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Exposing Hidden Worlds: How Jacob Riis' Photos Became Tools for Social Reform
Exposing Hidden Worlds: How Jacob Riis' Photos Became Tools for Social Reform
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Reviewed Titles Award Winners

Exposing Hidden Worlds: How Jacob Riis' Photos Became Tools for Social Reform

President Theodore Roosevelt called Jacob Riis “the best American I ever knew.” The pioneering photojournalist—an immigrant from Denmark—drew attention to the poverty and evils of slum life in the late 1800s. Riis won national acclaim when his photos illustrated his bestselling book How the Other Half Lives. The book focused on the difficult time immigrants faced as thousands of newcomers flooded into the United States each year. Riis called for reform and hoped to prod government officials to help the poor people who were forced to live under horrible conditions. The impact of Riis’ photos came from capturing the poor and homeless as they lived and worked, with the subjects’ eyes often staring directly into the camera. The great photographer Ansel Adams called them “magnificent achievements in the field of humanistic photography.” But the reforms that came from Riis’ work have not eliminated urban poverty and homelessness, and important work remains to be done.

PublisherCompass Point Books
Age Level10-12 Years
Reading LevelGrades 5-9
SubjectHistory, Social Studies
Trim Size9 1/4 x 10 1/4
Page Count64



Booklist - Carolyn Phelan

"Burgan writes persuasively about Riis as a reporter, a reformer, and a photographer whose work has lasting power as well as historical significance. Burgan’s informative text, detailed captions, and illustrated sidebars give readers the background knowledge needed to understand the historical context and appreciate Riis’ work. With a spacious format and simple design, this volume from the Captured History series offers a showcase for the many photos. An intriguing book relevant to classroom units on immigration and social history." - Booklist

October 15, 2017

School Library Connection - Karen Alexander, Library Media Specialist, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI

"Not only can a picture be worth a thousand words but it can also impact people and history alike. This series looks at famous photographs from the perspective of historians and photographers, revealing the influence each had on a time period. . . .The strength of these books is their usefulness to a variety of curriculums: art, history, and media literacy in particular. Each book includes the famous photographs as well as the story behind each of the individuals who knew how to capture the essence of a time period and how to make a positive difference in the lives of those in need." - School Library Connection

May 1, 2018




2018 Nonfiction Honor List

June 1, 2018

Michael Burgan

Michael Burgan

Formerly an editor at the educational publisher Weekly Reader, Michael Burgan has been a freelance writer for 17 years. He has written more than 250 books for children and young adults, specializing in U.S. history, geography, and biographies of world leaders. He has also written fiction and adapted classic novels. Burgan has won several awards for his writing, and his plays for adult audiences have been staged across the United States. He graduated from the University of Connecticut with a BA in history. He currently resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his cat Callie.

Go to the Author’s Page →