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Migrant Mother: How a Photograph Defined the Great Depression
Migrant Mother: How a Photograph Defined the Great Depression
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Award Winners Reviewed Titles

Migrant Mother: How a Photograph Defined the Great Depression

In the 1930s, photographer Dorothea Lange traveled the American West documenting the experiences of those devastated by the Great Depression. She wanted to use the power of the image to effect political change, but even she could hardly have expected the effect that a simple portrait of a worn-looking woman and her children would have on history. This image, taken at a migrant workers’ camp in Nipomo, California, would eventually come to be seen as the very symbol of the Depression. The photograph helped reveal the true cost of the disaster on human lives and shocked the U.S. government into providing relief for the millions of other families devastated by the Depression.   

 
ISBN978-0-7565-4448-5
PublisherCompass Point Books
Age Level10-12 Years
Reading LevelGrades 5-9
SubjectHobbies & Crafts, History
Trim Size9 1/4 x 10 1/4
Page Count64
LanguageEnglish
Copyright2011
Paperback
Price
$8.95
 


 
 

Reviews

Booklist - Gillian Engberg

"With the clean, sophisticated design of a coffee-table art volume, the attractive titles in the Captured History series use the story behind iconic images to introduce young readers to specific time periods. In this entry, Dorothea Lange’s indelible 1936 image of Florence Thompson, a migrant worker at a peapicking camp, is the focus, and veteran nonfiction writer Nardo begins with a "you are there" account of the day that Lange took her famous photo. Subsequent chapters branch out into a brief introduction to life around the country during the Great Depression, illustrated with more of Lange’s familiar photos, including perhaps her most well known, "White Angel Breadline." Throughout, quotes from Lange and Thompson deepen the biographical information about both women and also point to the ethical complexities of photojournalism: "Thompson later claimed that Lange’s photographs simplified her circumstances and reduced her to stereotype." Additional commentary, strong photograph source notes, an illustrated time line, a glossary, and suggested resources round out this illuminating, attractive title that will draw a wide age range of readers." - Booklist

April 1, 2011

LibraryThing.com - Kristin Fontichiaro

"Many Americans remember Dorothea Lange's iconic photograph of a Depression-era migrant mother gazing off into the distance, surrounded by her children. Nardo's text soulfully places this photograph at the center of an intriguing book that explores Lange's motivations for taking the photograph, the decades-later discovery of the subject's identify and her story, the influence of Lange's work on author John Steinbeck, the inspiration for his THE GRAPES OF WRATH, the historic context of the Depression, the Dust Bowl, and more. This fascinating interdisciplinary title, its historic photographs, and its compelling text gives a powerful new lens through which to see this period of American history. The book's layout features extensive white space punctuated by Lange's and other Depression-era photos, along with bold black and red header text, giving the book the feel of a high-end art book. Highly recommended. http://www.librarything.com/work/11199214/book/74028194" - LibraryThing.com

June 2, 2011

 

Summerstead's Reading List - Heather

"A last minute decision caused photographer Dorthea Lange to turn around and check out what was beyond the sign along Highway 101. A 10-minute introduction and photo session produced a series of photos, one of which became one of the most iconic photographs in American history. What made this photograph so compelling? Who was this woman? What became of her? Migrant Mother: How a Photograph Defined the Great Depression answers those three questions and more. The author shares with us what led up to this photo session, and the series of 6 photos taken during that 10 minutes. We learn who the woman in the photo was, where she ended up, and how she felt about practically every US citizen seeing her face. In short, Don Nardo tells us the whole story behind the photo that shocked the government back into reality about the human toll during the Great Depression. If you enjoy learning about the human aspects of history, especially through photographic evidence, you will enjoy this book as much as I have. http://summersteadreads.blogspot.com/2011/06/migrant-mother.html" - Summerstead's Reading List

