Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America

Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Jamey Christoph. Albert Whitman, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8075-3017-7
Weatherford’s (Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century) spare, lyrically formatted prose combines with Christoph’s (the Origami Science Adventures series) stylized illustrations to tell the story of 20th-century African-American Renaissance man Gordon Parks. The present-tense narrative takes readers from the birth Parks barely survived through the odd jobs of his early years to his adulthood as a self-taught photographer and later novelist, musician, photojournalist, and director. Troubled by what he sees in the nation’s capital, “Park vows to lay bare racism/ with his lens.” His iconic 1942 photograph, “American Gothic,” depicts African-American cleaning woman Ella Watson, broom in one hand and mop in another, the U.S. flag as her backdrop. “She knows all too well/ that the opportunities/ the flag symbolizes are denied her/ because of skin color.” Christoph’s spreads echo the pared narrative with a muted palette and modest styling, but their impact is powerful. One shows Parks observing black families who live in rundown alley dwellings as the shiny, white U.S. Capitol building looms in the distance. An afterword fleshes out Parks’s story and includes a few b&w photos he took, including “American Gothic.” Ages 5–8. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/22/2014
Release date: 02/01/2015
Genre: Children's
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