Cover of book shows Dorothea Lange sitting on top of a jeep with her camera.Recently I talked with a writer friend about a new project, her first attempt at a picture book biography. She started telling me all sorts of fascinating details about her subject’s life, and then stopped and asked, “How do you decide what to keep in?”

Carole Boston Weatherford’s new picture book biography, Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression, answers my friend’s question. The book covers much of Lange’s life, from childhood to professional success, but everything in the book connects to the idea that Lange felt empathy for the poor and the powerless. The book centers on one theme in Lange’s life and gives example after example of her laser focus on seeing people and situations that were invisible to others.

In fact, the opening spread is about Lange’s ability to empathize:

“Because childhood polio left her with a limp and a rolling gait, Dorothea knew how those les fortunate felt without ever waling in their shoes. Kids called her “Limpy.””

We see Lange struggling with fear as she walksEm the dangerous streets of her childhood, see her struggling to regroup after being the victim of a robbery, and see her turning away from rich clients to snap photos of unemployed men in a bread line. I don’t know all the details Weatherford had to leave out of her book, but she consistently makes sure every detail she does include ties back to this theme of empathy in Lange’s life.

I loved the simple, clear writing in this book, and the illustrations had completely won me over by the end. Sarah Green, the illustrator, has the unenviable task of recreating some of Lange’s photos in illustration form, but Lange’s famous Migrant Mother photo is reproduced in the back matter.

This is a lovely, easy-to-read biography that shows how empathy can change the world.

Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Sarah Green. Whitman: 2017.

Children with book around a globe


I participate every Wednesday in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge at Kid Lit Frenzy.

Cover of I Dissent with illustrations of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a child and as a Supreme Court justiceLet’s turn away from the executive branch of government for a minute and think about the judiciary. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark is a delightful picture book biography that is organized around a principle central to Justice Ginsburg’s work on the bench and, in fact, to all the workings of representative democracy: disagreeing doesn’t have to make one disagreeable.

In this book, divided roughly equally between Ginsburg’s childhood, her adulthood work as an advocate, and her legacy on the bench, Debbie Levy explores the idea of disagreement. We see how Ginsburg’s mother disagreed with prevailing cultural expectations for girl and how Ginsburg herself disagreed with anti-Semitic prejudice as well as elementary school expectations, such as expecting left-handed children to learn to write with their right hands. Ginsburg–and we as readers–see that sometimes disagreement leads others to change their minds (Ginsburg wrote with her left hand) but sometimes it doesn’ (Ginsburg still had to take home economics).

In the last section of the book, about Ginsburg’s legacy on the Court, Levy directly addresses her relationship with her most prominent foe.

Justice Ginsburg has disagreed most often with the legal views of Justice Antonin Scalia. But they didn’t just complain. They shared their conflicting ideas. Each pointed out weaknesses in the other’s arguments. Adn after the opinions were written…the two justices had fun with each other! They didn’t let disagreements about law get in the way of a long friendship.

One page has an illustration of Scalia and Ginsburg, in their judicial robes, leaning toward each other, fingers pointing, arguing. The facing page has illustrations of snapshots showing them parasailing together and riding an elephant together. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition. And a truth worth remembering: that you can disagree with someone else’s deepest-held political views and still appreciate and respect each other.

[And for true RBG fans, here’s one of the best Valentines my lawyer husband has ever given me.]Photo of Ruth Bader Ginsburg captioned "You violated the fith amendment when you took my heart without due process"








I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley. Simon and Schuster: 2016.

Children around a globe.



I participate every Wednesday in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge at Kid Lit Frenzy.



You don’t find an easy reader memoir every day. This one’s a rare gem. It tells the story of a Sierra Leone war orphan who becomes fascinated with ballerina and eventually becomes a professional ballerina. It’s co-written by Michaela and Elaine DePrince, the ballerina and her mother.

I was especially impressed by the way the narrative weaves together so many difficult themes. The narrator talks about her skin condition, vitiligo, and the teasing she endured because of it. She tells the story of her adoption, describing the uncertainty as well as the thrill that went with getting a new family and a new country. She takes us through her obsession with ballet. She shows us the loneliness of being black in a predominantly white workplace.

It’s a lot for a single easy reader to tackle, but this text does it with grace. There’s a lot for any new reader–or any human!–to connect with here.

Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer, by Michaela and Elaine DePrince, illustrated by Frank Morrison. Random House Step into Reading: 2014.