Picture Book Biographies, round 1

Biographies aren’t always found in the biography section.  Books with information about the life of more than one person are usually with the numbered nonfiction– so here are a few you might have missed:

28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World by Charles R. Smith, Jr.; illustrated by Shane W. Evans
This is even a good choice for a leap year like 2016.  Not only does it cover people and events for 28 days (from early American history to the present day), but day 29 is used to encourage readers to make future history.

Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson: Taking the Stage as the first Black-and White Jazz Band in History by Lesa Cline-Ransome; illustrated by James E. Ransome
Celebrates the 1936 debut of the Benny Goodman quartet with Teddy Wilson in Chicago, considered to be the first widely seen integrated jazz performance. This title is also available as an e-audiobook.

Friends for Freedom: The Story of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass by Suzanne Slade; illustrated by Nicole Tadgell
Discusses how a former slave and an outspoken woman, who came from two different worlds, shared deep-seated beliefs in equality and the need to fight for it.  This title is also available as an e-audiobook.  You might want to compare this title to the historical fiction book Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, Inspired by Historical Facts by Nikki Grimes.

Harlem Hellfighters by J. Patrick Lewis; illustrated by Gary Kelley
“A regiment of African American soldiers from Harlem journeys across the Atlantic to fight alongside the French in World War I, inspiring a continent with their brand of jazz music”– Provided by publisher.

Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song by Andrea Davis Pinkney; illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Explores the intersecting lives of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and gospel singer Mahalia Jackson at the historic moment when their joined voices inspired landmark changes.  This title is also available as an ebook.

Our Children Can Soar: A Celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the Pioneers of Change by Michelle Cook; illustrations by Cozbi Cabrera and others
Part historical, part poetry, and entirely inspirational, this unique picture book takes the reader through the cumulative story of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, expanding the popular slogan beyond Matin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Barack Obama to include more key players in the struggle for equality.

Phillis Sings out Freedom: The Story of George Washington and Phillis Wheatley by Ann Malaspina; illustrated by Susan Keeter
Events in the lives of Phillis Wheatley and George Washington are told in parallel until the two stories come together when she sends him one of her poems.

Sweet Land of Liberty written by Deborah Hopkinson; illustrated by Leonard Jenkins
The story of Marian Anderson’s Easter Sunday concert in 1939 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. (and who worked behind the scenes to make it happen).

Picture book biographies aren’t necessarily for younger readers.  Some of them have plain and simple text, while others use poetry.  Some have a happy tone as they celebrate heroes while others deal with sadder and more difficult parts of history.  They can be a good way to introduce a topic in the classroom or to grab a reader’s imagination.  You can visit the Children’s Services blog throughout the month to find more recommended picture book biographies.

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