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Jacob Riis's Camera by Alexis O'Neill
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Jacob Riis's Camera

Best Seller
Jacob Riis's Camera by Alexis O'Neill
Hardcover $18.99
Mar 18, 2020 | ISBN 9781629798660

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  • Mar 18, 2020 | ISBN 9781629798660 | 7-10 years

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  • Jun 30, 2020 | ISBN 9781635923650 | 7-10 years

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Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year

“In 1870, Danish-born Jacob Riis immigrated to the United States, where… he witnessed the horrendous living conditions of New York City’s poorest immigrants. (H)e took photographs and gave lectures accompanied by life-size reproductions of those photos to any group that would listen. O’Neill… presents his biography in clear, direct language that conveys the facts of his life along with the essence of his nature. Kelley’s ink-and-pastel illustrations in muted tones capture the gray dreariness of the scenes as well as dark shadows of interpretations of the photos. A thoughtful, well-researched homage to an almost forgotten hero.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In this picture-book biography, O’Neill’s vivid narration and Kelley’s aptly dark-hued illustrations combine to introduce readers to (Jacob Riis, a) social justice advocate. Riis…(wrote) about the poverty immigrants faced and the harsh living conditions in the city’s tenement buildings. His writing made little difference, however, until he also captured the truth with photography. O’Neill highlights the positive impact his images made, including on a young Teddy Roosevelt, who used his power to make changes. An author’s note, a time line, annotated examples of Riis’ photos, and other back matter provide a broader perspective of Riis’ accomplishments and the power of media to transform lives.” —Booklist

“The compelling activism of Jacob Riis animates this beautifully illustrated picture book biography. O’Neill pulls Riis’s life as a U.S. immigrant from Denmark into sharp focus, using vignettes to demonstrate how his experiences amplified his activism. Riis was outraged by the state of New York City’s tenements and slums but was unable to effect change until he hit upon the idea of using flash photography to capture images of the decrepit buildings and their occupants. Kelley’s expressive illustrations, created using etching ink and pastel, mix human touch and snapshot sensibility, and give a nod to Riis’s photos.” Publishers Weekly

“When he was 21, [Jacob] Riis immigrated to the United States. As an immigrant in 19th-century New York, he learned firsthand how hard life was for the city’s poor. Determined to help, he became a crime reporter and eventually a documentary photographer, writing books and lecturing to encourage change with his powerful images of tenement dwellers. Kelley’s atmospheric illustrations portray the dark and dirty tenements of Riis’s work while still balancing light and warmth. O’Neill’s text is thorough and informative. (T)he author skillfully creates a fascinating biography of a man who contributed  significantly to social reform. A nice addition to biography collections.”School Library Journal

“Progressive Era activist Jacob Riis…is the focus of this picture book biography, which hustles through Riis’ early years in Denmark to focus on his journalist career and breakthrough idea to rivet public attention on the plight of the poorest tenement dwellers. No stranger to the hardship of immigrant life, Riis devoted himself to clearing substandard housing and bringing sunlight and parks into overcrowded neighborhoods. When passionate prose failed to win hearts, flash photography that captured residents in their squalid tenements proved convincing. Kelley’s moody ink and pastel illustrations ably capture the overlapping themes of grim poverty and black and white photography technique. Lengthy end matter comprises historical background, a timeline, sources notes, multi-media bibliographies, and selected reproductions of Riis’ photographs.” The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

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