June 17, 2011

Recycle Your Reads blog

"Reading and teaching biographies is one of my all-time favorite things to do. I absolutely love this genre. I especially like to share lives of people who are not who I grew up reading about. One of my college professors called them “old, dead, white guys” jokingly; but she was absolutely correct. Highlighting people that young readers can actually say, “Hey, he/she looks like me,” is really important. Seeing themselves in a biographical character might be the only reason a reader even tries out a biography. That’s why I enjoy sharing about Dorothea Lange. A strong and accomplished woman during a time when it was difficult for women to be so, Lange’s lasting legacy will be enjoyed and studied for generations to come. I have shared the biography Restless Spirit: The Life and Times of Dorothea Lange by Elizabeth Partridge many times. But Migrant Mother offers something much different. Migrant Mother: How a Photograph Defined the Great Depression shows the reader six photographs that exemplified a time in the country like no book or article ever could. Migrant Mother walks us with Dorothea as she swings back around to the pea picking farm against her better judgment since it had been raining. We see, like she did, the hastily arranged lean-to with a mother and three children sheltered underneath. We learn about the ten-minute (ten minutes!) session with the silent subject and her daughters, and truly see the artistry that lies behind the eternal pictures Lange snapped on that eventful day. I was surprised to find out that the subject that Lange made famous, the woman who became the face of the Great Depression, felt that she had somehow been cheated by the photographer. I found it fascinating, too, to learn about the many trials and tribulations Florence Owens Thompson (“Migrant Mother”) went through during her life. This brief biography taught so much about the art form of photography, the desperate times in which people found themselves in during the 30's and one woman who was able to document the time behind a lens. Interestingly, the photograph Lange became famous for is one in which I routinely turn to year after year to teach inferring. I have found that my students have little or no background knowledge about Lange or the photo, so it is a wonderful tool to ask what might be happening in the photo and for my readers to back up their thoughts with text evidence. They are excited to learn about Lange and her work after the inference lesson, and many students turn to the biography section or the history section of our library to learn more about the life and times of Dorothea Lange. I’m excited to have another title to share with them next year, and excited that the book focuses in on just the Migrant Mother. I think my students will be equally as pleased, too http://www.recycleyourreads.com/?p=2648" - Recycle Your Reads blog

 

NetGalley - Caroline Anderson

"What a fantastic book! Every year I use the photo, Migrant Mother, as a writing prompt for my 7th graders. This year, after they write, I will be able to share a little bit of information about the background of this desperate mother with her children." - NetGalley

July 1, 2011

Lilly Road blog

"Once again, Goodreads does not have a summary for this book available so you'll just have to read mine! :) This is now the second book that I've read in relation to photographs shaping different aspects of history. This particular one was in regards to the Great Depresssion. I'm sure we all know about the Great Depression and how horrible times were for many families. However, have you seen the picture located above before? It looked familiar to me when I saw it, but I couldn't place where it was from. Let's start by saying that this book is about 6 pictures that Dorothea Lange took in 1936 at a migrant workers' camp. Most notably is the picture from above entitled Migrant Mother. Lange tooks these pictures in hopes of relieving the suffering migrant workers were experiencing. She had hoped that the government would step in and provide food to these starving individuals, which did happen...thank goodness! Of course, not everyone was appreciative of the attention this photo received. Thompson, the women in the photo, regretted having had agreed to this photo being taken. She was told she would receive a copy, which she never did. She never received any type of compensation for this photo because Lange was employed by the Federal Government which meant this photo was considered public domain. She didn't appreciate being thought of as poor and homeless, although at the time that is what she was. http://lillyreader.blogspot.com/2011/07/migrant-mother-by-don-nardo.html I enjoyed reading this short book and learning more about this iconic photograph from that time period. It was while reading that I found I remember this photograph from the 1998 stamp which the U.S. Postal Service released. I also want to point out that this photo is one of the most requested in the Library of Congress' collection of photographs. Lange was inducted into the CA Hall of Fame in 2008 for this collection. Learning more about the original history of photographs from the past is great. It helps us remember the true meaning and reason of why that photo was taken. Once again, my only complaint is the formatting on my Kindle which I believe is due to the file being a pdf. I do not believe it has been specifically formatted, but the content is still there and enjoyable. http://lillyreader.blogspot.com/2011/07/migrant-mother-by-don-nardo.html" - Lilly Road blog

July 7, 2011

 

Once Upon a Time blog - Jenn

"What I love most about history is the people and the study of the everyday. What better way to connect with someone (sometimes) long past than an image, be it a tapestry, a painting or a photograph. Migrant Mother tells the story of - and reveals the human faces - behind one iconic photograph, taken at a time when America (and the entire world) was dealing with a period of turmoil subsequently known as the Great Depression. While the focus of the book is on the lives of two women - the one featured in the photo and the one behind the lens - both during the time of the image and beyond, it also briefly details the effects of the Great Depression on families and the land. The text is interspaced evenly with lots of images, as well as sidebars on a variety of topics. Nardo has also included a brief timeline, a list of additional resources, a glossary of terms, source notes, a bibliography, and a complete index. Migrant Mother is an excellent resource for both the children it was written for and for adults. Anyone interested in the history of this particular image, as well as an introduction to the Great Depression and the effects it had on a single family, will benefit from flipping through this book. http://readingincanada.blogspot.com/2011/08/review-migrant-mother-by-don-nardo.html" - Once Upon a Time blog

