Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee!

By Booklist

As a child in Lenox, Massachusetts, African American James VanDerZee was impressed by the detail and accuracy of photographic images. He saved his money, purchased a camera, and soon had a thriving photography business. As a young man, he moved to New York, where he honed his skills at retouching photos, worked in a studio darkroom, and eventually became a renowned portraitist of the Harlem Renaissance. Using succinct, upbeat language, Loney chronicles the career highlights of this largely unfamiliar artist, from his childhood through the 1969 Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit, Harlem on My Mind, which featured many of his photographs. An afterword fills in additional details, especially about his personal life and the financial difficulties he faced in later years. Mallett’s acrylic-on-canvas illustrations favor sepia tones, and many compositions are based on actual VanDerZee photographs. The art will help readers to visualize this iconic setting and imbues a sense of pride in one of Harlem’s unsung heroes. A fascinating addition to the picture-book biography shelf.