Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, a Life in Nature

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, a Life in Nature Book Poster Image
Artful, relatable bio offers intro to photographer's work.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Introduction to work of Ansel Adams, the art of photography, and nature photography. Introduction to national parks. Historical info about San Francisco World's Fair, 1906 earthquake.

Positive Messages

Even if you have difficulty in school or have trouble focusing your attention, you can be successful. Pursue the interests you're passionate about. Nature is inspiring.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ansel persists even though he has difficulty in school, and though many of the adults in his life don't know how to accommodate him. He actively and enthusiastically pursues his interests. Ansel's father is the model of a compassionate, connected parent who takes his son's personality into consideration.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cindy Jenson-Elliott's Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, a Life in Nature introduces the American naturalist photographer to a young audience. The bio starts in childhood, when "Antsy Ansel" was a hyperactive student who came into focus when allowed to explore the outdoors. An early trip to Yosemite and the gift of a camera planted the seeds for his lifelong work as a photographer capturing light and the rugged beauty of nature, particularly in our national parks. Antsy Ansel can be particularly inspiring for kids who have difficulty focusing or who have an interest in the visual arts.

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What's the story?

ANTSY ANSEL: ANSEL ADAMS, A LIFE IN NATURE tells the story of American nature photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams. When he was a child in the early days of the 1900s, he had difficulty focusing in school. His father arranged for him to be schooled at home and encouraged him to play outside, in their home near San Francisco. Ansel studied piano and considered pursuing a career in music, but a trip when he was 14 to Yosemite Valley proved inspiring, as did the gift of a camera. After working as a commercial photographer, he returned to Yosemite, and his photographs of nature became famous.

Is it any good?

This artful and relatable biography of photographer Ansel Adams begins in his "antsy" childhood, emphasizing his love of nature, while introducing his life work photographing our national parks. Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, a Life in Nature spans Adams' entire life, but lingers on his childhood, when he had difficulty focusing and felt "like a fly buzzing inside a jar." The text communicates Adams' passions with fizzy, rhythmic language, and the eye-catching collage art gives texture to the boy, the dramatic outdoor vistas, and the period details of the era.

Still, readers might wish that the book was weighted a bit more toward the work and photography itself. The text references Adams "giving voice to the voiceless and giving politics a purpose," but we're not sure how his work had political or social consequences. And the few examples of his actual photographs in the art are curiously muddy in this otherwise strong celebration of Ansel Adams.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the problems young Ansel had in school that are described in Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, a Life in Nature. Do you ever have problems learning in school? What sorts of projects are best for you?

  • Have you been to any of the United States' national parks? Are you inspired by nature? How could you capture its beauty?

  • What kinds of materials did the artist use in the collages that appear in Antsy Ansel? Which of the illustrations are clearly collage?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love art and photography

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