January 18, 2018

Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee! by Andrea J. Loney, illustrated by Keith Mallett

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:11 pm by suebe2

Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee!
by Andrea J. Loney
illustrated by Keith Mallett

As a boy, James VanDerZee loved to paint but  he found drawing people incredibly difficult. They never looked quite right.  Then a photographer came through the town of Lenox, Massachusetts. When he returned later with the photo, James was amazed.  It perfectly captured his mother’s smile.  He was determined to learn to take his own photographs.

James worked hard to win a camera in the contest but the camera didn’t fit together right.  This time he worked to earn the money and bought his own camera.  James loved his family, friends and town so when he took and developed photos he worked hard to make people look their best.

At 18, he took this skill to Harlem. Harlem was where things were happening.  He took a job as an assistant photographer at a New Jersey studio. His boss worried that customers wouldn’t want to work with a black photographer so he sent James to the dark room. James knew he could take better photos than his boss and he got his chance when the man left on vacation.

James took his time posing people.  He retouched photos in the dark room.  James was the photographer people wanted! Soon he moved back to New York and opened his own studio in Harlem. Politicians, musicians and athletes came to him for photos.

I have to admit that although I’ve dabbled in photography, this book escaped my notice until someone recommended it to me.  But I’m so glad I picked it up.  In addition to being a ground breaking photographer, VanDerZee restored other people’s photos and captured the Harlem Renaissance on film.  This is what brought him back into the public eye when the Metropolitan Museum of Art put together an exhibit called Harlem On My Mind.  After this exhibit, VanDerZee’s skill as a photographer was once again in demand.

This is a fast-moving, touching slice of American history.  It chronicles African-American history as well as the history of photography. Loney’s text is smooth and flowing.  It is complimented perfectly by Mallett’s paintings.

This book is a must for the classroom and the would be artist.  Share it with the young reader in your life today.



June 23, 2017

BunnyBear by Andrea J. Loney, illustrated by Carmen Saldana

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:02 am by suebe2

by Andrea J. Loney
illustrated by Carmen Saldana
Albert Whitman and Company

Obviously, it is bear week here at Bookshelf.  Why not?  If they can have shark week, we can have bear week.

Not that BunnyBear is typical.  Yes, he’s furry and shaggy and can be super loud.  But when he’s alone, he loves to bounce, wiggle his nose, and nibble on strawberries.The other bears didn’t understand.  They told him to catch fish and eat meat and act like a bear.

On the lookout for someplace he can truly belong, BunnyBear spots a bunny.  He follows the bunny down a rabbit hole and into the warren.  But it wasn’t exactly a flawless entrance and one of the adult bunnies sends him away.

But this time BunnyBear isn’t alone.  He’s being followed.  She may look like a bunny but she’s burly and loud and eats whatever she wants. To her surprise, BunnyBear immediately recognized that, yes, in spite of her cotton tail, she is a bear.  ‘You just look one way on the outside and feel another way on the inside. That’s okay,” he tells her.

Can I just say WOW.  There’s more to the story but even this much is so powerful.  It is a story about inclusivity without once mentioning . . . whatever.  It could be about religion or gender or culture or bunnies and bears.  Of course, it is just this inclusivity that will set some people free.  That said, this is a book that belong on every book shelf.

It is a top choice for the child who just doesn’t feel understood, who questions whether she belongs.  And, in truth, haven’t we all felt that way at one time or another?

Carmen Saldana’s illustrations are silly and cartoony without being too silly are cartoony.  They allow you to giggle as BunnyBear squeezes into the warren without making the whole thing utterly ridiculous.  Yet they aren’t too silly because they contribute perfectly to the sweet vibe of this story.

Share it with the readers in your life and be prepared for a conversation about acceptance, belonging and the assumptions that people make.


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