Women’s History Month Kid Lit Review of “Dorothea’s Eyes” by Barb Rosenstock

Dorothea Lange was born in 1895 in Hoboken, New Jersey. She became an American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and for her pictures of the Japanese internment by the FDR Administration during WWII. Lange’s photographs, still famous today, greatly influenced the development of documentary photography.

Photographer Dorothea Lange pictured in Texas, circa 1934.

This book for kids tells the story of Dorothea Lange’s childhood, and what led to her career later in life. Dorothea grew up alone with her mother after Dorothea’s father left them when Dorothea was twelve. Dorothea already had experienced heartbreak in her life; she contracted polio when she was seven, and thereafter walked with a limp on her withered right leg. Kids taunted her, so she pretended to be invisible. She was lonely though, and passed the time by observing the details of everything that was around her.

By the time Dorothea was 18, she knew she wanted to be a photographer, and studied under photographers by doing whatever jobs they would give her. Eventually she was able to start her own portrait studio in San Francisco. She began to win wide acclaim for her skill at photography, and soon, all the richest families in California wanted portraits by her.

But Dorothea felt she should do more; she wanted to use her eyes and her heart. By this time the Great Depression had started, and what Dorothea saw all around her were people who were sad and lost. She well understood how they felt: invisible and ashamed. She took photo after photo, going out on the road to document what the effects of the Depression.

Depression Era family by Dorothea Lange

As the author reports:

“For five years, in twenty-two states, Dorothea drags through fields, climbs on cars, and crouches in the dirt to photograph people the world can’t see. The jobless. The hungry. The homeless.”

Because of Dorothea, and the style she developed, called “documentary photography” – the country saw what she saw, and her photographs helped convince the government to provide people with work, food, and safe, clean homes.

“Dorothea’s eyes,” the author concludes, “help us see with our hearts.”

Japanese children prior to their internment in camps during WWII, photographed by Lange

In an Afterword, the author provides more background on this important artist, observing that her image “Migrant Mother” is “one of the most famous, most reproduced photographs in history.” There is also a selected bibliography, a detailed timeline, and information on where to see Lange’s pictures online.

Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange

Although most of the book is illustrated in a striking mixed-media way by Gérard DuBois, to my delight the author also includes some reproductions of some of Lange’s most famous photographs.

Published by Calkins Creek, an imprint of Highlights, 2016

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Review of “Tess of the Road” by Rachel Hartman

Tess of the Road is the first installment of a new duology set in the world of Seraphina, the doughty half-dragon, half-human heroine of Hartman’s earlier duology.

Tess Dombegh and her fraternal twin Jeanne are step-sisters of Seraphina. They have always lived up to (or down to) the descriptions given to the three of them: Seraphina: the smart one; Jeanne: the pretty one; and Tess: “The One Who’s Always Been Trouble.”

We first learn about Tess as a small girl and what life is like with her parents. Her father had been disgraced after the exposure of his earlier liaison – marriage to a dragon in human form was illegal. Her mother remains bitter over it and has retreated into religious rigidity to cope.

Her vinegary mother tells the twins:

“Girls, remember: this mortal, material world will let you down. Husbands, love, life – everything and everyone will disappoint you eventually. Only one thing never fails. Do you know what that is? Heaven.”

She gives constant lectures on the evils of lust and desire, and on what the roles of women should be – i.e., very restricted. She harps on the sins of the flesh, and on Tess’s perceived sins in particular, all the more blatant since apparently Tess bore a child out of wedlock. (We only learn the details gradually as the story progresses.). Tess has grown up believing she was “singularly and spectacularly flawed, subject to sins a normal girl should never have been prone to.”

When Tess is 16, and Jeanne receives a marriage offer, she is faced with only two options: to live with Jeanne as nursemaid for her children at the home of Jeanne’s new husband and his horrific family, or to enter a convent. Tess doesn’t look forward to either. She longs to have adventures like her childhood hero, the fictional pirate Dozerius.

