Read about a Real Person
“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” Albert Schweitzer
Obama, Barack. Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.
“Have I told you?” asks the former president of the U.S. over and over again as he tells his daughters about heroes of American history: Georgia O’Keeffe, Albert Einstein, Jackie Robinson, Sitting Bull, Billie Holiday, Helen Keller, Maya Lin, Jane Addams, Martin Luther King Jr., Neil Armstrong, Cesar Chavez, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington. Supplemented by additional information, this loving picture book – illustrated by Loren Long – is recommended for readers – and listeners – 5 to 14 years old.
Spinelli, Eileen. Do You Have a Dog? Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2011.
Eleven historical figures who enjoyed dogs are featured in this picture book cheerfully illustrated by Geraldo Valério. Empress Josephine Bonaparte, Admiral Richard Byrd, Agatha Christie, Billie Holiday, Helen Keller, Meriwether Lewis, Sir Isaac Newton, Annie Oakley, Jackson Pollock, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Orville Wright. Happily recommended for young listeners and older reluctant readers. [Biographies; Dogs; Stories in rhyme]
Find books about artists HERE.
Find books about musicians HERE.
Find picture book memoirs HERE.
Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-brother Baseball Team by Audrey Vernick (Boston: Clarion Books, 2012).
“Documents the story of the Baseball Hall of Fame honorees, tracing how the Acerra family of New Jersey formed their own semi-pro baseball team in the 1930s and became the longest-running all-brother team in history.” – CIP. Recommended for sports lovers 11 to 14-years-old.
Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird: A True Story by Stephanie Spinner (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012).
The story of Alex the African Grey parrot and Irene Pepperberg, who proved that birds were more intelligent than people thought. – flyleaf [Birds; Parrots; Scientists]
Alexander the Great by Demi (Marshall Cavendish, 2010).
Alexander the Great: Master of the Ancient World by Doug Wilhelm (Scholastic, 2010).
Varmer, Hjordis. Hans Christian Andersen: His Fairy Tale Life. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2005.
An 11-chapter 111-page biography of the famous writer of fairy tales. Elegantly written by a renowned Danish children’s book author and beautifully illustrated by an award-winning artist, this book is highly recommended for inquisitive readers 10 years old and up. Translated from Danish.
Yolen, Jane. The Perfect Wizard: Hans Christian Andersen. New York: Dutton’s Children’s Books, 2004.
Quotations from Andersen’s fairy tales and full-page illustrations by Dennis Nolan accompany this lovely picture book biography highly recommended for readers 7 to 14 years of age.
Streets of Gold by Rosemary Wells (Dial Books for Young Readers, 1999).
Over 100 years ago, in 1894, Mary Antin’s family left Russia, where Jewish people were persecuted, and came to New York City. Young Mary learned English and wrote about her experiences in The Promised Land. Now Rosemary Wells – famous for writing her own books – has retold Mary’s story in this powerful picture book suitable for readers nine years old and up.
Radiant Child: the Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2016).
Brilliant double-page illustrations help tell the true story of a collage-style New York artist who died of a drug overdose in 1988 at the age of only 27. The colour, energy, and detail in Steptoe’s paintings are astonishing. An afterward tells more about both Basquiat and Steptoe and could be used to start all sorts of discussions on the effect of childhood experiences and the nature of creativity. This sophisticated picture book – winner of the Caldecott Medal – is highly recommended for artists of all ages. [Artists; Caldecott Medal; Creativity; New York (City)]
The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2005).
Grass Sandals: The Travels of Basho by Dawnine Spival and illustrated by Demi (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1997).
The Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica by Kathleen Norris and illustrated by Tomie dePaola (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2001).
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998).
A biography of a self-taught scientist who photographed thousands of individual snowflakes in order to study their unique formations.” – CIP
Barnum’s Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World by Tracey Fern (New York: Barrar Straus Giroux, 2012).
A fascinating account of the discoveries of a famous paleontologist. Sure to be enjoyed by anyone who wonders how scientists know what dinosaurs looked like. Recommended for readers 10-years-old and up.
Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016).
Energetic, impetuous, determined, brilliant. This picture book biography – illustrated by Boris Kulikov – of the young boy who grew up to invent a way for blind people to read is highly recommended for readers of all ages. An author’s note, additional information about Louis Braille, and a bibliography and list of websites are provided at the end of the story.
The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles (New York: Scholastic Inc., 1995).
A picture book account of the first African-American student, a six-year-old girl, in a New Orleans elementary school in 1960.
Dreamer from the Village: the Story of Marc Chagall by Michelle Markel (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2005).
Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers: The Life of Marc Chagall in Verse by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen (Mankato, MN: Creative Paperbacks, 2013).
Imaginative poems and explanatory paragraphs accompany illustrations of the artist’s works.
Born to write : the Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors by Chris Cotter (Toronto: Annick Press, 2008).
