Antsy Ansel

Ansel Adams:
A Life In Nature

Christy Ottaviano Books
(Henry Holt and Company/Macmillan)
(published 9.6.2016)
32 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

A uthor:
Cindy Jenson-Elliott
      and Illustrator:  Christy Hale

C haracter: Ansel Adams

 verview from the jacket flap

    "As a child, Ansel Adams just couldn't sit still. He felt trapped indoors and never walked anywhere - he ran. Even when he sat, his feet danced. But in nature, Ansel felt right at home. He fell in love with the gusting gales of the Golden Gate, the quiet whisper of Lobos Creek, the icy white of Yosemite Valley, and countless other remarkable natural sights.
     From his early days in San Francisco to the height of his glory nationwide, this book chronicles a restless boy's path to becoming an iconic nature photographer."
T antalizing taste
    "When Ansel was fourteen, his aunt gave him a book about Yosemite Valley. Ansel begged for a visit. The trip took two days by steam engine train and open-air bus.
     At Valley View, Ansel got his first glimpse of Yosemite Valley - the ripple-rush-ROAR! of water and light! Light! Light!
     It was love at first sight.
     One morning during the trip, Ansel's parents gave him a camera.
     He was off -
     Run-leap-scramble - SNAP!
     Rapid-rumble-tumble - RACE!
     Swoosh- flutter-flit - FLEE!
     Ansel's photos became a journal of everything he saw.
     From then on, Ansel went to Yosemite, camera in hand, to hike the High Sierra
     in summer light,
      icy white,
        glowing dawn,
          breathless height,
            danger by day,
              sparkling night,
                worlds of wonder - snap! -
                  in black and white."

and something more: I was excited to learn that ANTSY ANSEL was published by Christy Ottaviano Books, the incredible editor/publisher of my upcoming picture book biography MAYA LIN : ARTIST-ARCHITECT OF LIGHT AND LINES. I reached out to the author and illustrator of ANTSY ANSEL and asked if they would share some thoughts about their wonderful book. Thank you very much, Cindy and Christy! So much fascinating information!

Cindy Jenson-Elliott
"Here's my Antsy Ansel story. I am a teacher, environmental educator and garden teacher. Many of my books have to do with nature, or are designed to inspire families and teachers to head outside with children.  A few years ago, I went to an inspiring lecture by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. The lecture focused on his second book, The Nature Principle, in which he talks about how people of all ages have been saved by their contact with nature. He mentioned Ansel Adams, how he had been, by his own reckoning, hyperactive, and how his father had taken him out of school and let him run around outside as part of his education. Immediately the words "Antsy Ansel" popped into my head. I was so inspired by his story that when the lecture was over, I went home and began to research his life.

As I read Ansel Adams's autobiography --  full of  gorgeous language -- I felt an overwhelming urge to let his life inspire others. As I wrote, I tried to create Ansel's experience of the world -- how his attention flitted from one thing to the next, and how sensory stimuli bombarded him wherever he went. I tried to capture how trapped he felt indoors and how free he felt outside. I wanted readers to be with Ansel as  he felt the pounding roar of the waves at the beach, and the calming flicker of nature in his own backyard at Lobos Creek. I wanted them to feel what he felt. I had two mentors who helped me shape and reshape the story with this in mind -- Joy Chu, a book designer who had a good sense of how a story can support visual elements, and Andrea Zimmerman, a children's book author who worked endless hours with me to help me get it right.

Another connection I have with Ansel Adams is a mutual love for Yosemite. We both went to Yosemite for the first time when we were 14 years old. I spent an unforgettable week with my junior high school class at the Yosemite Institute. It was really life changing for me to hike in the spring thaw, see wildflowers begin to unfold under the melting snow, feel the spray of waterfalls and smell the bay laurel growing by streams.  As an adult, I return to Yosemite yearly. Every summer --  since my children were very small,  my family has spent a week camping in the High Sierra in Tuolumne Meadows. As I researched Ansel, I realized that many of the places my family goes are featured in his photos. So that has been a  wonderful connection, too. I love Yosemite's high country, and I feel so lucky that I am able to share that love with others through this book."

Christy Hale:
" Here are a few of my many research discoveries as I worked on the illustrations:
·     Young Ansel had a calico cat named Tommy. Tommy is featured in the second scene. 
·     A friend and I took a walk through Ansel’s boyhood neighborhood in San Francisco. We saw the outside of his childhood home (unfortunately being renovated). We also walked by Lobos Creek and down to Baker Beach. In Ansel’s day he did not see this, but the view now includes the Golden Gate Bridge. Of course the neighborhood is very much changed from when Ansel was a boy, but it was fun to try to imagine his world.
·    I was able to peek inside Ansel’s boyhood home via the Ken Burns documentary on Ansel Adams. I tried to be true to the style of fireplace and furniture, as well as the positioning of the window in the living room.
·   I attended an exhibit marking the 100-year anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, 1915. I photographed a scaled model of all the buildings and grounds, so once again I tried to imagine being Ansel and walking through the World’s Fair.
 ·    I found actual footage of Ansel climbing Half Dome as a teenager."


Crystal Brunelle said...

I have enjoyed Christy Hale's illustrations in the past. This looks like a great book.

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Hi Crystal,
Yes, Christy's illustrations are quite wonderful. I think you'll enjoy this book!
Thanks for stopping by!

Myra Garces Bacsal said...

You always have the best PBB recommendations! Thanks so much Jeanne!

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Aww... thanks Myra! I appreciate that.
Thanks for stopping by!

Linda B said...

I love the interview, Jeanne, learning more about the process of this good and interesting biography. Thanks!

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Hi Linda,
I'm so glad you enjoyed hearing from Christy and Cindy. I agree! It's always fascinating to hear more about the backstory of a book.
thanks for stopping by,

Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) said...

I love this book! Actually, I have really liked everything I've ever ready by Cindy, but this book in particular was special because it connected to me as a teacher and a daughter of a photographer. :)

Happy reading this week!

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Hi Kellee,
I'm certain Cindy will love hearing about your connections to this book! That's wonderful that you're the daughter of a photographer -- I bet you learned a lot from him.
Thanks for stopping by!