Tess takes increasingly to drinking, but after one disastrous episode that led to a run-in with Jeanne’s new family, she decided to take off, disguised as a male. At first she is accompanied only by the inner censorious voice of her mother, but eventually she is reunited with her childhood friend Pathka. Pathka is a quigutl, a small species related to dragons.

Pathka asks Tess to help her find Anathuthia, the World Serpent, “the one beneath our continent, the one who will restore us to ourselves.” It was important to Pathka, her oldest friend, that Tess accept, and so she did.

The two have many adventures, indeed, like Dozerius, although Tess gets a new outlook on her old hero as they travel along their road. Tess wants to bite him, which is a concept among quigutl that enables someone who is angry and hurt to find forgiveness. But there is another she wants to bite too: “‘What do you do, Pathka,’” Tess half whispered, ‘if the person you most desperately need to bite is yourself?’” Pathka explains to Tess how it is done, and it’s really not so far from a human concept.

Tess also learns some life lessons from a nun she meets on the road, Mother Philomela. The nun tells her that both guilt and love can carry a person a long way, but your own two feet can take you farther than either of them:

“We’re all on this road, metaphorically. . . .”

She also tells Tess that the religious strictures under which she was raised are just wrong. “The body is innocent,” she insists. And children are not born evil. But unfortunately, as she explains:

“. . . goodness withers when it is continuously ground underfoot. We fulfill our parents’ direst prophecies, then curl around our own pain until we can’t see beyond ourselves. You want to walk on? Walk out of that shadow. Walk, girl. . . . Walk on, yes, but don’t walk past people who need you. Uncurl yourself, so you can see them and respond.”

In other words, the past is never really past, unless you can learn to bite it and move on.

Tess has a decision to make, about how she can finally be the hero of her own story, and whether guilt or love will hold her back.

Evaluation: This captivating story offers both a metaphorical and literal portrayal of the road to healing. And I loved meeting another worthy young female heroine who will make a great role model for girls. I can’t wait for the next book!

Rating: 4/5

Published in the U.S. by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House, 2018

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March 14 – Pi Day

Pi Day is an annual celebration commemorating the mathematical constant π (the Greek letter pi), the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi Day is celebrated around the world – usually with edible pie – on March 14th since Pi = 3.1415926535…


As Smithsonian Magazine observes:

“A fascination and interest in circles predates recorded history. . . . Because of their symmetry, circles were seen as representations of the ‘divine’ and ‘natural balance’ in ancient Greece. Later on, the shape would become a vital foundation for the wheel and other simple machines.”

Circles also became the basis for a wide range of important historical structures, including temples, amphitheaters, and government buildings.

Chausath Yogini Temple, an 11th-century temple located in Morena district in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Pi is an infinite number (i.e., having no limits or boundaries in time or space or extent or magnitude) but is often rounded to 3.14 or 3.142. As the ListVerse website points out:

“The value of pi has puzzled and interested humans since at least 1900 BC, when ancient Babylonians calculated it to be 3.125, whereas ancient Egyptians estimated it to be 3.16. Archimedes of Syracuse is believed to be the first person to accurately calculate the value of pi. He calculated it to be a number between 3.1408 and 3.14285.

In 1874, William Shanks calculated pi to 707 digits, although he was only correct until the 527th digit. In 1945, D.F. Ferguson calculated it to 620 digits, and by 1947, he had calculated it to 710 digits. In 1999, Takahashi Kanada calculated pi to 206,158,430,000 digits, and in 2011, Shigeru Kondo calculated it to ten trillion digits.”

How to celebrate? By baking a pie of course! Theoretically, it should be in the usual “pie” shape of a circle, but creative people might want to try this recipe (the outcome for which is shown below) for a π-shaped pie shown at the “Instructables” website. Detailed instructions with visual aids for making the pie into this shape are also included. (Beware: you may get distracted at this website; it has lots of unique and delicious-looking recipes. Put the word recipe in the search box.)

Happy 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939… Day!


wkendcookingThis post will be linked to this Saturday’s Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. where bloggers share food-related posts. Stop by her blog and see what’s cooking this week!

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