Six authors are profiled in this collection recommended for readers 11-years-old and up. Lucy Maud Montgomery, C.S. Lewis, E.B. White, Madeleine L’Engle, Philip Pullman and Christopher Paul Curtis. Shorter profiles are provided for these authors: Hans Christian Andersen, Edith Nesbit, Louisa May Alcott.
Across a Dark and Wild World written and illustrated by Don Brown (Brookfield, Conn.: Roaring Brook Press, 2002).
This picture book biography by a renowned author and illustrator is based on the legend of Columcille, an Irish monk whose love books helped save learning during Europe’s Dark Ages.
The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009).
Enormous Smallness: a Story of e.e. cummings by Matthew Burgess (Enchanted Lion Books, 2015).
Marie Curie by Kathleen Krull (Viking, 2007).
Charles Darwin by Kathleen Krull (Penguin Group, 2010).
One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky (Candlewick Press, 2009).
” Text and illustrations tell the story of the ever-curious boy who grew up to make one of the most significant discoveries of our time.” – CIP
Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heligman (H. Holt, 2010, 2009).
Winner of multiple awards, this biography tells the story of Charles Darwin and his marriage to the woman who encouraged him to explore his ideas and develop his scientific theories. Intelligent readers who prefer books about the real world will enjoy this elegantly written biography of the man who first published his revolutionary ideas on evolution in 1859. [Darwin, Charles; Darwin, Emma Wedgewood; Evolution (Biology) — Biography; Naturalists]
Leonardo da Vinci by Kathleen Krull (Puffin Books, 2005).
Leonardo Da Vinci: Young Artist, Writer, and Inventor by George E. Stanley (Aladdin Paperbacks, 2005).
This great Renassiance painter started life in a small town in Italy. Rejected by his parents, sent to live with his grandparents, he became an apprentice to a famous artist while still a young teenager. He worked hard and soon became not only a master artist, himself, but also an outstanding architect, sculptor and scientist. Part of the series Childhood of World Figures, this biography has an AR reading level of 6.0.
Neo Leo: the Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci by Gene Barretta (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt and Company, 2009).
Boy on the Lion Throne: The Childhood of the 14th Dalai Lama by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (Roaring Brook Press, 2008).
The Dalai Lama : A Biography of the Tibetan Spiritual and Political Leader by Demi (Henry Holt, 1998).
Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged! by Jody Nyasha Warner (Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2010). The story of an African Canadian who refused to give up her seat in a movie theatre and move to the balcony reserved for black patrons. This courageous act in Nova Scotia in 1946 started the move to end racial segregation in Canada. Illustrated by Richard Rudnicki and accompanied by additional historical information at the end, this picture book is recommended for readers 8-years-old and up and could be compared to the story of Rosa Parks in America.
I Am Amelia Earhart by Brad Meltzer (New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014).
Brown, Don. A Wizard from the Start : the Incredible Boyhood & Amazing Inventions of Thomas Edison. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010.
“From his humble boyhood as a farmer’s son, selling newspapers on trains, reading through public libraries shelf by shelf, and dreaming of new inventions, Thomas Edison went on to create the light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera.” – CIP.
The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert (La Jolla, Calif.: Beach Lane Books, 2014.)
This well-known collage artist explains how she get her ideas and creates her wonderful picture books.
On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne (Chronicle Books, 2013).
Albert Einstein by Kathleen Krull (Viking, 2009).
I Am Albert Einstein by Brad Meltzer (New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014).
This small biography is part of the charming picture book series ‘Ordinary People Change the World’. Told from the first person point of view and illustrated in cartoon style by Christopher Eliopoulos, each volume focuses on a specific character trait. In this story, the focus is curiosity. Black and white photos of Einstein, a time line, and a bibliography conclude this biography recommended for readers 8 to 14 years old. [Einstein, Albert; Physicists]
The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky (Boston: Joy Street Books, 1994).
“Describes the life and work of Eratosthenes, the Greek geographer and astronomer who accurately measured the circumference of the Earth.” – CIP. Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.
“Growing up in Hungary during WWI, Erdos tried school but chafed at the rules and convinced his mother that he should study at home. He was fascinated by numbers from an early age, and by the time he was 20, he was known as The Magician from Budapest. Unable to do common tasks such as cooking, laundry, or driving, he spent his adult life flying around the world, staying with other mathematicians, and working collaboratively on challenging math problems.” – CIP.
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder; adapted for young people by Michael French (New York: Delacorte Press, 2013).
Paul Farmer, a medical doctor educated at Harvard University, has devoted his life to helping poor people in Haiti and around the world. A detailed biography for readers 12 years old and up.
Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: the Mostly True Story of His First Invention by Barb Rosenstock (Honesdale, Pennsylvania: Calkins Creek, 2014).
Ben sprints, stomps, splashes, sloshes, shakes and smiles in this rollicking picture book biography cheerfully illustrated by S.D. Schindler. The varying fonts and layout on each page help create a story that will be enjoyed by readers 7 to 14 years old. (Additional information, including a timeline of Benjamin Franklin’s life, is provided at the end of the book.)
