Books by Elizabeth Partridge

BOOTS ON THE GROUND by Elizabeth Partridge
Released: April 10, 2018

"A valuable complement to existing nonfiction about the Vietnam War for young people, adding an intimate dimension to the larger history. (bibliography, source notes, index, photo credits) (Nonfiction. 12-18)"
A personal, moving foray into the Vietnam War and its impact on the country and individuals whose lives it forever changed. Read full book review >
DOGTAG SUMMER by Elizabeth Partridge
Released: March 15, 2011

A child of conflict struggles to understand her past and her present in this impressive historical novel. Partridge proves her keen understanding of young people and her ability to write engrossing fiction grounded in the history she usually illuminates in nonfiction. This is a dual narrative of Tracy's story, alternating between her experiences as a con lai, or half-Vietnamese/half-American child, in that country in 1975 and her time as an adopted only child enmeshed in her now-ordinary life on the coast of California five years later. The trauma that she suffered in the past emerges from deeply buried memories at the beginning of summer when she and best friend Stargazer, a child of hippies, build a Viking ship of war. Tracy's father, a Vietnam vet, has hidden an old ammo box with a set of dogtags inside, and their discovery sets into motion Tracy's process of remembering her past and connecting it with the present. Only 11, Tracy is realistically inarticulate, yet the depth of her emotion and suffering comes through. Never reverting to stereotypes, Partridge uses Tracy and Stargazer's fast friendship to help capture the ambivalence of the culture toward the war, as well as the struggle of the vets to personally cope with their experiences. A strong yet gentle read. (teacher's guide) (Historical fiction. 9-14)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2009

With this photo-essay on the 54-mile civil-rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Partridge proves once again that nonfiction can be every bit as dramatic as the best fiction. In the spring of 1965, a racist sheriff and a bigoted governor were pitted against demonstrators trained in Martin Luther King's philosophy of nonviolence. The Civil Rights Act signed by President Johnson in 1964 had outlawed segregation in schools, workplaces and public areas. Now, demonstrators in Selma, joined by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and King's organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, demanded the right to vote. This is history told from the bottom up, through the words, pictures and actions of the parents and children of Selma. With a perfect balance of energetic prose and well-selected, breathtaking photographs, the volume portrays the fight for the heart of America, concluding with a touching photograph of a pair of hands, one signing a voter registration form. This well-designed and impeccably documented volume is a good match with Phillip Hoose's Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (2009). (author's note, source notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10 & up)Read full book review >
BIG CAT PEPPER by Elizabeth Partridge
Released: May 1, 2009

"Mama, me, and Pepper, / always been this way. / Never been without him, / even for a day." A young African-American boy sure loves his big cat Pepper, but one day Pepper won't play. The next day Pepper won't drink or purr. After the inevitable occurs, mother and son bury the cat in a flowerbed. When the boy asks if Pepper will be scared down there, Mama responds, "No, sugar, no, / I'll tell you why. / His spirit is forever— / it can fly, fly, fly." The boy doesn't understand until one day he holds still: The grass tickles his ankles like Pepper's fur, and he hears Pepper's purr in the wind. The boy's heart opens up, and he knows Pepper will always be with him. Castillo's mixed-media illustrations of a rural, single-parent family are smudgily warm and comforting. The entirely secular explanation of death and the fact that there is no substitution pet added to the family in the end make this a very worthwhile addition to bibliotheraputic literature for the young. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 6, 2005

