Book review: Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide, by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña

Quintero, Isabel. Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide. Illus. by Zeke Peña. J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018. $19.95. 95p. ISBN 978-1-947440-00-5. Ages 13+. P7Q8

In this graphic biography, black and white drawings with digitally-added grays are combined with the author’s brief poetic narratives to each chronological section and over two-dozen of Iturbide’s unstaged feminist—and sometimes disturbing—photographs. As a child, Iturbide tried to follow the traditional lifestyle of her conservative Catholic family in Mexico, but her drive to be a writer and the loss of her daughter led her to photography. She travelled the world, engaging with diverse cultures as the book follows her for over 50 years. A common theme pervading the book comes from the use of birds, frequently appearing in backgrounds apart from the graphic panels.

Verdict: This startling look at indigenous communities through the eyes of an artist who experiences them can engender discussions and shifts in critical perspectives.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

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Book review: Girl with Camera: Margaret Bourke-White, Photographer, A Novel, by Carolyn Meyer

Meyer, Carolyn. Girl with Camera: Margaret Bourke-White, Photographer, A Novel. Calkins Creek, 2017. $17.95. 234p. ISBN 978-1-62968-574-3. Ages 12-15. P5Q5

Bourke-White became one of the most famous photographers in the world, especially with images of the people suffering in the Dust Bowl and those in the midst of World War II, but she grew up planning to be a herpetologist. Meyer uses much of her narration to tell about her struggles with a stern mother who restricted her clothing and behavior before continuing with the protagonist’s perseverance in developing her chosen career. As a teen, “Peggy” was unpopular, but she learned to become glamorous as an adult and drew great attention that led to two different—and brief—marriages, one while in college and the other over a decade later to the novelist Erskine Caldwell. The book dwells on her passion for her subjects and her drive to accomplish whatever she set out to do. Two of her photos, including the magnificent first Life cover of Fort Peck Dam, are included.

Verdict: Although the subject is interesting, the author presents a flat, almost stereotyped character and concentrates on her earlier life. The later years are more glossed over, and her siblings receive little notice in the last decade of the book. The novel ends with World War II although a note gives brief biographical information about the last 25 years of her life. Teen readers who enjoy a dashing female protagonist in an historical setting may enjoy the book.

May/June 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Dorothea’s Eyes, by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Gerard DuBois

Rosenstock, Barb. Dorothea’s Eyes. Il. Gerard DuBois. Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek, 2016. $16.95. 40p. ISBN 9781629792088. Ages 6-9. P7Q9

rosenstock-dorotheas-eyesDuring the Great Depression, Dorothea Lang traveled the country, taking iconic photographs about suffering during that time that humanized the horrific experiences of the poor during the 1930s. Lesser known about Lang is the ridicule that she herself suffered as a child after an attack of polio caused her leg to wither and make her limp. It is this feeling of invisibility that taught her to see into others “with her eyes and her heart.” Although the text about her work and the photographs at the end concentrate on her life during the first part of her life, a timeline at the end describes her other achievements.

Fall 2016 review by Nel Ward.