Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange

Partridge, Elizabeth. (1998). Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange. New York, NY: Viking.

Dorothea Lange is one of America’s great photographers. She recorded the impoverished conditions that many Americans were living in during the Great Depression. Lange grew up in New York and New Jersey. Lange had a difficult childhood;

she battles with polio that left her with a limp and when she was twelve her father abandoned the family. As an adult Dorothea moved to San Francisco where she opened a portrait studio, married her first husband and had two sons. In 1934, Lange went to work with Paul Taylor, who would

later become her second husband, photographing the conditions in migrant worker camps across California.

Lange and Taylor’s reports helped obtain federal funding to help people living in poverty. Later in life Dorothea was forced to stop traveling due to poor health, but she continued photographing.

Restless Spirit is an elegantly written portrait of one of America’s greatest photographers. Lange was very devoted to the work she was doing with Taylor and had to overcome physical difficulty of her limp to photograph in the field. Lange had a passion for her work and helping the less fortunate. Lange was a truly talented photographer who had the amazing ability to put her subjects at ease and capture their souls on film.


Golden Kite Award 1999 Honor Book

Jane Addams Children's Book Award 1999 Honor Book

Orbus Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children 1999

YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2000

ALA Notable Children's Book, 1999

Additional Information:




Emmanuel's Gift

Lax, L. and Stern, N. (Producer) & Lax, L and Stern, N. (Director). (2005). Emmanuel’s gift [Motion picture]. United States: First look studios, inc.

Emmanuel’s Gift is the a story of hope in the face of extreme adversity. Emmanuel Ofusa Yeboah was born in Ghana to a large family. Emmanuel was born with a deformed right leg which is the reason his father abandoned his family. Doctors predicted that Emmanuel would never walk, but he proved them wrong running and even playing soccer with the aid of crutches. Emmanuel’s mother, determined that her son would not live in poverty, begging on the street like so many disabled in Ghana, worked hard to send her son to school. When Emmanuel was thirteen his mother fell ill and he left school and home to move to the capital Accra to find and job and support the family.

Unfortunately Emmanuel’s mother did not recover and passed away. After her death Emmanuel was inspired to learn to ride a bicycle and cycle across Ghana in hopes of improving the image of the disabled. The Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) granted Emmanuel a mountain bike and he went to work training.

After completing the 600 km ride across Ghana, CAF flew Emmanuel to San Diego to participate in their 56 mile bike ride. While in San Diego CAF also helped Emmanuel get surgery to have his deformed leg amputated and receive a prosthetic that would allow Emmanuel to walk without the aid of crutches for the first time in his life.

After returning to Ghana Emmanuel continued to work with CAF to help disabled athletes in Ghana. Emmanuel also campaigned for a disability bill, staging marches and protests to get government attention. Additionally Emmanuel received the Casey Martin Award which helped him set up a scholarship fund for disabled children.

Emmanuel is an inspiring athlete and human rights advocate who has overcome adversity to accomplish a lifetime of work in a few short years. Emmanuel’s Gift is a beautifully film biographical documentary which gives viewers an accurate picture of what life is like for the disabled in Ghana. Emmanuel is a true hero who is devoted to improving the lives of others.

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Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini

Fleischman, Sid. (2006). Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.

Newberry winner author, Sid Fleischman digs into the life and myth of the great Houdini, unraveling fact from fiction. Digging into the past Fleischman discovered that Houdini was born On March 24, 1874 in Budapest, Hungary as Ehrich Weiss, not Appleton, Wisconsin as Houdini would later claim. Despite the fact that Houdini’s father, the Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weiss was well educated and possessed several degrees, the Weiss family struggled to make ends meet after immigrating to the United States and settling in Houdini’s claimed birthplace of Appleton, Wisconsin. Because of his family’s struggles Houdini dropped out of school and left home to find a job at the age of 12. Houdini went to work to support his family, eventually moving to New York with his father and sending for the rest of his when they had saved enough money.

It was in New York that Houdini discovered magic and took on the name Harry Houdini which he took from his mentor the famous French magician Robert-Houdin. At age 20 Houdini met 18 year old Bess Rahner and two weeks later they were married. Houdini added Bess to his act as his assistant and they performed and traveled together for the rest of their lives. Bess and Houdini were extremely devoted to each other; she stood by him for years while he tried to make a name for himself as a magician.

Houdini eventually achieved success and fame first in Europe and later in the United States. Crowds were mystified by Houdini’s ability to escape from virtually anything, including handcuffs, jail cells, straightjackets and more. He routinely performed publicity stunts in which challenged the local authorities to hold him in their most secure restrains, usually escaping in a matter of minutes. In this way Houdini sold out theater after theater.

Later in life Houdini launched a trade magazine for magicians and took to debunking Spiritualists who claimed they could communicate with the dead. Houdini also made ventures in aviation and in the movie industry. Houdini continued performing up until his death in 1926.

In Escape! Fleischman unravels the mysterious life of the great Houdini. Once a young magician himself Fleischman is careful to keep to the magician’s code and keep the mystery of the magic alive by refusing to reveal the secrets behind Houdini’s tricks. Fleischman’s writing is light and humorous and his book is sure to appeal to any young amateur magician.


YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2007

ALA Notable Book, 2007

Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature, 2007 Honor Book

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Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

Hoose, Phillip. (2009). Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice. New York, NY: Melanie Kroupa Books.