"The guitar's all very well, John, but you'll never make a living out of it." Despite his aunt's admonition, learning to make a living out of his guitar was the theme of John Lennon's life, and Partridge does a masterful job of placing Lennon's music in the context of his times—the influences of Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, as well as the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War and Watergate. Lennon comes across as a brilliant, self-centered, self-destructive figure caught up in a pop culture world that reflected and exaggerated his own worst tendencies. Given the massive amount written about the Beatles, separating the man from the myth is a huge challenge, superbly accomplished here, with great attention to documentation. Source notes let readers into the process of writing nonfiction, and the bibliography is excellent. Photographs and other primary source material help to create an honest, multidimensional portrait of the artist. Strong language, partying, sex and drugs were a big part of John's life, and their portrayal makes this a work for older readers, who will find it fascinating. (afterword, discography, index) (Nonfiction. YA)Read full book review >
KOGI’S MYSTERIOUS JOURNEY by Elizabeth Partridge
Released: Oct. 1, 2003

Partridge, author of several studies on how art or artists are made, focuses on transformations and artistic epiphanies in this powerfully retold Japanese legend. Releasing a fish after failed attempts to capture its essence on paper, Kogi suddenly finds himself transformed into a golden carp in the depths of Lake Biwa. In sprayed paper cuts often reminiscent of David Wisniewski's serrated constructs, fish, waves, and beams of moonlight sweep across the pages as Sogabe captures the inner intensity of Kogi's experience—not only the thrill and power of freedom, but terror too, as he is helplessly caught by a fisherman, sold and (signaled by a page of abstract red and black) killed. Kogi then wakes up on his pallet, and goes on to paint fish so deeply real that they actually swim off the pages. And, ultimately, he becomes in truth the fish he dreamed of being. Though the subtler insights here may have more meaning for adults, children too will respond to the beauty of the art and page design—and Kogi's dream makes disturbing, universally compelling reading. (author note) (Picture book/folktale. 8-11)Read full book review >
WHISTLING by Elizabeth Partridge
Released: April 1, 2003

Simply gorgeous illustrations adorn a poetic boy-and-his-dad story. Jake's Daddy wakes him just before dawn, as he's curled up in his sleeping bag next to the campfire Daddy's tending. Jake is not sure he's ready, but Daddy thinks he is. He tries once (too hard) and once more (too soft) but then Jake is whistling softly as little creatures watch. The birds begin to sing, the last star winks out, and Daddy joins Jake in whistling, as the sun comes up. "We whistled up the sun." This tender story of a family ritual unfolds to the full-page images from Hines, who makes her pictures in quilts. Every single piece of fabric is perfect, from the hand-painted sky fabrics to the rough-textured plaids of Jake and Daddy's shirts. Her shapes, forms, and patterns are elegantly chosen and pieced seamlessly to make pictures that richly repay repeated examination. She supplies a fascinating two pages of detailed description as to how she made the illustrations. Children will be entranced by the unaffected sweetness and gentle rhythms of both story and pictures and their magical sense of family love and devotion to the natural world. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
MOON GLOWING by Elizabeth Partridge
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

A spare text describes the onset of winter as four animals of the forest make preparations. One line describes the weather conditions, "Icy winds blowing through," and then: "Squirrel stashing, / bat chewing, / beaver building, / bear, big bear, digging deep." The four finally scrunch up to wait out the winter. The flurry of activity stops, while: "Moon, big moon, glowing bright. All sleeping, sleeping tight." With very few words per page, Partridge's (This Land Was Made for You and Me, p. 107, etc.) text creates a gentle rhythm. Paley's (One More River, p. 423, etc.) collage technique of cut paper embellished with watercolor, crayon, pastel, pencil, and oil paint provides the hook. The compositions are simple and bold, with the textured browns and blacks of the animals and trees contrasting with the bright palette employed for the background. Illustrations that have animals as the focal point are especially engaging. An explanation of the hibernation habits of the animals follows the text. Lovely. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2001

