Nonfiction Biography Picture Books Extravaganza!

To Life!

It seems like more and more picture book biographies are springing up every year! This is not only GREAT for the rich diversity they add to children's literature, but also because so many children adore nonfiction. I remember there being so few quality nonfiction choices for my students when I started teaching (in the 90's people, I'm not THAT old yet).

Here's a round up of a few from the start of 2019...

The Bluest of Blues by Fiona Robinson
Very pretty and artistic story of the first person to publish book of photography - a young female botanist. Good for interdisciplinary examinations of science, art, women, and history.
Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Age:  6-9 / Grades: 1-4 / Lexile: 800L
Pages: 48 / Date: February 2019
Publisher: Abrams Publishing / ISBN: 1419725517
Topics: Photography, Art, Following Your Passions
Originality: Fairly unknown story, interesting for children who are interested in either photography and/or botany
Diversity: Good addition to women's historical contributions

A Green Place to Be by Ashley Benham Yazdani
History of the creation of Central Park; tells the story of the architects/designers as much as the park itself. The writing is a bit dense for the younger crowd; would require a bit of discussion after each section - no matter the age. Includes author's note and bibliography as teaching aides.
Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Age: 7-10 / Grades: 2-5
Pages: 40 / Date: March 2019
Publisher: Candlewick / ISBN: 0763696955
Themes: Urban expansion, History of USA/New York

Guitar Genius by Kim Tomsic
True story of rock and roll guitar legend Les Paul and how he invented the first solid-body electric guitar (and many other musical sound thingys).
Great for disciplinary literacy on inventing, music, guitars. Also uses vernacular of the era.
Pacing is a bit slow so it will require readers to hang in there. Includes epilogue of further explanation.
Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Ages: 5-10 / Grades: 1 - 5 / Lexile: 720L
Pages: 56 / Date: April 2019
Publisher: Chronicle Books / ISBN: 1452159195
Topics: Scientific Thinking, Modern Invention
Character Themes: Les Paul is portrayed as positive, creative, and tenacious
Plot: Les is going to invent some cool stuff
Originality: Great for those interested in rock & roll,  as well as inventing

Elvis is King by Jonah Winter
Elvis Presley is the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Kids should know this in order to understand the history and culture of American music. Great look at an American legend's youth and rise to fame. A very humanized story of a larger-than-life American icon. Claymation illustrations add to the fun!
Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Age: 4 - 10  / Grades: 2 - 5 
Pages: 40  / Date: January 2019 / Lexile: 810L
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade / ISBN: 0399554704
Themes: Coming-of-age, Vulnerability in the face of fame, Impact of rock & roll/music in America
Plot: Elvis is so cool
Originality: This one stands out in the crowd
A Computer Called Katherine by Suzanne Slade
If you loved the movie Hidden Figures, you will want to share the story of Katherine Johnson with the children in your life. If you haven't seen the movie, at the very least you need to read Katherine's story - one of the many unsung heroes (many minority & women) who helped to shape our America. Katherine was a 'computer' for NASA and her story is fab.
Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Age: 5 - 10 / Grade: K - 4
Pages: 40 / Date: March 2019
Publisher: Little Brown Young Readers / ISBN: 0316435178
Themes: Rising above what is expected of you
Topics: Racial Segregation, Space program at its earliest
Character: Katherine is an awesome role model for everyone
Plot: Will Katherine help put a man on the moon one day?
Originality: Much written & told about her, but this is a fabulous rendering
Diversity: This one needs to be in your collection for positive representation, along with many on this topic after the movie came out. really need an entire article on these titles alone....
Planting Stories by Anika Aldamuy Denise & Paola Escobar 
Prediction: Look for this one to be shortlisted for a Caldecott. New York City’s first and beloved Puerto Rican librarian. A great read aloud with the bilingual additions indicative of Belpré’s legacy. Beautiful illustrations add to the telling. End notes inform and add to further explorations.
Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Age:  4-8 / Grades: PK - 5 / Lexile: 860L
Pages: 40 /  Date: January 2019
Publisher: Harper Collins / ISBN: 0062748683
Themes: Changing the world,  Literary Life, Folktales
Topics: Libraries, Art, Stories
Character: Beautiful and passionate, Pura Belpré was an inspiration to writers and readers
Diversity: A big winner in this category too

Out of This World by Michelle Markel
Little known outside the art world, the story of surreal artist Leonora Carrington is fantastical (like her art). Great for children interested in art or those who want to grow up to be artists. Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Ages: 4 - 8 / Grades: PK - 3
Pages: 40 pages / Date: January 2019
Publisher: Balzer + Bray / ISBN-13: 978-0062441096
Themes: Going against the grain, tenacity, artistic drive
Originality: Not much written about this artist, would be worthy addition to any age art classrooms.


