Dorothea Lange – Picture Book Biographies

We have lots of picture books come in and out of our house. My 5th grader still loves to see a new pile from the library and settle in to see what she can experience. Lately, I have been getting a  lot of non-fiction, I just haven’t had a chance to write about them all. But there is something special when a random selection from the library proves meaningful to something she is studying in school.

migrant mother

In one of my recent library trips, I discovered Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression, by Carole Boston Weatherford. I have long been fascinated by the faces that Lange was able to capture with her camera and the way she put such emotion into the reality of the Depression and her role in the Farm Security Administration. Photojournalism has long been a passion of mine, and she is vital in the field.

So I found it comical when my 5th grader came home with an assignment about the Depression that featured Lange’s iconic photograph, Migrant Mother, and she recognized it because she had read this picture book.weatherfordWeatherford shows how Lange’s childhood experience with polio impacted her later years. She was used to being unseen when walking around others, which allowed her to capture images that others couldn’t. As we often try to explain to kids, there are many types of intelligence and many types of creativity – Lange’s talent was “eyesight” and she was a “so-so student.” She was drawn to take images of people and tell their stories, something different than what other photographers were doing at the time.

The book doesn’t go into a huge amount of details, but just enough to whet a young mind to discover more. The factual information after the story is filled with great information.

dorothea's eyesAnother book on Lange that I have not gotten to see myself, but that looks absolutely wonderful is Dorothea’s Eyes, by Barb Rosenstock. The book focuses on how  “Dorothea’s eyes help us see with our hearts.” By showing the hardships that Lange faced as a child and how she overcame them, young readers can see that her life might have been what shaped her to be the person best suited to represent those that others wanted to ignore. A life of pretending she was invisible meant that she saw those that the world didn’t see.

Both of these books are awesome entry points to understanding the Depression and Dust Bowl. These are also books that highlight how important picture books can be for older children when you are talking about subjects as complicated as these.

nfpb2017Every Wednesday I try to post a non-fiction picture book as part of the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.  Non-fiction picture books are amazing for helping kids learn. Make sure to check out Kid Lit Frenzy and the linked blogs to find some more fabulous books!




  1. I’ve read both books, Michele, and enjoyed Lange’s story a lot. It is inspiring to hear how someone’s path changes because of unique ability, like to “see” what others do not. Thanks for sharing your story surrounding this book.

Leave a Reply