Woody Guthrie was arguably the greatest of American folk singers. Born in poverty and living most of his troubled life poor, he wrote over a thousand songs chronicling his journeys across Depression-era America. He wrote about the people he knew—the fellow wanderers, the migrant workers, hoboes, unionists, and the dispossessed in all walks of life. Always restless, rootless, and volatile, Guthrie never was able to settle down and make a marriage work, frequently leaving on unannounced trips across the country for weeks on end. Often dirty, smelly, and contentious, Guthrie was a hard friend. Yet his place in American music is secure, and this fascinating, new biography will introduce him to a new generation of readers. Beautifully designed and illustrated with over 70 black-and-white photographs, this well-written account is a fitting tribute to an American legend. Partridge, whose earlier work on Dorothea Lange (Restless Spirit, 1998) was equally powerful, portrays many of the rough and tragic sides of Guthrie's life: the failed marriages, the "curse of fire," the lack of responsibility in his personal life, and the tragedy of his final years, when he was hospitalized from 1954 until his death from Huntington's disease in 1967. She also portrays the triumphs of his music career and offers the stories behind many of his most famous songs. Guthrie's life spanned the Great Depression, WWII, the McCarthy era, and the early civil-rights movement. His work breathed new life into the folk-music movement, though the rise of folk music coincided with the decline in his health. At the end of this story, readers see 19-year-old Bob Dylan arriving to meet Woody and being inspired to carry on his work. Young readers will also be inspired—to see how Woody Guthrie achieved greatness, though the road he traveled was hard and troubled. A nice one-two punch with Bonnie Christensen's recent picture book, Woody Guthrie: Poet of the People (2001). (author's note, endnotes, index) (Nonfiction. 12+)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2001

This touching and pretty picture book tells the story of Jo Lee, a young boy in 19th-century China who is sent to join his uncle on Golden Mountain (the name Chinese immigrants have given to California) when a drought has brought hardship to his village. Jo Lee is miserably seasick and homesick on the long boat trip and desperately misses his mother and sister. At first overwhelmed by the strangeness of America, eventually he adjusts to the routine of the fishing village in which Fourth Uncle lives, fishing in the mornings and stomping on the shrimp in wooden shoes until they pop out of their shells in the afternoons. Even though he is so far away from his family, Jo Lee's Hun, his dream spirit, keeps him connected to them by leaving his body every so often and traveling to China to visit and even to act as a beneficent spirit. An afterw0rd gives historical background about Chinese immigration to the West Coast and explains the traditional Chinese belief that each person has five spirits, including the Hun, which gives people courage and the ability to dream. When a person is awake, the Hun shines out of one's eyes, but during sleep, the Hun can wander freely. The colorful and boldly graphic illustrations are formed with cut paper and watercolors. The design of the book is particularly attractive, with most pages surrounded by a duo-colored frame. The Hun is depicted by a ghostlike, yet friendly image, and the illustration of the Dragon King, sure to appeal to children, is surrounded by dramatic swirls of color. While this is a fairly rosy picture of the experience of Chinese immigration to California in the 19th century, glossing over the hardships and prejudice, the story serves as a good introduction and is also a paean to the unbreakable bonds of mother and child. Excellent for the classroom and a useful addition to any library. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2001

Partridge's (Oranges on Golden Mountain, p. 56, etc.) story is sweet and gentle and, if it is not highly (or even remotely) original, it will give beginning readers some fast-clipping exercise. The tale, crowned by Weston's (Owen Foote, Super Spy, p. 1424, etc.) affectionate illustrations, revolves around the efforts of a mouse, Bo, to surprise his friend Annie with a present of his own making. Moved by the beauty of the moon glowing in the winter night's sky, Bo decides to bake a "full moon cake" for Annie. The cake is just ready to come out of the oven when Annie appears at Bo's door wanting to go skating. When he can't stall her any longer, "Bo ran out and slammed the door behind him. He smiled at Annie. It was a great big smile. It was a fake smile. Bo couldn't fool his best friend. ‘Bo,' said Annie. ‘What are you hiding?' " He admits it's a surprise, but keeps the secret close. After he rushes home from the skating pond to get the present, Annie begins to worry why he is taking so long. She runs into him in the woods making his way to her house. Since it's dark, and he was throwing a scary shadow, and she was relieved to see him, Annie gives him a big hug. Bo dumps the cake. Wisely, Annie gets some forks and they tuck in. It's fun having friends no matter what the circumstances, and part of that fun could be reading this together, with its voice parts—veritable bursts of prose—for an amiable duet. (Easy reader. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1998

A fascinating biography of the world-famous photographer, written by the daughter of Lange's assistant in the 1930s. Born Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn in 1895 in New Jersey, she was stricken with polio at age seven, and later spoke of it as "the most important thing that happened to me. It formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me, and humiliated me." Taking her mother's maiden name when she began her professional photography career, Lange went from portraits to documenting the "disastrous human consequences" of the Great Depression. "I had to get my camera to register things that were more important than how poor they were_their pride, their strength, their spirit," she wrote about photographing migrant workers in California. She also photographed sharecroppers in the South and Japanese-American internment camps during WWII. Lange's life has been well-documented, but Partridge's conversational tone and intimate details of the Lange household will draw readers in. She also makes vivid Lange's lasting contributions; her photographs_many of which have been reproduced in these pages_captured some of the darkest episodes in American history and continue to touch all who ponder them. (b&w photographs) (Biography. 10-14) Read full book review >
CLARA AND THE HOODOO MAN by Elizabeth Partridge
Released: July 1, 1996

Breaking one of her momma's prized ten-gallon crocks launches a chain of events that leads Clara to the hoodoo man in this story set in turn-of-the-century Tennessee hill country. To raise money for a new crock, Clara goes hunting with Bessie, her sister, for ginseng plants to trade. After getting soaked in a storm, Bessie becomes deathly ill, and neither the local midwife nor the white town doctor can do much for her. Clara seeks out the mountain man, who knows the ways of herbal medicine and to whom she has been forbidden to speak. Partridge explains how she came to write her first novel in an author's note in which readers meet the real Clara. Although the characterizations and setting are somewhat flat, the story keeps moving, and the details of home and herbal remedies are utterly engrossing. Clara is a plucky heroine and when she is finally appreciated for her efforts, few readers won't be satisfied. (Fiction. 8-11) Read full book review >
DOROTHEA LANGE by Elizabeth Partridge
Released: Dec. 1, 1994

A general introduction to the life and work of photojournalist Lange that draws on family remembrances, scholarly evaluations, and a handsome picture portfolio. Six essays, one interview, and a healthy black-and-white picture section make up this composite introduction to Lange (18951965), best known for her US Farm Security Administration images of Depression-era migrant workers. Editor Partridge grew up in Lange's loosely knit family fold (her father worked as an assistant), and her warm introduction details the tension between Lange's motherly impulses and her irascible nature. In a 1976 interview, Ansel Adams comments on shared technical hardships, Lange's marriage to activist Paul Taylor, and her ``absolute sexless beauty.'' Roger Daniels (History/Univ. of Chicago) looks at Lange's work documenting Japanese Americans interned by the War Relocation Authority during WW II. And an incisive essay by Sally Stein (Art History/Univ. of California, Irvine) discusses Lange's fascination with bodily depictions (she had been crippled by childhood polio and was dogged by lifelong physical infirmities). Most telling, though, are the photographs themselves. One from 1937, taken at a sharecropper's cabin in Coahoma County, Miss., shows only a black woman's bare feet in the foreground, poised elegantly one atop the other on the dusty and worn boards of a front porch. Another, from 1938, records campaign posters taped to a Waco, Tex., gas station window. The sternly optimistic faces of the candidates surround painted sign lettering that reads: ``Washing/Greasing/Storage.'' Both images are blunt and literal, relying on secondary association for political or allegorical impact. Later photographs draw from Lange's extensive world travels. In all, this is a limited and general introduction to Lange's life and work. It piques curiosity but leaves a lot of rich material unexamined. Still, this compendium is respectfully assembled and nicely documented. (Partridge has produced a companion film to accompany the book.) Read full book review >