Various themes thread through this photobiography of Lartigue's (1894-1986) early years: the boy's technical mastery of a relatively new medium; his sense of whimsy; the pleasures of growing up in a privileged French family with plenty of time and money to spend on the emerging technologies that gave sparkle to the Belle Epoque. Early aviators and motorists, urban strollers, backyard acrobats, and home inventors are captured with remarkable precision, often in mid-action while trying out some new contraption. The gentle humor of Lartigue's images is echoed in Cech's graceful narrative, which is heavily derived from the photographer's own diaries. But while the tastefully spare layout is well suited to the artist's classical style and allows ample space for the reader to ponder some gravity-defying poses, the murky sepia-toned reproductions don't do Lartigue justice. The author's failure to direct the newly curious to Lartigue's diaries is also a serious oversight. Adults may enjoy the nostalgic atmosphere, but children could use more down-to-earth details, such as how the the gifted amateur actually produced the arresting images here. Ages 6-9. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
Gr 4-9-A photo essay that features photographs that Lartigue took as a child, with a text that focuses on his creativity and on the joy and excitement he experienced while taking pictures. The composition and point of view of these sepia prints are amazing. Moreover, when readers learn that Lartigue's camera used glass plates rather than film, they'll find the results truly astonishing. The book will appeal to readers interested in photography, and could also prove useful in the social studies area, as it provides a glimpse into the lives of a wealthy French family during the early 20th century. An unusual title, but one with limited appeal.-Nancy E. Curran, Decatur Public Schools, IL
In 1907 Jacques-Henri Lartigue was given a camera for his seventh birthday. He started taking pictures immediately and took more than a quarter of a million over the course of his life--hundreds of them during his childhood alone. Although Lartigue's name will not be familiar to the intended audience, children will be delighted with his photographs, so young and so playful, and they'll be startled by the idea that they were taken by someone their own age. Cech's text has a lightness that matches the sepia-tone photos. He writes, "Jacques called photography `a magic thing'. Photographs were little miracles," and those miracles are present throughout the book. Whether the photos are of Lartigue's toy cars, positioned so they seem to be racing across the floor, or of his family, willing subjects all, or of new inventions like airplanes and racing cars, Lartigue had the knack--seen in the best photographers--of knowing just the right moment to snap. The author's note gives biographical information about Lartigue and details his career after his first, boyhood enthusiasm for his camera. Despite his prodigious photographic output, Lartigue thought of himself as an amateur and lived his professional life as a painter. It was not until Lartigue was nearly 70 years old that the director of New York's Museum of Modern Art raised an exhibition in which, finally, Lartigue's photographic genius was recognized.
John Cech writes plays, poetry, and fiction for both children and adults, and is a Professor of English at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He is also the Director of the Center for Children’s Literature and Culture and has served as a judge for The New York Times Best Illustrated Books of the Year, as well as the Boston Globe/Horn Book Awards; was President of the Children’s Literature Association; and won the Chandler Award of Merit for his work in Children’s Literature.