Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee!
by Andrea Lorey
Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! is one of those books that tells the story of someone we should have all known about a long time ago. James Van Der Zee was a remarkable photographer during the Harlem Renaissance. His story is one of triumph over adversity, perseverance through doubt, and above all, hard work.
Something that captivated me through this book was the way Lorey and illustrator Keith Mallett bring Van Der Zee’s story to life. As a reader, I felt transported to 1890s Massachusetts and 1920s New York City. This book is captivating, and will absolutely grab the interest of children in classrooms around the world.
This book is so desperately needed in the world right now, as it preaches the importance of representation. As the book explains, before Van Der Zee’s photos, most pictures of black people were “sad and grim depictions of poor farm workers or struggling city dwellers.” But with Van Der Zee behind the camera, “Click! Boom! Everything changed.” I can only imagine how powerful that must have been. We are so fortunate to have Van Der Zee’s photos as documentation of the energy of 1930s Harlem. And thanks to Lorey and Mallett, Van Der Zee’s photos will inspire a new generation of viewers.
Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! will be released in May 2017 by Lee & Low Books.
Note: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Lee & Low Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!