Claudette Colvin was fifteen when she was arrested for breaking the segregation laws by refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white woman. Before Rosa Parks and other civil rights leaders stood up to prejudice, Colvin stood up for her Constitutional rights. Unfortunately the civil rights leaders did not this a fifteen year old made an appropriate spokesperson for a bus boycott and decided not to fight for equal rights beyond appealing Claudette’s charges.

Instead of being considered a hero by her African American peers, she was received with anger at school. Soon after her trial Colvin was kicked out of high school when she became pregnant by an older man who had taken advantage of her. Despite not being allowed to finish her education and being shunned in the community, Colvin continued to stand up for her rights, join three other women in the landmark case Browder v. Gayle, which ruled that segregation of Montgomery buses was unconstitutional.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice is an inspiring story. Colvin’s story demonstrates how hard it can be to stand up for oneself. Colvin faced anger at school and within her community after her arrest. It must have been frustrating when a few months later Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person and was regaled as a hero and the spokesperson of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Colvin was extremely brave, risking her life to fight segregation in the south. Colvin’s actions prove that young people have the power to stand up for what is right and to change the world. Hoose chooses to include Claudette’s own voice in the telling of her story, giving the book authenticity.


Newberry Honor 2010

Siebert Informational Honor Book 2010

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist 2010

Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children 2010

ALA Notable Book 2010

National Book Awards 2009 winner young people’s literature

YALSA Best Books for Young Adults

Society of School Librarians International Book Award, 2009 Social Studies Honor Book

Jane Addams Children’s Book Award 2010 Honor

Carter G. Woodson Book Award, 2010

Author’s Website:


Monday, March 21, 2011

Charles and Emma:The Darwins' Leap of Faith

Heiligman, Deborah. (2009). Charles and Emma: The Darwin’s Leap of Faith. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.

Charles and Emma follows the life and marriage of Charles and Emma Darwin. The story begins after Darwin returned to England from his 5 year voyage aboard the HMS Beagle. Darwin decides that he would have a fuller richer life if he married and at 30 he and his cousin Emma Wedgewood were married. Darwin’s work left him feeling very conflicted about religion and the role of a creator. Emma on the other hand was devote and believed in God as creator and in an afterlife in heaven or hell. Darwin and Emma were both exceptionally well read and intelligent and though they never did agree on the subject of religion they were able to weigh both sides of the argument and support each others beliefs. Darwin feared the uproar his theories might create and because of that spent twenty years honing his research and perfecting his argument before he published On the Origin of Species, his most famous work. Emma acted as his editor, reading all his work and helping him to strengthen his argument. Together they had 10 children, 7 growing to adulthood. Charles and Emma tells the story of an unlikely, but strong marriage full of love and respect.

Reading this book I was touched by the relationship that Darwin and Emma shared. They truly loved and respected each other. They wrote numerous letters to one another, even after they were married, that describe their marriage as a partnership of mutual love and respect. Emma worried about Darwin’s soul and whether she would see him again in heaven and Darwin worried too, he truly wanted to believe for Emma’s sake, but could not ignore the evidence presented in his work. After reading this book you really feel like you have a sense of who Charles Darwin was, he was a very thoughtful and caring husband, father, and scientist. This is an excellent book that is sure to be enjoyed by teens and adults alike.

Michael L. Printz Honor 2010
National Book Award finalist 2009
YALSA Award for Excellence in Non-fiction 2010
Junior Library Guild Selection
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults 2010

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Andy Warhol : prince of pop

by Jan Greenberg & Sandra Jordan

Sure, you may have seen his famous Campbell’s soup can painting.  Or perhaps the one he did of Marilyn Monroe.  But how much do you really know about the famous pop culture artist Andy Warhol?  Andy was born into life an artist, though he struggled to find his niche in the field.  He struggled with personal problems and his own sexuality throughout his life.  He revolutionized the pop art scene with his paintings of everyday objects.  Andy Warhol was more than just a man who took a soup can and made a career from it, he was an artistic genius who wanted to make his mark on the world.

Andy Warhol is an artist who revolutionized the art scene.  While his paintings receive mixed reviews as to their ingenuity to this day, he remains one of the great American artists of the 20th century.  In this biography, written to older tweens and teens, his life is revealed.  From early childhood to his older years, Andy is revealed to be a conflicted man who struggles with successes and failures.  This book details some of the problems he had in his life, but discusses them in a more PG fashion than biographies on the artist written for an older set.  Overall a great read about the artist, and one that even non-artists will appreciate as overall it’s the story of one man’s life and struggle for fame and success.   

Fight on! : Mary Church Terrell's battle for integration

 by Dennis Brindell Fradin & Judith Bloom Fradin

Mary Church Terrell had a privileged upbringing.  Not only did she graduate high school, but she was one of very few women who went to and graduated college.  And she wasn’t just at college to find a husband, she was there to learn!  What makes Mary’s accomplishment in this even more extraordinary, was the fact that she was African American. Mary didn’t stop her accomplishments with graduating college, she led the fight to stop segregation in Washington DC restaurants through picketing and lawsuits.  She believed that just because her skin as a different color she should not be banned from eating in certain restaurants.  She knew that it was only ignorance that led people follow segregation laws, and she was determined to show people they were wrong.

This book is an interesting read about a woman who broke a lot of barriers in her day.  The fact that she had such a privileged upbringing and was so dedicated to making life better for others is very moving.  She was well educated, which gave her arguments against segregation a lot more sway than they might have had otherwise.  She is a very strong woman, which makes a book about her a great motivational tool for tweens of both genders.  In addition, the book looks at segregation policies very frankly. It’s a great book about someone who isn’t as well known for her work during the civil rights movement, but should be.