Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, A Life in Nature
by Cindy Jenson-Elliott; Illustrated by Christy Hale
Henry Holt and Co. (September 6, 2016)
Audience: Ages 5 to 9
Nonfiction * Biography * Art
IndieBound | WorldCat
Description from GoodReads:
You may be familiar with Adams's iconic black-and-white nature photographs. But do you know about the artist who created these images?
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.
Thank you Cindy Jenson-Elliot for stopping by and talking about your new book Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, A Life in Nature.
If we have had the good fortune to view some of Ansel Adams’s iconic black and white photography, our chief memories are of both the massive spectacles and tiny wonder of the natural world. But Adams’s development as an artist came, in part, from the contrast he experienced between life in early industrial era schools, and the wonder of the outdoors.
Imagine being stuck in a school like this:
“It was a dismal three-story building, dark brown on the outside, dark brown and tan on the inside; everything, including its atmosphere, grimly brown. The students acquired this pervading mood of depression from the teachers, and the teachers must have caught it from the building: big square rooms, wide noisy staircases, grimy windows, ink-stained desks, smudged blackboards, and crummy toilets. The janitor dour, the principal grim, and the playground dirty!” (Ansel Adams: An Autobiography, p. 16)
Not only was Adams’s school a depressing place, the teachers and administrators did not know what to do with a child like Ansel, who, in his own words, was “hyperactive.”
“Each day was a severe test for me, sitting in a dreadful classroom while the sun and fog played outside…Education without either meaning or excitement is impossible. I longed for the outdoors, leaving only a small part of my conscious self to pay attention to schoolwork.” (Ansel Adams: An Autobiography, p. 17)
After a final incident of misunderstood misbehavior, Adams’s father took him out of school. Between tutors, free access to the outdoors, and a season ticket to the San Francisco World’s Fair, Ansel Adams discovered his true love for learning.
In 2011 I had the good fortune to hear Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, speak about his book The Nature Principle. Louv spoke about people who had been saved by their connections with nature – and people who had been lost because of their broken relationship with the natural world. He mentioned Ansel Adams and his father, and immediately the words “antsy Ansel” flashed through my head. I went home and began to research his life.
Connection Children to Nearby Nature
As an outdoor educator and teacher, I have witnessed countless tiny, profound moments of connection between children and nature. These are not National Park moments found only in a special place at a special time. The natural connections that sustain and strengthen us are ordinary day-to-day moments when we connect with nearby nature, in our own back yards or school yards, and fall in love.
My heart leaps when I hear my favorite phrase echoed by a student: “Oh, wow! Look!” I want to write books to reach beyond my own students and connect the world to those moments of wonder. In writing Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, a Life in Nature, I wanted readers to feel what it was like to be in Ansel’s head and body: to be bombarded with stimulus, to feel stuck in a classroom, and to finally be released into the freedom of the natural world. Thirty-five drafts later, the book found its way to editor Christy Ottaviano, and into the arms of illustrator/collage artist Christy Hale, whose meticulous research on-site in Ansel Adams’ home turf gave the book deep roots.
My hope is that this book will encourage teachers, parents and children to see the outdoors as a resource for teaching and learning, and will open the door for people of all ages to develop a relationship with nature in their own back yards.
About the author:
Cindy Jenson-Elliott is a teacher, environmental educator and the author of 17 books of nonfiction. She currently teaches writing programs to children through Words To Go in San Diego. Find her author page online at www.cindyjensonelliott.com, on twitter at @cjensonelliott, and on her blog at http://naturexplorer.wordpress.com.
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