I loved biographies as a child. When I was in 4th grade, I polished off the entire section of biographies book by book, just going alphabetically down the line. It was an amazing way to meet a lot of interesting people and it probably plants a sublinminal message of “be awesome” like these people. Make your mark on history.
This is a pile of newly published biographies that found their way to my doorstep. I had the great pleasure of meeting Anita Silvey at a book event and am thrilled that she has a book out (it’s wonderful!).
I hope you enjoy this pile too! What great biographies for kids have you read lately? Please share!
The Plant Hunters: True Stories of Their Daring Adventures to the Far Corners of the Earth by Anita Silvey
I can vouch for the appeal of The Plant Hunters for a wide range of audience. I found my mother, 91-years-0ld reading this over several days in my office when she came to visit me recently. She looked up happily from the book and said that it was really interesting. It really is!
Anita Silvey captures the Indiana Jones” of science … the plant hunters. With harrowing clips of the near death experiences of the likes of Joseph Dalton Hooker, Richard Spruce, George Forest, Charles Darwin and more, she aptly tells the story of plant hunters including the impact their discoveries made that we benefit from today.
If your child like The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, this is the PERFECT non-fiction companion book! It needed be a companion book only; The Plant Hunters is a great example of how exciting non-fiction can be for kids. [short illustrated chapter book, ages 9 and up]
Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison
Jazz giants have been dominated by men — Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Quincy Jones — but Melba Doretta Liston should be counted amongst them; her contemporaries. With illustrations that convey a jazz beat, Little Melba and Her Big Trombone should be read and then make this picture book come alive with her music (a clip provided below but feel free to use this as a jumping off point to explore the sounds of jazz! I also have a a music and art project featuring boogie woogie music and Mondrian.) [picture book, ages 5 and up]
Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza by J. L. Powers, illustrated with paintings by George Mendoza
When George Mendoza lost his sight as a kid, he had to put aside his dreams of becoming a basketball player. It wasn’t easy adjusting, but George discovered that he could run really fast even though he couldn’t see. He even went to the Olympics twice! And he could paint what little he could see … the flickers of light in flames, the drops of rain, and the color of the rain. He was good at painting too! George inspires by not letting his physical disability stop him from pursuing and achieving big dreams. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Jamel Akib
What is a “banking untouchable”? It’s a person who banks don’t trust to pay back their loans and the banks in India refused to lend money to the poor whose only other option to get money was from a moneylender (mahajons) at a very high rate. Muhammed Yunus created microcredit — loaning very small amounts of money at a fair rate — that transformed the lives of the very poorest in India and around the world. It wasn’t just the loans that changed their lives — usually women — but the lessons in personal finance and practical advice that Muhammed also taught them.
Over the years, more than 10 billion US dollars were loaned in microcredit to nearly 12 million people worldwide, 94% of them women! Muhammed won a Nobel Peace prize for his work rooted in helping the poor. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
If this picture book sparks an interest in economics for your child, I wrote a post called Who Owns the Money when PickyKidPix was in 4th grade and could not understand why the person who printed the money did not get to keep some of it.
Famous Phonies: Legends, Fakes and Frauds Who Changed History by Brianna Dumont
As a cynic, this is my kind of biography. Famous phonies is a mythbuster, putting things right again. For example, did you know that Confucius was an ornery socially awkward wannabe politician? Even many of his sayings might not be actually from to him but attributed to him by his legions of followers that fed the legend after he was dead. George Washington a lying womanizing social climber? Is that possible? Oh yes, Brianna Dumont has the dirt on Pythagoras, Hiawatha, Willia Shakespeare, Homer and more. If your child likes the National Enquirer point of view for biographies, then this is perfect! [chapter book, ages 10 and up]
To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.