The Crayon Man by Natascha Biebow
Who knew it was Edwin Binney that invented the Crayola Crayon? Would make a great pairing with The Day the Crayons Quit! Binney opened up a world of color, not only to children, but to the world, with his little 5 cent box of coloring crayons. Splashes of color make the telling brighter too.
Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Ages: 6-10 / Grades: 1-5 / Lexile: 960L
Pages: 38 / Date: March 2019
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  / ISBN: 978-1328866844
Themes: The world is beautiful and we should all see that! Plot: Will Binney make a coloring crayon?
Originality: History & Art converge

Magic Ramen by Andrea Wang
Much like A Green Place to Be (above), this story is as much about its designer as it is the ramen he made. He didn't invent ramen, but he did invent the instant noodle soup we've all tried (though today's ramen is so much better). Tied to World War II, this story has some interesting history to add to why we have the block of hard dehydrated noodles (my kids used to call it "poup soup" and they loved it). Would be fun to read and then make some instant ramen with your students.
Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Ages: 4-8 / Grades: PK-3
Pages: 40 / Date: March 2019
Publisher: little bee books  / ISBN:1499807035
Themes: Feed the world, Helpers matter
Originality: History & Invention converge

Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley
Much like the older age-aimed telling of Mary Walker Wears the Pants, this younger age-aimed version also tells the story of Mary Walker who wore pants when women were not allowed to wear pants.  One of my personal favorites this year!
Genre: Nonfiction Biography
Ages: 4-8 / Grades: PK-3
Pages: 48 / Date: January 2019
Publisher: Blazer + Bray / ISBN: 978-0062846792
Themes: Going against inequitable treatment, thinking for oneself
Plot: I do what I want
Diversity: You go girl!

Smile: How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the
World to Laugh (and cry) bu Gary Golio
Charlie Chaplin is, much like Elvis to the music world, the king of actors. Children will delight in watching a clip of the 'Little Tramp" and then flipping the pages of this book to see him spring forth from the pages. Story is a good coming-of age, rags to ruches tale too. For a little bit older reader. Includes strong end notes.
Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Ages: 8-12 /  Grades:  2-7
Lexile: 750L
Pages: 48 / Date: March 2019
Publisher: Candlewick /  ISBN: 0763697617
Topics:Acting, Movie-Making, Comedy. Poverty
Theme: Laughing helps us in our darkest hours
Character: Charlie Chaplin WAS the character

Just Like Rube Goldberg by Sarah Aronson
Kids LOVE trying their hand at Rube Goldberg machines. Now they can learn the story of this how this engineer turned cartoonist lived his dream.
Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Ages: 3-8 / Grades: Elementary
Lexile: 690L
Pages: 48 / Date March 2019
Publisher: Beach Lane Books / ISBN: 1481476688
Topics: Science, Invention, Art, Engineering, STEM
Themes: Problem Solving, Immigration, Following Your Dreams

Mary Blair's Unique Flair by Amy Novesky

Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Ages:  7-10  / Grades: 1-3
Pages: 40 / Date: August 2019
Publisher: Disney Press / ISBN: 1484757203
Topics: Art & Disney
Themes: Working hard toward a dream
Plot: Mary Blair wants to be an artist her whole life
Originality: As a "Small World" lover and Mary Blair fan, this book is a dream.

A Girl Called Genghis Khan by Michelle Lord
Maria Toorpakai Wazir is a Pakistani girl who loved sports and wanted to play them, but the Taliban threatened to kill her and her family if she played. Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Ages: 5-8 / Grades: Elementary
Lexile: 710L
Pages:48 / Date: July 2019
Publisher: Sterling Children's Books / ISBN:1454931362
Topics: Terrorism, Oppression
Themes: Staying brave in the face of adversity
Originality: A great addition, not much written for children from this perspective.

Her Fearless Run by Kim Chaffee
Story of first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1967 even as onlookers give her some mean stares
Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Ages: 8-11 / Grades: 1-5
Pages: 40 / Date: April 2019
Publisher: Page Street Kids / ISBN:1624146541
Topics: Running, Marathons, Women in Sports

Themes: Persistence, Hard Work
Characters: Katherine looked her bullies in the ye and did what she knew she could do.
Originality: Good for kiddos who like to run and worthy addition to women's rights selections.

Fearless Mary by Tami Charles

Another 'fearless' story... this one about an African American woman who helped settle the Wild West as a stagecoach driver. Told like a tall tale, but based in fact. It's a fun read. 
Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book 
Ages: 6+  / Grades: Elementary
Pages: 32 / Date: January 2019
Publisher: Albert Whitman / ISBN: 0807523054
Topics: Wild West, Stagecoaches, Cowboys
Themes: Being the first, African American contributions,
Character: Larger than life telling = Mary is one tough lady
Originality: Unique and underrepresented

Let 'Er Buck! by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Ages: 8-12  / Grades: Intermediate 3-6 / Lexile: 880L
Pages: 40 / Date: February 2019
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books  / ISBN: 1512498084

Topics: Cowboys, Rodeo, Oregon Trail, Native Americans
Themes: Racial injustice, The good in people,
Originality: A stand out. Probably a Caldecott contender and really fun to read. Great for teaching similes. Mostly untold tale that will interest many students.


Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson
Dr. Carter G Woodson was the first person in his family to learn how to read and read to his father everyday. Later, he read to coal miners and travelled the world discussing the importance of being a truly informed citizen. He is considered the father of Black History Month.
Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Ages: 6-10  / Grades: 1-5 / Lexile: 810L
Pages: 36 / Date: February 2019
Publisher: Peachtree Publishing / ISBN:
Topics: Curiosity, Literacy, Civil Rights
Themes: Insatiable curiosity and where it can lead one in life, The importance of being an informed citizen


Brave Ballerina by Michelle Meadows
Janet Collins was the first African American principal ballerina for the Metropolitan Opera. At one point in her career, she was asked to paint her skin white, she refused.  

Genre: Nonfiction Biography Picture Book
Ages: 5-8  / Grades: PK-3 / Lexile: 570L
Pages: 32 / Date: January 2019
Publisher: Henry Holt  / ISBN:1250127734

Topics: Ballet, Athletes,
Themes: Breaking racial barriers

Whew! I simply ran out of time, but here are a few more covers :-) 


--------------- That's all folks! ---------------

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