Dorothea’s Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth by Barb Rosenstock,  illustrated by Gérard DuBois

Dorothea’s Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth by Barb Rosenstock,  illustrated by Gérard DuBois. Calkins Creek, c2016, 2022. 9781635925630

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

Format: Paperback picture book

Genre: Biography

What did you like about the book?  This picture book biography of Lange, originally published in 2016 and now reissued in paperback, uses simple language and Social Realism-style paintings to tell her story. Born in New York City in 1895, Lange contracted polio at age 7 and suffered “a forever-withered leg”; Rosenstock attributes Lange’s lifelong interest and sympathy for the poor to her own disability. Lange’s early fascination with faces morphs into an interest in photography and lands her in San Francisco, taking well-regarded portraits of the wealthy. But when the Great Depression arrives, Lange pivots to taking pictures with the political goal of making poverty visible. DuBois’s realistic and textured acrylic paintings use warm, muddy colors to fill in blocky figures on a stark, white background. Backmatter includes reproductions of 6 of Lange’s most famous images, including “Migrant Mother” and “Woman of the High Plains”, a short essay, a bibliography, and a timeline of Lange’s life.

Anything you didn’t like about it? There was not much nuance to this narrative. We don’t learn why Lange chose photography (other than Rosenstock’s vague allusions to her interest in faces) or what battles she faced as one of the few women pursuing the profession. There is no mention of the Farm Security Administration, the agency that organized and underwrote not only Lange’s work but also that of Walker Evans, Russell Lee, and Gordon Parks. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  Although it’s pitched slightly younger, I would be more likely to recommend Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression by Carole Boston Weatherford. That book is more attractive and would be a better read aloud. Although this book is slightly more dense, it still doesn’t supply needed information for school reports. 

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Biographies

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: June 29, 2022

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