her heart.

As a teenager, she announces she is going to be a photographer. Despite her mother's resistance (" isn't ladylike!") Dorothea gets work at photographer's studios and learns everything she can about cameras and darkrooms. 

She loves faces, but is restless to see places too. She sets off from New Jersey to travel around the world but stays in San Fransisco after her money is stolen. She starts her own portrait studio and becomes successful. She marries and has children. But, she keeps asking herself, 

        Am I using my eyes and my heart?

One day during the Depression she looks outside her window and sees men searching for work. She focuses on one man in particular:


                                Dorothea's heart won't let her stop.

White Angel Breadline, 1933 
Dorothy Lange Collection
Oakland Museum of California

Dorothea leaves her comfortable life and takes her camera on the road. She scans dirt lanes, peers down back paths, and squints up broken steps. Fathers stoop in fields, working for pennies. Mothers nurse sick children, lying thirsty in makeshift tents. Whole families in jalopies--blown out by the dust storms wracking the land.


Migrant Mother, 1936
Nipomo, California

"Of the 160,000 images taken by Lange and other photographers for the
Resettlement Administration, Migrant Mother has become the most iconic picture
of the Depression. Through an intimate portrait of the toll being exacted across the land, Lange 
gave a face to a suffering nation."

Her heart knows all about people the world ignores.

Dorothea doesn't just photograph the people she meets. She understands how ashamed and invisible they feel. For five years despite a leg that always hurts, she photographs people for the world to see. "The jobless. The hungry. The homeless."

Newspapers and magazines publish these pictures. Dorothea's eyes won't let the country look away. Her photographs help convince the government to provide parents with work, children with food, and families with safe, clean homes.

        The truth, seen with love, becomes Dorothea's art. 


As you may expect, the back matter is a rich collection of photographs, information on Lange, bibliography, and timeline. Click on these links for more resources: the Educator Guide and Barb's Pinterest Board.

Although this book is recommended for ages 8-12, I think high school students (and adults!) would also learn not only about a woman who followed her passion and made a difference in this country, but about the effects of the Depression. 


Please leave a comment (with your email address if you are new to my blog) by 6PM June 9. Start following my blog and I'll put your name in twice. Continental U.S. addresses only. 

So, can you tell what is different about this biography? It might be hard from just a few quotes--but this historical picture book is written in present tense. Kudos to Barb Rosenstock for a creative way to write nonfiction!


Congratulations to Dee Romito who won OCEAN SOUP on last week's blog.


JessicaFG said...

This is a new title for me; I’m excited to check it out! Writing in present tense is such an interesting approach.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Jessica. Please leave your email address so I can add your name to the giveaway list!

Nora said...

I am a huge fan of both Dorothea Lange's photography and Barb Rosenstock's writing, so I would love to check this out and share it with my daughter! Email is nora(dot)ferm(at) Thanks!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Nora. I'm happy to add your name!

Danielle H. said...

I love that the author wrote this book in present tense to make this girl's life feel immediate and real.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Danielle!

Lois said...

Dorothea Lange's photographs were the images on the "social media" of her time. What an important book.

Connie Porter Saunders said...

I'm not familiar with Dorothea Lange, and this would be great for both my granddaughter and me! Thanks for sharing.
Connie Saunders

Donna said...

I’m a fan of both Dorothea and Barbara…and now a follower of your blog too. Be well��

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Connie and Donna. Donna, I appreciate you following my blog! I'm afraid that the giveaway is only for the continental U.S. and your blogger profile says that you are in Germany. If that's not true--please tell me and also leave your email address!

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Carol,
Photographers have a way of leaving wonderful memories and can document sad events, too. However, altogether, they give us the total view if life.
Don’t put me in the drawing this time.
Thank you for sleays dharing top notch books.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thank you, Joan. I'm glad you enjoy the posts!

Rosi said...

I am a huge fan of Dorothea Lange's work. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book. It looks incredible. I love that it is written in present tense. Thanks for telling me about the book.

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