Building Beauty…

Harshman, Marc and Anna Egan Smucker. Fallingwater: The Building of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Masterpiece. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2017.
I like picture book biographies. They expand my general knowledge of history in little snippets that stay in my memory, unlike longer books that give me far more details than I will ever remember. And picture books are generally beautifully written with illustrations that bring history to life.
Fallingwater is no exception. It is written – using present tense – in an elegantly simple style and enhanced by LeUyn Pham’s sophisticated illustrations. The author’s and artist’s notes at the end of the story will be of interest to readers who want to learn more about the famous house designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. 

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“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” Frank Lloyd Wright

Picture books of courage in the face of injustice…

Malala Yousafzai, an inspiring activist, is the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Maslo, Lina. Free as a Bird: The Story of Malala. New York: Balzer & Bray an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2018.

McCarney, Rosemary. Every Day is Malala Day. Toronto: Second Story Press, 2014.

Winter, Jeanette. Malala, A Brave Girl from Pakistan; Iqbal, A Brave boy from Pakistan. New York: Beach Lane Books, 2014.

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Observing nature…

Heckert, Barbara. A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E.B. White. New York: Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt and Company, 2017.
Who was the author of the classic novel Charlotte’s Web? What was his childhood like?  What challenges did he overcome? What inspired him to write children’s stories? The design of this picture book – illustrated by Caldecott winner Lauren Castillo – is unfortunately weakened by the font, which does not match the style of the pictures. Nevertheless, this biography is still recommended for curious readers 8 years old and up. 

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“There’s no limit to how complicated things can get, on account of one thing always leading to another.” – E.B. White

Reaching the stars…

McCully, Emily Arnold. Caroline’s Comets: A True Story. New York: Holiday House, 2017.
Caroline Herschel was born in Germany in 1750. Her father and brothers were musicians but she – being a girl – was kept busy doing housework. Everything changed when she was 22 years old. She joined her older brother in England and became a professional singer and then an assistant to her brother, who had become an astronomer for King George III. Later, she also earned a salary as an astronomer for the king.  Before she died in 1848, she had discovered 8 comets and become a star among scientists.
Quotations from Caroline’s diary are embedded in this incredible story of the first woman to discover a comet. The gently old-fashioned pen, ink, and watercolour illustrations enhance this picture book biography for readers 9 years old and up.

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Setting the record straight…

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

Kerley, Barbara. The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy). New York: Scholastic Press, 2010.
This is a frank biographer and an honest one; she uses no sandpaper on me.” That’s what Mark Twain said about his own daughter, who secretly – when she was thirteen years old – kept a journal about her adored papa. Author Barbara Kerley tells the whole story in this intriguing picture book biography. Varying-sized fonts, humorous full-page illustrations by Edwin Fotheringham, and sample diary entries complete with misspellings help to tell this delightful account of one of the most well-known American writers. A timeline, author’s note, and tips for writing a biography complete this picture book highly recommended for all who have enjoyed the tales of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. 

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“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” 

Picture books for writers

“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”

Humorous stories

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

 

Chasing challenges…

Buzzeo, Toni. A Passion for Elephants: The Real Life Adventures of Field Scientist Cynthia Moss. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015.
Cynthia Moss was not afraid of big things. Born in 1940, she grew up to become on of the most important elephant researchers in the whole world. This colourfully illustrated picture book will be appreciated by readers – and listeners – 7 to 14 years old. The smoothly flowing language and cheerful pictures will inspire writers and artists to create their own works of art. The courage and determination portrayed in this biography will encourage everyone to work hard to reach their goals in life.

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Growing stronger…

Tate, Don. Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2017.
Eugen was a weakling, small and puny, without any athletic ability to attract fame. Born in Prussia, his father took him to visit art galleries in Italy, where he was astonished at the physiques portrayed in the statues. Could he ever become as strong as those ancient athletes? While his father wanted him to strengthen his mind, he joined the circus in order to strengthen his body. By the time Eugen was in his early twenties, he was ready to challenge the strongest men in the world. In London in 1889, he reached his goal and sailed into the world of fame.
This beautifully written 40-page picture book biography by an award-winning illustrator and former bodybuilder is recommended for readers 8 to 14 years old. It includes a lengthy bibliography and additional information, including exercises to build strength. A great book for action-oriented students who like sports.

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