Gordon Parks: No Excuses

Overview

2007 Carter G. Woodson Honor Book

A Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People 2007

Recipient of the 2007 Storytelling World Award Honor Title

Gordon Parks' mother told him, "What a white boy can do, you can too—and no excuses." At age sixteen, while working as a steward on the Northern Pacific Railroad, he discovered he wanted to be a photographer when he borrowed someone's Life magazine. The ...

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Overview

2007 Carter G. Woodson Honor Book

A Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People 2007

Recipient of the 2007 Storytelling World Award Honor Title

Gordon Parks' mother told him, "What a white boy can do, you can too—and no excuses." At age sixteen, while working as a steward on the Northern Pacific Railroad, he discovered he wanted to be a photographer when he borrowed someone's Life magazine. The photographs of poor families were very disheartening to him; however, the photographs of Parisian fashions sparked his curiosity. Later, when he noticed a Life camera bag belonging to a train passenger, he got the courage to ask the photographer, Mr. Capa, about his job.

Although he grew up in poverty and faced many obstacles while pursuing his dreams, Parks' talent and perseverance always prevailed. He studied photographs, visited art museums, and read books about photography for years until finally he bought a camera and started taking pictures. His career officially started when a clerk in a camera shop saw his work and was so impressed that he gave him his own exhibit. Twelve years later, he became the first black photographer for Life magazine. Later he became a successful novelist, director, producer, screenwriter, and music composer. Parks is best known for his photographs of African Americans, and this book highlights those images that made him famous.

From growing up in poverty in Fort Scott, Kansas, to flourishing as an artist in New York City, Parks never forgot what his mother had told him. Parks' life story is sure to inspire children to use "no excuses" when pursuing their dreams.

"The sincerity within the photos of this. . . deceased artist and the simple text tell a story of belief in oneself and strength to prevail over adversity."
—School Library Journal

Ann Parr was born and raised in north-central Kansas. At age fifty-eight, she decided to return to school and earned her MFA in writing for children from Vermont College in 2004. After she read an article in her local newspaper about fellow native Kansan Gordon Parks, she was inspired to use his story for her first book.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
African-American photographer, Gordon Parks, was told by his mother, "What a white boy can do, you can too—and no excuses." That was the theme of Park's life as he taught himself to be a photographer, joined the staff of Life magazine, and chronicled history with his camera. The encouraging text about Parks' life is lost with the accompanying photographs and illustrations. There is no explanation or date of what the reader is viewing. The illustrations are interspersed in the book to demonstrate a scene from the text. They, like the photographs, are not labeled, or even representative to the times they are trying to portray. (An illustration of a woman holding a copy of Life magazine has a modern hairstyle and is sitting on a wooden chair. She is supposed to be riding a train in the 1930s.) There is no index, bibliography, or timeline. This would not be helpful for reports. 2006, Pelican Publishing Company, Ages 5 to 9.
—Joyce R. Laiosa
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-Growing up during segregation did not stop Parks from determinedly pursuing a career in photography. "What a white boy can do, you can too-and no excuses," his mother told him. His photographs seem to reflect extremes: haut-couture in Paris, poverty in Brazil, gang wars in Harlem, Civil Rights leaders, and more. The shadows in his photos and expressive low-lighting are entrancing, and it should be no surprise that he was employed by Life magazine for many years. This brief biography and cross section of his photography portfolio are interrupted with sketches that attempt to fill in the gaps when images of Parks did not exist. Though respectably detailed and realistic, they are stiff and awkward when coupled with Parks's stunning work. The sincerity within the photos of this recently deceased artist and the simple text tell a story of belief in oneself and strength to prevail over adversity.-Jodi Kearns, University of Akron, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Based on an interview with Parks, now in his 90s, and built on his mother's childhood challenge, "What a white boy can do, you can too-and no excuses," Parr's profile briefly traces the photographer/writer/filmmaker's career from early struggles in Minnesota to his memoir for adults, Hungry Heart (2005). Parks certainly merits attention from younger readers, and an update for Midge Turk's 1971 biography is definitely overdue. But not only is the caption-like text here too limited to present a rounded picture of Parks's achievements, but a skimpy selection of his often murky black-and-white photos is padded out with several obtrusive, not always relevant pencil drawings by Kathryn Breidenthal. A substandard, message-driven production, of limited value to libraries. (Picture book/nonfiction. 6-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781589804111
  • Publisher: Pelican Publishing Company, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/28/2006
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,434,849
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: AD770L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.30 (h) x 0.36 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann Parr has written many of the young-adult books in the Race Car Legends , Behind the Moves, and Wild Rides! series. Parr received her bachelor of arts degree in public school music education and her master of fine arts degree in writing for children from Vermont College. She is an accomplished writer and musician and lives in Kansas with her husband.

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