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Ben Franklin
Clare and Francis by Guido Visconti (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2004, c2003).
Saint Francis by Brian Wildsmith (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub., 1996).
Click HERE for books about Anne Frank.
Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: the Mostly True Story of His First Invention by Barb Rosenstock (Honesdale, Penn.: Calkins Creek, 2014).
My name is Gabito: the life of Gabriel García Márquez by Monica Brown (Flagstaff, Ariz.: Luna Rising, 2007).An award-winning picture book, in English and Spanish, portraying the Columbian childhood of the world-famous writer. Includes an afterword with more details about the writer’s life. Recommended for ages 7 and up. Useful as a read-aloud for middle school literature and writing classes.
Gandhi by Demi (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2001).
Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014).
Genghis Khan: 13-Century Mongolian Tyrant by Enid A. Goldberg (Scholastic, 2008).
Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown and Co., 2011).
The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter (Schwartz and Wade, 2011).
Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012).
Earmuffs for Everyone! : How Chester Greenwood became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs by Meghan McCarthy (New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015).
A cheerful and colourful picture book about a boy came up with a great idea for keeping his ears warm during cold Maine winters during the late 1800s. Accompanied by historical information and a bibiography. Highly recommended for everyone 8-years-old and up who enjoys expanding their general knowledge.
From the Good Mountain: How Gutenberg Changed the World by James Rumford (New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2012).
My Childhood Under Fire: A Sarajevo Diary by Nadja Halilbegovich (Kids Can Press, 2006).
Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix by Gary Golio (Clarion Books, 2010).
Keep On! The Story of Matthew Henson, Co-discoverer of the North Pole by Deborah Hopkinson, Peachtree, 2009.
Caroline’s Comets: A True Story by Emily Arnold McCully. 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.
Mao and Me by Chen Jiang Hong (Enchanted Lion Books, 2008).
Writer and artist Chen Jiang Hong tells the story of his Chinese childhood during the 1960s. The finely detailed pen-and-ink and paint illustrations add emotional power to a quiet, understated memoir of the upheaval created by the Cultural Revolution.
Edward Hopper Paints His World by Robert Burleigh (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2014).
Coming Home: From the Life of Langston Hughes by Floyd Cooper (New York: Philomel, 1994).
Of Numbers and Stars by D. Anne Love (Holiday House, 2006).
Almost 2000 years ago in Egypt, in the famous city of Alexandria, a girl was born who would grow up to be a teacher renowned for her knowledge of science, mathematics and philosophy. People came from all over to learn from her and to seek her advice. Unfortunately, eventually, more powerful people in Alexandria became displeased with her independent thinking. This gently illustrated and informative picture book biography tells Hypatia’s (Hi-PAY-shu’s) story in a style reminiscent of Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney and is suitable for readers – and listeners – aged eight to eighty. [Egypt, Ancient; Hypatia; Mathematicians; Philosophers]
The House of Wisdom by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland (New York: DK Ink, 1999).
Long ago, during the Dark Ages in Europe, knowledge flourished in the Arabic-speaking world. Baghdad became the centre of a great civilization that made lasting discoveries in cartography, geography, mathematics, chemistry, medicine, and philosophy. Scholars gathered to study together and translate foreign documents in what was the largest library in the world.
Ishaq, the main character in this picture book biography, travels to far-away lands and returns with thousands of books and manuscripts He later goes on to translate all the works of Aristotle into Arabic. Later still, those Arabic translations would help inspire the European Renaissance.
Softly coloured illustrations by Mary GrandPré, additional historical information, a timeline, and a map enhance this quietly adventurous biography for readers 9 years old and up.
Jesus by Anselm Grun (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014).
An easy-to-read biography with gentle full-page illustrations. Recommended for readers 9-years-old and up.
Jesus by Brian Wildsmith (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2000).
Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution by Ji-li Jiang ( HarperCollins, 1997).
Joan of Arc by Demi (Marshall Cavendish, 2011).
The Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara (Annick Press, 2008).
A powerful autobiography – for mature readers 14-years-old and older – about a woman who came to Canada. [Amputees; Sierra Leone; War victims]
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012).
In 2001, William Kamkwamba’s village suffered from a drought. His starving family could not afford to send him to school but he did not give up learning. In the local library, he read a book about windmills. He decided to build his own windmill. Amazingly, he was successful! He found a way to bring electricity to his village, and a way to use that electricity to provide irrigation to water crops for his village. This picture book, beautifully illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, is highly recommended for readers 8 years old and up. (Africa; Electricity; Ingenuity; Inventors; Irrigation; Malawi; Mechanical engineers; Poverty; Windmills)
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (New York: Puffin Books, 2015).
Young William was born in 1987 to a farming family in Malawi. Too poor to pay school fees, he had to stay home rather than continuing his education. But he did not stop learning. He found books in a small library and figured out how to build a device that created electricity. This 293-page autobiography – a longer version of the picture book shown above – of an intrepid and determined boy will inspire readers 11-years-old and up. Highly recommended.
The Noisy Paint Box: the Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014).
Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller by Doreen Rappaport (New York: Disney/Hyperion Books, 2012).
What a beautifully designed biography! Each double-page spread includes information written in the style of narrative poetry, a Helen Keller quotation in larger print, and a huge coloured painting illustrating the quotation. An author’s note, illustrator’s note, list of important dates, bibliography, and list of suggested additional reading conclude this highly recommended picture book for readers – and listeners – 6 to 14 years old. [Deafblind people; Determination; Keller, Helen – Biography; Sullivan, Annie]
The Cornflake King: W.K. Kellogg and His Amazing Cereal by Edwin Brit Wyckoff (Enslow Publisher, 2011).
Martin’s Big Words: the Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport (New York : Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children, 2001).
The Champion of Children: The Story of Janusz Korczak by Tomek Bogacki (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009).
Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything by Kathleen Krull (Viking, 2010).
The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible became Possible…on Schindler’s List: a Memoir by Leon Leyson (New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013).
I am Abraham Lincoln by Brad Meltzer (New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014).
The Stars Come Out Within by Jean Little (Penguin, 1990).
No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War by Anita Lobel (Greenwillow Books, 1998).
Jack London: A Biography by Daniel Dyer (New York: Scholastic Press, 1997).
“Biography of the colorful American writer who had been an oyster pirate, a seal hunter, a mill worker, a hobo, and a political activist before becoming a popular author at the age of twenty-nine.” – CIP. This detailed biography of the rough life of the author of Call of the Wild and White Fang is recommended for mature readers 13-years-old and up.
Ada Lovelace: Poet of Science : the First Computer Programmer by Diane Stanley (New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016).
What a brilliant biography! The style of writing is lively and humorous! The illustrations by Jessica Hartland enhance the mood and extend the story. The story is engaging, and additional information – including a bibliography and glossary – is found at the end of the book. Highly recommended for all ages. [Babbage, Charles; Lovelace, Ada King, Countess of; Mathematicians; Women computer programmers]
Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace by Jen Cullerton Johnson (Lee & Low Books, 2010).
Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010).
Planting the Trees of Kenya: the Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivoli (Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008).
Wangari MaathaI: the Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees by Franck Prevot (Charlesbridge, 2015).
Wangari’s Trees of Peace: a True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter (Harcourt, 2008).
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.
Monsieur Marceau by Leda Schubert (New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2012). [Marceau, Marcel; Mimes; France)
Schmidt, Gary D. Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert. Boston: Clarion Books, 2012.
His father was a Spanish nobleman. His mother was a slave. Born into poverty and sent to work as a servant, there was no bright future for Martin. But miracles happen. And miracles followed this boy from Peru. The lemon trees he planted bore fruit all year long. The bread he gave to the poor never ran out until everyone was fed. The people he treated were healed. He quietly died in a monastery in 1639, but miracles continued and he was named as the first black saint in the Americas in 1962. Born to be forgotten, Martin de Porres is now known as the patron saint of social justice. This beautiful picture book biography – illustrated by David Diaz – is highly recommended for people of faith and for all those who carry within themselves a reverence for mystery.
A Bird or Two: a Story about Henri Matisse by Bijou Le Tord (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 1999).
Colourful Dreamer: The Story of Artist Henri Matisse by Marjorie Blain Parker (Dial Books for Younger Readers, 2012).
Matisse’s Garden by Samantha Friendman (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2014).
“One day, the French artist Henri Matisse cut a small bird out of a piece of paper. It looked lonely all by itself, so he cut out more shapes to join it. Before he knew it, Matisse had transformed his walls into larger-than-life gardens, filled with brightly colored plants, animals, and shapes of all sizes! Featuring cut-paper illustrations and interactive foldout pages.” – CIP
Heroes for My Son by Brad Meltzer (HarperStudio, 2010).
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh (New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014).
In California in 1944, Mexican children had to go to separate schools. Sylvia Mendez’s family began a fight for true equality and in 1947, the law was changed. Children of all cultural backgrounds were finally allowed to go to the same schools. Includes lengthy background information, historical photographs, a glossary, bibliography and index at the end. The design of the this picture book – the vivid illustrations and easy-to-read font – enhance this important story highly recommended for readers 9-years-old and up.
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.
Mother Teresa: Friend to the Poor by Kathleen Kudlinski (Aladdin Paperbacks, 2006).
Born in a small village in eastern Europe in 1910, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu knew that she wanted to devote her life to helping people by the time she was twelve years old. And she did. Learn about the life of this famous humanitarian who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work among the poorest of the poor in countries around the world. Part of the series Childhood of World Figures, this biography has an AR reading level of 4.6.
Muhammad by Demi (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2003).
Meet A.A Milne by S. Ward (PowerKids Press, 2001).
John Muir and Stickeen: An Icy Adventure with a No-Good Dog by Julie Dunlap and Marybeth Lorbiecki (NorthWord Press, 2004).
Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter (Beech Lane 2009).
Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2017.
Wow! What a quietly rambunctious biography! Created by two award winners – author Michelle Markel and illustrator Nancy Carpenter – this picture book tells the story of an English farm boy who grew up to create the first magazines and novels especially for children. Readers of graphic novels will enjoy the details in the illustrations. Avid readers will find the story fascinating. Additional information and a bibliography are provided at the end. Highly recommended!
Isaac Newton by Kathleen Krull (Viking, 2006).
The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Demi (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2003).
Going Up!: Elisha Otis’s Trip to the Top by Monica Kulling (Toronto: Tundra Books, 2012).
An informative and inspiring picture book for readers 11 to 14-years-old. [Elevators; Inventors; Otis, Elisha Graves]
I am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer (New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014).
Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie DePaola (Holiday House, 1992).
“A lyrical biography, accompanied by the author’s inimitable illustrations, of the famous saint of Ireland.” – CIP
Woodsong by Gary Paulsen (Aladdin Paperbacks, 2007, c1990).
Weeds in Bloom: Autobiography of an Ordinary Man by Robert Newton Peck (RandomHouse, 2005).
Bill Peet: An Autobiography by Bill Peet (Houghton Mifflin, 1989).
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordecai Gerstein (Heshan City: Square Fish, 1993).
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein (Square Fish, 2003), is the story of Philippe Petit, a young man who lived in New York City in 1974, while the World Trade Center- two buildings, side by side, one thousand three hundred forty feet in height- was being completed in construction. One day, a French aerialist, Philippe Petit, had an extraordinary idea; while looking at the two towers, he thought, why not stretch a rope- a wire he could walk on- across the space between the two towers? He loved to walk on ropes tied between trees and he had performed on a wire between the steeples of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, his home city. He thought, why not? As a construction worker, Philippe secretly set up a wire between the two towers. Then, above New York City, between the two towers, Philippe walked. He spent nearly an hour walking, balancing, performing tricks and even lying down on a wire that was five eights of an inch thick. On the wire, above everything and everyone, he felt free and alive. “Now the towers are gone” (32). However, the memory of Philippe Petit- The Man Who Walked Between the Towers– remains. This book recalls the memories we treasure of the Twin Towers and the French aerialist who once walked between them. – Ann in grade eight
This book is about a man named Philippe Petit, who happens to be a tight rope walker and does shows for children; however, his sense of adventure, curiosity and bravery brings him to complete new feats in his tight rope carrier. One day, he has an idea to walk between the two towers in town square. He gathers some friends, and they disguised themselves as construction workers and then waited for nightfall. Once the sun has gone down, they got to work. First, his friends hauled steel cable up to the top of the towers, and tied the end of the cable to an arrow. They shot the arrow over to the other tower where Philippe was waiting. It took them all night to fully secure the cable so that it was safe for Philippe to walk on. In the morning, Philippe walked onto the cable and many from below spotted him and watched in awe; however the police saw him too. The police marched up the building and demanded he get off immediately, but Philippe ignored them, for he was having far too much fun to stop. He jumped and danced on the line until he had his fill. The police arrested him and took him to court. Philippe was sentenced to do shows for children for free, but this wasn’t a punishment for Philippe. He loved it.
I think that the author’s message was that you can do anything if you put your mind to it; Philippe walked a quarter mile between the twin towers. The author does not explain what towers he walks between until the very last page, when all he writes is: “Now the towers are gone…”. I like how the author leaves the reader to make his or her own inference of what towers Philippe walked between. This is a very good book based on a true story about a man who loved an adventure. – Brennan in grade eight
Marco Polo by Demi (Marshall Cavendish, 2010).
A Splash of Red: the Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013).
A lively and creatively illustrated picture book about a famous self-taught American painter from the early 20th century. Includes a map, websites and bibliography. [African American painters; Artists]
A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). [Rabinowitz, Alan; Wildlife conservationists]
Alice Ramsey’s Grand Adventure written and illustrated by Don Brown (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997).
A picture book biography for adventure-lovers 9-years-old and up that describes “the difficulties faced by the first woman to make a cross-country journey from New York to San Francisco in an automobile in 1909.” – CIP.
The Journey that Saved Curious George : the True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A.Rey by Louise Borden and illustrated by Allan Drummond (Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2005).
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014).
This 2015 Caldecott Honor Book tells the story of the Peter Mark Roget, the creator of the famous thesaurus first published in 1852. The creative illustrations will interest and inspire readers of all ages.
The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2012).
This vividly illustrated picture book biography, written in present tense, is recommended for readers 8 to 14-years-old. [France; Painters; Rousseau, Henri]
In Search of the Little Prince: the Story of Antoine de Saint-Exupery written and illustrated by Bimba Landmann (Grand Rapids, Michigan : Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014).
A picture book biography that tells about the famous French author’s love of flying and his life at the beginning of the 20th century. More suitable for older readers who are interested to learn about the author of the famous classic story.
The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery by Peter Sis (New York : Frances Foster Books – Farrar Straus Giroux, 2014)
A creatively illustrated and lyrically written picture book biography sure to be enjoyed be readers 8-years-old and up. Highly recommended.
Balloons over Broadway: the True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011.
A beautiful picture book biography highly recommended for anyone eight years old and up, although it’s connection to Thanksgiving will only be important for American readers. The flowing language makes it wonderful as a read-aloud and the style makes it useful for teaching writing techniques for older students.
Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson (New York : Roaring Brook Press, 2014). Highly recommended for ages 8-years-old and up.
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.
Drawing from Memory by Allen Say (Scholastic Press, 2011).
Drawing From Memory (Scholastic Press, 2011) by Caldecott medal winner Allen Say is an inspiring story about Allen Say’s life. His life was very eventful and also very interesting. This book starts with Allen telling what he did as a kid. All he did as a kid was read and draw. Their family had to escape the war and move quickly. But during that chaos, all Allen wanted to do was draw, and his parents and grandparents hated him for it. His Grandmother finally told him hat if he got into this very well known private middle school, she would rent an apartment for him at the age of 12. Allen of course studied everyday hoping to pass the entrance exam. Once he passed the exam, his Grandmother rented him a place in an apartment. This only reason his Grandmother sent him to the apartment was so he could study for his new school, but the only thing on Allen’s mind was to draw, and draw, and draw. After going out to dinner, Allen picks up the local newspaper at the restaurant. He starts to read about another kid who ran away from home just to draw. He soon got taken in by Allen’s favorite artist, Noro Shinpei. Noro gave him a test just as bad as the middle school exam. Allen passed and became the second apprentice of Noro Shinpei.
This book was creatively coloured. But this book was also very inspiring and interesting. I loved this book, because Allen’s life is very like mine. I often feel like Allen. (Kelvin in grade eight)
Rumford, James. Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2004.
Cherokee uses 84 symbols or signs to make all the sounds of the language. This writing system was invented by a man called Sequoyah who lived over 150 years ago. Full-page colour illustrations and a Cherokee translation by Anna Sixkiller Huckaby accompany this compelling true story told by award-winning James Rumford. Highly recommended for readers of all ages.
The Tree Lady: the True Story of How One Tree-loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins (New York: Beach Lane Books, 2013).
In the late 1800s, an American moved to San Diego in southern California. Kate Sessions decided her new city needed more greenery, so she planted hundred and hundreds of trees and taught countless people how to grow gardens. She became known as the Mother of Balboa Park.
The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss by Kathleen Krull with paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher (New York: Random House, 2004). A heart-warming picture book biography with softly coloured full-page illustrations and small drawings by Dr. Seuss. The old-fashioned style of the paintings and the gentle rhythm of the words create a story that feels like a memory told by a grandparent. Additional information about Dr. Seuss’s adulthood is provided at the end of the book. Highly recommended for readers and listeners 8 years old and up. (Kathleen Krull has written many biographies, both picture books and chapter books, and they’re all a joy to read. Her flowing style of writing makes the informative content sound like someone talking to you, telling you about someone you might like to meet.)
Bailey, Linda. Mary, Who Wrote Frankenstein. New York : Tundra Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers, 2018.
You’ve no doubt heard of Frankenstein, the horrible monster created by a mad scientist. The real story is far more interesting. Fourteen-year-old Mary and her stepmother did not get along together. So her father sent her off to live in Scotland. When she came back, two years later, life was still difficult in their London home. So Mary ran away. She and her stepsister ran away with a poet, Percy Shelley, to Switzerland where they lived in a house on Lake Geneva. And one night, eighteen-year-old Mary came up with the idea of a monster brought to life by a Dr. Frankenstein. No one could believe that a girl had written such a horror story when it was first published in 1818. But she had written it. And 200 years later, her story is still famous! This dramatic picture book, suspensefully illustrated by Julia Sarda, tells Mary’s whole story. Read it the first chance you get!
How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008).
A picture book with an afterword that provides historical details about the author’s life including his childhood as a refugee.
Biblioburro: A True Story from Columbia by Jeanette Winter (Beach Lane Books, 2010).
The story of Luis Soriano, who loads up his burro with books and visits villages in Columbia.
When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky: Two Artists, Their Ballet, and One Extraordinary Riot by Lauren Stringer (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2013).
Su Dongpo by Demi (New York: Lee & Low Books, 2006).
A delicately detailed picture book biography of a civil engineer, poet, and statesman who exhibited courage, patience, and honour in 11th century China. Highly recommended for lovers of philosophy of all ages. [Authors; China; Su, Shi]
Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path by Joseph Bruchac (New York: Lee & Low Books, 2004).
Jim Thorpe is considered one of the most important American athletes in the 20th century. Over the course of his long career, he set records and won awards in many sports including football, baseball, track and swimming. This picture book biography of an aboriginal American from Oklahoma is highly recommended for readers 9-years-old and up.
My Name is Truth: the Life of Sojourner Truth by Ann Turner (New York: Harper, 2015).
“A vibrantly illustrated story of how former slave Isabella Baumfree transformed herself into the preacher and orator Sojourner Truth, one of the most inspiring and important figures of the abolitionist and women’s rights movements.” – CIP. Illustrated by the acclaimed James Ransome and accompanied by historical information at the end, this biography – told from the first person point of view – is highly recommended for readers 8-years-old and up.
American Boy: The Adventures of Mark Twain by Don Brown (Houghton Mifflin Co., 2003).
The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West by Sid Fleischman (Greenwillow Books, 2008).
The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) by Barbara Kerley (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 journal 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 recommended for all who have enjoyed the tales of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
His Name was Raoul Wallenberg by Louise Borden (Houghton Harcourt, 2012).
Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington by Jabari Asim (New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2012.
Noah Webster & His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012).
A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E.B. White by Barbara Heckert (New York: Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt and Company, 2017).
Who was the author of the classic 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.
McDonough, Yona Zeldis. Little Author in the Big Woods. New York: Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt and Company, 2014.
Little House on the Prairie is one of the first novels of childhood. The experiences of Laura’s family in the series of ‘Little House’ books have formed many people’s picture of frontier life. But who was Laura Ingalls Wilder?
This 157-page biography portrays the life of an energetic girl who grew up to be an enterprising writer, a woman who never lost her sense of adventure. The relatively large font and widely spaced lines will appeal to children being introduced to the Little House books for the first time. The glossary, several recipes, and directions for playing games and making toys at the end of the book will be useful for teachers designing units of study. The biography itself, though, will also be appreciated by older readers who fondly remember Laura’s stories of her childhood in 19th century America.
Finding Winnie: the True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick (Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2015).
“During World War I, Captain Harry Colebourn, a Canadian veterinarian rescued a bear cub on his way to Europe and took her to the war.” – CIP. Written by the great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn, beautfully illustrated by Sophie Blackall, and accompanied by historical photographs, this thoughtful informative book is highly recommended for readers 8-years-old and up.
“‘Sometimes,’ I said, ‘you have to let one story end so the next one can begin.’
“‘How do you know when that will happen?’
“‘You don’t,’ I said. ‘Which is why you should always carry on.'”
Walker, Sally M. Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2015.
Winnie-the-Pooh is a lovable bear who lives with his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. At least in the books. But who was the real Winnie?
This biography tells the story. Harry Colebourn, a Canadian veterinarian, adopted a bear cub which he took along when he was shipped overseas during World War I. Winnie became the regiment’s mascot, named after its hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. But when the soldiers were sent over to France, Winnie couldn’t go along. This picture book tells the story of what happened to the little bear and how it came to be known around the world.
Illustrated in pen and ink and watercolour by Jonathan D. Voss and accompanied by black and white photographs, this gentle book is recommended for all readers fond of the honey-loving ‘Bear of Very Little Brain.’
Winter, Jonah. Born and Bred in the Great Depression. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2011.
The author tells the story of his father’s childhood in Texas during the 1930s. Told from the second person point of view, this beautifully designed picture book with pencil, ink, and watercolour illustrations by Kimberly Bulcken Root is accompanied by black and white photographs. Recommended for readers 8 years old and up.
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. I can 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.
Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller (Lee & Low Books, 1997).
Seventeen-year-old Richard, an African-American born in the 1920s, wants to learn how to read at a time when black people are not allowed to borrow books from libraries. [Books and reading; Libraries; Racism; Determination]
Clean Sweep!: Frank Zamboni’s Ice Machine by Monica Kulling (Toronto: Tundra Books, 2016).
“A portrait of the inventor of the Zamboni ice-resurfacing machine recounts how the co-owner of a 1940s skating rink spent nine years designing and building machines that he hoped could safely and quickly shave down pits and grooves on ice.” – CIP. An informative picture book illustrated by Renné Benoit, which will appeal to skating and hockey fans 9-years-old and up.
Click HERE for picture book memoirs.
Click HERE for biographies of musicians.
Did you know Lou Gehrig’s stamina got him the name nickname Iron Horse? Did you know that throughout 14 seasons as a New York Yankee he never missed a single game? Lou Gehrig, the Luckiest Man by David A. Alder (Gulliver Books, 1997) tells all sorts of unbelievable information about Lou Gehrig’s incredible career as a Yankee. I learned that the first ever baseball series was played in 1903. I also learned that Lou Gehrig attended Columbia University. I then discovered that after he signed, he played in 2130 consecutive professional baseball games and in 1927, Gehrig’s teammate and friend, Babe Ruth, hit 60 home runs in only one season! Lou Gehrig, the Luckiest Man is an amazing book about this famous athlete’s outstanding life as a baseball player. (Dane in grade eight)
Walters, Eric, ed. Tell Me Why: How Young People Can Change the World. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2008.
Twenty-five internationally known figures including Robert Munsch, Deborah Ellis, Roy MacGregor, Rick Hansen and Susan Aglukark answer these questions: Why do people sometimes treat each other so badly? Why are you willing to help people? And what can a young person do to make the world a better place? Then five young people are profiled, showing what they are doing to improve life for others on this planet. Inspirational quotations are interspersed in the wide margins, unfortunately creating more of a browsing book than one that readers can attentively read. Therefore, this admirable volume is probably best suited for teachers looking for short excerpts to use for lessons or for middle school or high school students doing research. [Conduct of life; Heroes; Social responsibility; Social action]
A response to: The Cornflake King: W.K. Kellogg and His Amazing Cereal by Edwin Brit Wyckoff (Enslow Publisher, 2011).
1. Why are People Remembered?
I think people will be remembered by the way in which they lived. For example, if a person was generous and kind, they will be remembered as a generous and kind person. But, if a person is rude and obnoxious, they would be remembered as someone who was rude and obnoxious.
2. Destruction and Determination
On July 4, 1907, the factory that made cereal known in 160 different countries, Kellogg’s Factory, burned to the ground. William Kellogg, the King of Cornflakes, determined not to give up, borrowed money to rebuild the factory.
3. ” I Never Learned to Play”
William Kellogg was born to John Preston Kellogg and Mary Ann Call on April 7, 1860, in Battle Creek Michigan. He was a part of a poor family of 14 that still gave generously. His family helped many slaves into Canada and gave to neighbors in need. William went to school until grade 6, but could not continue because of his desperate need for glasses. He finally got glasses at age 20.
4. The Super Sales Man Sweeps Up
In 1867, 7-year-old Will started working in a broom factory his father set up. Once a teenager, his father put him in charge of the whole factory. Later, at age 15, Will was sent from town to town to sell brooms. On his first day, a giant snow storm flipped the wagon over spilling all the brooms into the snowbank. Will picked up all the brooms. This happened three times in a row that day! Then, at age 18, Will was offered a job managing a broom factory in Dallas, Texas. His boss was lazy and didn’t pay the bills, so Will went back home and married his girlfriend, Ella Davis, on November 3, 1880.
5. The Million Dollar Mistake
After going to business college, Will worked for his brother, who was a doctor for his church. William worked 15 hours a day for 25 years, following his bike-riding-brother and jotting down notes for him. Will later became the janitor, book keeper, technician, who packed and shipped all the books. One day Will found an old, non-refrigerated piece of dough and ran it through the hot rollers, and added sugar. Being a doctor, Will’s brother didn’t approve of the new sugary flakes. The two brothers argued and split up in 1906. Will started up his own business in Battle Creek and less than a year later was shipping 42 hundred cases of cornflakes a day. Will had the courage to spend $300,000 on newspaper ads in 1907. When the Great Depression hit, Will set up the factory with four 6-hour-shifts a day. By 1940, Kellogg’s spent more than 100 million in advertisements and was bringing in a billion dollars a year.
6. Investing in People
Now with a little money, Will built a nice house on a lake in Michigan, a mansion in Florida and a horse ranch in California. Will remembered his old horse Spot which was an Arabian so he bought 90 Arabian horses, which make fascinating race horses. Will always wanted a dog, so he bought some German Sheperds. Will paid off mortgages for people in need and paid doctor’s bills for people. Later, Will started the charity, W.K. Kellogg’s Foundation, which started with 66 million and grew to 8 billion dollars! William Kellogg died on October 6, 1951.
7. Good for Willy K.
It is a good thing William was born because he influenced and helped so many people. For example, he gave money to various people to help them keep their houses or get medical care. If you think about it, if Will had not helped those people pay their medical bills, they could have died and they wouldn’t have any descendants, which means their families wouldn’t be here today. And if those families weren’t here, the population would be smaller, and there would be less stores, which means there would be fewer products. Fewer products means unhappy people, which equals fighting, which would lead to wars, which could lead to a world war and many people would die. Good thing William Kellogg was generous.
8. How I could be Like William
I could be more like William Kellogg by happily, not reluctantly, lending things to people. For example, if someone asks if they could borrow a pencil, I could practice happily giving it to them instead of ignoring them. Another thing I could do to be more like Will is to learn from others’ mistakes. For example, if someone gets in trouble for talking, I should try my best to not talk because it is the right thing to do and if I get caught talking again, I will have an even bigger negative consequence, besides I shouldn’t be talking in the first place. Another thing I can learn from Will is to never give up. Will’s factory burned down and he did whatever it took to get the factory running again. I could defiantly learn some things from William Kellogg. (Tyler)