Portraits of American History for Middle Grade and YA Readers

A biography of Lewis Hine, whose photos were vital to changing child labor laws, and a collection of Depression-era photography show how photos have long been used to document the human condition and inspire change.

A biography of Lewis Hine, whose photos were vital to changing child labor laws, and a collection of Depression-era photography show how photos have long been used to document the human condition and inspire change.

Hinrichs, Alexandra S.D. The Traveling ­Camera: Lewis Hine and the Fight to End Child Labor. illus. by Michael Garland. 32p. Getty. Sept. 2021. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781947440067.
Gr 3-8–In this biography of Lewis Hine, readers see that he documented the ­human spirit in the form of photographs, or Hineographs, as he called them. He is known for photographing children who labored to help their families make ends meet during the early 1900s when child labor laws were not enforced. Born in Oshkosh, WI, Hine knew firsthand what it was like to have to help the family ­financially after his father died at a young age. Hine worked in horrible conditions, trying to keep food on the table for his two sisters and mother. The picture book begins with Hines as an adult traveling across the United States using his box camera to document children who are working in mills and fields. Beautiful illustrations, which appear to be a mix of digital and traditional media, bring the story to life. Hine visits factories, farms, and mines where children are laboring day and night in terrible conditions: “At the cotton mill I tell the overseer The Company sent me to take pictures of broken machinery. He believes me, lets me inside.” Whatever it took to get inside the mill or factory to take his pictures, Hine would do it. His aim was to share his photos with the world, to make them, “sick and tired of the whole business, to make child labor pictures records of the past.” Back matter includes a time line and photographs from Hine’s life and of his work. VERDICT An excellent purchase for all libraries.–Tracy Cronce, Stevens Point ­Public School District, ­Stevens Point, WI

Sandler, Martin W. Picturing a Nation: The Great Depression’s Finest Photographers Introduce America to Itself. 176p. ­Candlewick. Oct. 2021. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781536215250.
Gr 7 Up–This is a vivid account of the photographers the Farm Security Administration (FSA) tasked with documenting the work of FSA agents as they helped distressed farmers during the Great Depression. But these esteemed photographers, including Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Gordon Parks, soon found themselves telling a story of America. As the FSA’s Roy Stryker wrote at the time: “The task has been to confront the people with each other, the urban with the rural, the inhabitants of one section with those of other sections of the country, in order to promote a wider and more sympathetic understanding of one for the other.” Discarding their photos of government agents at work, they focused on “introducing America to Americans.” National Book Award winner Sandler divides the photos into regions, with a short introduction to each region. The photos are captioned with ­information about the image, ­composition, and quotes from the ­photographers. The selection of images reveals the diverse nature of Americans and their lives during the Depression. This powerful collection will challenge many pre-held ideas about life in the early-20th century and leave a lasting impression on readers. Sandler includes profiles of the photographers and source notes. VERDICT This is a great example of the power of ­visually documenting history. It will provide important ­human commentary in history classes and will be enjoyed by both history and photography enthusiasts. Recommended for all libraries.–Cathy ­DeCampli, Haddonfield P.L., NJ

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