Jacob Riis’s Camera: Bringing Light to Tenement Children
Written by Alexis O’Neill
Illustrated by Gary Kelley
Publisher: Calkins Creek/ Boyds Mills & Kane
When his words alone could not bring about changes to desperate conditions of impoverished tenement dwellers of Mulberry Bend in New York City in the late 1800s, Danish immigrant and reporter Jacob Riis used new flash powder technology to illuminate his words with photographs of the unhealthy, dark apartments, alleys and basements in his book, How the Other Half Lives. The public took notice. Early social justice advocate Riis harnessed the power of words and images together to shine light for the world to see and brought about transformational changes to the lives of tenement-dwelling children and their families.
A thoughtful, well-researched homage to an almost forgotten hero.
O’Neill’s vivid narration and Kelley’s aptly dark-hued illustrations combine to introduce readers to this early social justice advocate.
The compelling activism of Jacob Riis animates this beautifully illustrated picture book biography.
— Publishers Weekly
[O’Neill] skillfully creates a fascinating biography of a man who contributed significantly to social reform.
— School Library Journal
[O’Neill has done] a fine job of making Riis and his work accessible and thought provoking for young readers.
— Daniel Czitrom, Ph.D. Co-Author of Rediscovering Jacob Riis: Exposure Journalism and Photography in Turn-of-the-Century New York
Historian/storyteller Alexis O’Neill packs an amazing amount of information into this exciting picture book biography.
— Angelica Shirley Carpenter. Author of Born Criminal: Matilda Jocelyn Gage, Radical Suffragist
O’Neill’s expert use of active, interesting language keeps readers engaged while she parses tough topics. Use this biography as a mentor text for rich vocabulary, literary devices, and the match of tone to subject matter . . . This evocative picture book will be helpful to open discussions and enrich conversations around poverty and social justice, the use of new technology for the greater good, the contributions of people who have immigrated to the United States from other countries, and the history of photography and visual arts.
— Carrie Pearson, Goodreads
Click below for resources to accompany Jacob Riis’s Camera
Riis Lesson Plans
Author Book Talk: