Reviews and Testimonials

Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, a Life in Nature

​Available September 6, 2016

Ansel Adams was too antsy to sit still and stay in school. His feet itched to run, his mind yearned to fly! 

Access to nearby nature, and a loving father who understood his need both saved Ansel Adams and helped him become one of the 20th century's most iconic nature photographers and conservationists.

Find out about Ansel Adam's connection to nature in this beautiful picture book by award-winning nature writer Cindy Jenson-Elliott, and illustrated by Christy Hale, award-winning collage artist. 

Praise -- 

“This fine book tells the true story of how one boy who couldn’t sit still found his joy and his calling outdoors in the natural world. Mountains, streams and backyards aren’t a panacea, but for many kids, they can make all the difference. How many other children, like antsy Ansel, might give us great gifts in the future, if we give them the gift of nature today?”

 — Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder and Vitamin N

"Ansel Adams (1902–84) couldn’t sit still at home or at school; he loved running outside and observing everything in nature near his California home. A family trip to Yosemite Valley fanned Ansel’s passion for nature and photography. Readers follow Ansel as he quickly surpasses the level of a beginner and pursues a life of nature photography. He is portrayed hiking the Sierra Nevada, living and working in Yosemite National Park, and traveling the country for the likes of Life magazine and the U.S. government, all to show “a nation its true nature” and thereby “giving voice to the voiceless and giving politics a purpose.” Jenson-Elliott’s lyrical text uses typography to reflect the photographer’s buoyant spirit. Words and phrases such as BOOM, shiver-rumble-tumbled, and ripple-rush-ROAR add color and a sense of forward movement to the prose. Hale’s collage illustrations (mixing traditional and digital techniques) offer a full palette of blues, greens, browns, and grays, through which Ansel’s jumping, leaping, and running are contrasted with the straight lines of the enclosed spaces he tries to avoid. The visuals are a perfect complement to the text, particularly in the two vertical spreads that turn the book on its ear. The afterword completes the work with a fuller biography, resources, and photo reproductions. VERDICT An excellent introductory biography to inspire elementary students to look at art and the outdoors in a different way."

 –Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence

School Library Journal, September 2016

“Antsy Ansel has a lot of great takeaways, but what my kids really connected with was the idea of a boy who couldn't sit still, whose thoughts raced, and who was happiest when he was outside. This book let us talk about how much we love being outside, and it reinforced one of my strongest beliefs as a parent to a child with special needs: our kids are capable of so much, and if we can help them find their passion and immerse them in it, who knows what the future holds. Antsy Ansel is great for kids with ADHD, kids on the autism spectrum, and for kids with other special needs who love being outside and who dream big.” Parents magazine

Using vibrant, exclamatory language, Jenson-Elliott (Dig In!) paints a picture of a young Ansel Adams as a boy “on fire for learning,” captivated by nature from an early age and always on the move. It was “love at first sight” when Adams saw Yosemite Valley for the first time (“the ripple-rush-ROAR! of water and light! Light! Light!”), and the gift of a camera helped steer the direction of the life that would follow (“Ansel’s photos became a journal of everything he saw”). While Adams (1902–1984) mostly photographed nature in black and white, Hale (The Cambodian Dancer) goes straight for purple mountain majesties in her subtly textured collages, which include several vertically oriented spreads that allow her to fully reflect the height of sequoia trees or Yosemite’s High Sierra. An extensive afterword about Adams rounds out an inspiring account of one man’s lifelong love affair with the great outdoors. -- Publishers Weekly

​This peppy picture book biography of nature photographer Ansel Adams describes an “antsy” young boy whose propensity to get into trouble was allayed only by being in the great outdoors. Sonorous language, including alliteration, brings readers close to Ansel’s experiences in nature, such as on the Golden Gate beach near his San Francisco home, where “gusting gales pushed and pulled; salt spray strung his cheeks; surf pounded the sand — BOOM!”; or at quiet Lobos Creek, which “whispered and winked, flickered and flew, shimmered and shone.” As Ansel struggled in early-twentieth-century traditional school, his father thought that Ansel needed not “discipline” but “open air”; he was right. Homeschooling allowed Ansel more time outdoors, and his education came as much from exploring the outside world as from books. A trip to Yosemite Valley and the gift of a camera at age fourteen set the boy toward becoming the “photographic visionary” who documented America’s beauty and gave the U.S. government and people everywhere a front-row seat to remarkable landscapes in Yosemite and beyond. Hale’s collages, a mix of traditional and digital techniques in an earthy palette, make excellent use of textures in depicting the natural world. Orientation and design elements, too, are thoughtfully employed; a vertical spread of Adams hiking the High Sierra, for example, captures its “icy white” and “breathless height” marvelously. An author’s note, with appended resources, further discusses the man’s life and legacy as well as showing two photographs that exemplify Adams’s artistic range (Clearing Winter Storm and Leaves, Mills College).

From the November/December 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Signings, Readings, 

and School Visits
2017 Events

Reading, Signing, Activities

February 18, 2 p.m.

Watermark Books

4701 E. Douglas
Wichita, KS 67218
(316) 682-1181 

2016 Events
Reading and Signing with Illustrator Christy Hale
September 10, 6 - 8 p.m.
Books, Inc. Palo Alto
Town & Country Village, 74 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Phone:(650) 321-0600

Reading and Signing with Illustrator Christy Hale
September 11, 11 a.m.
Books, Inc. Laurel Village, San Francisco
3515 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94118

Reading and Signing
September 30, 7 - 9 p.m.
7812 Girard, Ave.
La Jolla, CA 92037

School Visit, Writing Workshops, Book Signings
October 5 - 7
Paragraphs Bookstore
Area Elementary Schools
229 S. Main St. 
Mount Vernon, Ohio 43050
(740) 392-9290​

Gardening with Class Conference
October 15
Del Mar Fairgrounds
Hands-On Workshops: Inside Out: Literacy in the School Garden

School Visit and Writing Workshops
November 15
The Children's School
La Jolla, CA 92037

NCTE Conference Workshop and Signing
November 19
Atlanta, GA
Literacy Inside Out; Hands-on Workshop with authors Jennifer Ward 
and Heather Montgomery

The Booky Joint

Signing Books

December 20, 5 - 7 p.m.

437 Old Mammoth Road
PO Box 3639
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546


Spellbinder Books

Signing Books

December 24, 10 a.m.

124 S. Main Street

Bishop, CA  93514
(760) 873-4511