August 5, 2011

Kiss the Book blog - Cindy Mitchell

"The iconic cover on the cover is a classic that has exemplified the story of The Great Depression for decades. Through detailed research and masterful story-telling, Nardo not only lets us live the creation and aftermath of the photograph, but also the photographer’s life and the lives of her subjects. And he doesn’t skimp of furthering our knowledge of The Great Depression, either. While the volume is slim and the price is a bit high, you definitely get your money’s worth. Not only should middle schools and high schools have this book, but anyone who teaches photography or photojournalism would love it also. http://kissthebook.blogspot.com/2011/07/migrant-mother-by-don-nardo-advisable.html" - Kiss the Book blog

July 25, 2011

 

Nonfiction Detective blog

"Nardo, a prolific author of well-researched history books for children, traces the events that led up to Lange taking the picture, the woman who was photographed, and the long-lasting impact that that picture had on American society. It is an interesting idea for a book." - Nonfiction Detective blog

December 9, 2011

Apples With Many Seeds blog - Tammy Flanders

"For such a short book, there is a lot here to show us the significance of this photo and how such a photo became an icon for its time.  I’m looking forward to seeing more from this series." - Apples With Many Seeds blog

June 25, 2012

 

School Library Journal - Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, Rolla, MO

"Starred Review! Occasionally, a single photograph becomes the emblematic image that defines an era, and this quality series tells the stories of four of those iconic pictures. Each book places its subject photo in historical context, profiles the photographer, describes the conditions under which it was taken, and analyzes both its immediate and its continuing impact. The texts include ample background information and details and are enhanced by large photos and sidebars. These books will help students understand the influence of the individual images and the eras they epitomize, making them strong choices." - School Library Journal

April 1, 2011

Library Media Connection - Suzanne Lay, Educational Reviewer, Houston County, Georgia

"This series shows how a single photograph defined a historical moment. Each book is devoted to one photo that not only caught history, but introduces the student to the background and consequences of the time period. In Migrant Mother the photo is by Dorothea Lange, and in Birmingham 1963 the photo is the famous shot by Charles Moore of 14-year old Carolyn Maull and two other students being brutalized by high powered fire hoses as they peacefully marched to protest segregation. Both of these photos gave an important social problem a human face, and distill a compelling moment. I found the books a powerful way to introduce students to important issues. Since the Birmingham photo was taken as documentation for the Children’s Crusade, I think students will find it particularly easy to identify with. Recommended." - Library Media Connection

October 1, 2001

 

Booklist - Julia Smith

"Top 10 Continuing Series! The stunning books in this series view history through the lens of groundbreaking photographs, zooming in on iconic moments and then placing them in greater historical context. Look for series subsets in world history and sports, too." - Booklist

October 1, 2016

Awards

Junior Library Guild/School Library Journal

Selected by Junior Library Guild/SLJ Curriculum Levels for Fall 2011

April 1, 2011

Western Writers of America

2012 Spur Awards Best Western Juvenile Nonfiction category

March 1, 2012

Bank Street Children’s Book Committee

2012 Best Children’s Books of the Year l

March 1, 2012

ForeWord Reviews

2011 Book of the Year, Bronze Winner

March 1, 2012

Midwest Independent Publishers Association

2011 Midwest Book Award Finalist

May 1, 2012

Pennsylvania School Librarians Association

Each entry examines a historical event in the context of an iconic and instantly recognizable photograph (e.g., migrant mother in the Great Depression, raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima). The books discuss how the photograph (and other photograph

April 1, 2012

Virginia Library Association

2012 Jefferson Cup Award, Series Worthy of Note

October 1, 2012

California Reading Association

2011 Eureka Nonfiction Children’s Book Award, Silver Honor Book

November 1, 2011

Don Nardo

Don Nardo

Noted historian and award-winning author Don Nardo has written many books for young people about American history. Nardo lives with his wife, Christine, in Massachusetts.

Go to the Author’s Page →

 
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