Tag Archives: biographies

More interesting women: Beyond picture books

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Amazing Women by Caryn Jenner
Shares the experiences of important women in history, including Aung San Suu Kyi, Arianna Huffington, and Madam C.J. Walker.

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Fannie Never Flinched: One Woman’s Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights by Mark Cronk Farrell
Traces the life of Fannie Sellins, a union activist who traveled the nation promoting fair wages and decent working and living conditions for workers in the garment and mining industries.

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Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins
A novel in verse about three girls from different time periods who grew up to become scientists introduces the lives of insect life-cycle artist Maria Merian, fossil pioneer Mary Anning, and comet discoverer Maria Mitchell.

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A Kids’ Guide to America’s First Ladies by Kathleen Krull; illustrated by Anna Divito
Examines Americas first ladies and how they helped advance women’s rights, political causes and other important progressive changes.

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Motor Girls: How Women Took the Wheel and Drove Boldly into the Twentieth Century by Sue Macy
Presents the first generation of female motorists who drove cars for fun, profit, and to make a statement about the evolving role of women.

African American History Biographies, part 2

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Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe
Jean-Michael Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocked to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art work had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message and art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean–and definitely not inside the lines–to be beautiful.
(If you’re not sure you know his work, that painting being hung at the end of the last episode of Luke Cage is a Basquiat.)
The stickers on the cover indicate that artist Javaka Steptoe (whose father has his own award named after him) won the Caldecott Medal and was the 2017 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Illustrator Winner.

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A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent by Anne Rockwell; illustrated by Floyd Cooper
The true story of James Lafayette, a slave who spied for George Washington’s army during the American Revolution. But while America celebrated its newfound freedom, James returned to slavery. His service hadn’t qualified him for the release he’d been hoping for. For James the fight wasn’t over; he’d already helped his country gain its freedom, now it was time to win his own.

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Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman; illustrated by Daniel Minter
A picture book biography of Dr. William Key, a former slave and self-trained veterinarian who taught his horse, Jim, to read and write and who together with Jim became one of the most famous traveling performance acts around the turn of the twentieth century.

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Strong Inside: The True Story of How Perry Wallace Broke College Basketball’s Color Line by Andrew Maraniss
Perry Wallace was born at an historic crossroads in U.S. history. He entered kindergarten the year that the Brown v. Board of Education decision led to integrated schools, allowing blacks and whites to learn side by side. A week after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Wallace enrolled in high school and his sensational jumping, dunking, and rebounding abilities quickly earned him the attention of college basketball recruiters from top schools across the nation. In his senior year his Pearl High School basketball team won Tennessee’s first racially-integrated state tournament. The world seemed to be opening up at just the right time, and when Vanderbilt University recruited Wallace to play basketball, he courageously accepted the assignment to desegregate the Southeastern Conference. The hateful experiences he would endure on campus and in the hostile gymnasiums of the Deep South turned out to be the stuff of nightmares. Yet Wallace persisted, endured, and met this unthinkable challenge head on. This insightful biography digs deep beneath the surface to reveal a complicated, profound, and inspiring story of an athlete turned civil rights trailblazer.

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Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas by Gwendolyn Hooks; illustrated by Colin Bootman
Biography of Vivien Thomas, an African-American surgical technician who pioneered the procedure used to treat babies with a heart defect known as ‘blue baby syndrome.’

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Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton; illustrated by Don Tate
Chronicles the life and achievements of the NASA engineer and inventor, from his childhood to his accidental invention of the Super Soaker water gun.

Remembering a poet

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A Girl Called Vincent: The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay by Krystyna Poray Goddu

125 years ago, in 1892, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay was born.  2017 also marks 100 years since her first book of poetry was published.  She is especially remembered for her love poems for adults, but a few of her works are included in our children’s poetry collections.

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A Family of Poems includes “First Fig” (which starts with the famous line, “My candle burns at both ends”) and “Second Fig” (neither of which is about figs).

Sing a Song of Popcorn: Every Child’s Book of Poems includes “From a Very Little Sphinx.”

Singing America: Poems that Define a Nation includes “Counting Out Rhyme,” which describes trees in lyrical language.

The poem of hers I remember best is The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver, which I first read in high school when I was just learning to play the harp.

 

 

 

African American History Biographies

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Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumentahl; illustrated by Laura Freeman
A beautiful picture book about Ann Cole Lowe, a little-known African-American fashion designer who battled personal and social adversity in order to pursue her passion of making beautiful gowns and went on to become one of society’s top designers.  (That one to the right of her on the cover? Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress.)

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Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers
Frederick Douglass was a self-educated slave in the South who grew up to become an icon. He was a leader of the abolitionist movement, a celebrated writer, an esteemed speaker, and a social reformer, proving that, as he said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

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The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
Surveys the life of the actress and civil rights activist, describing her childhood, early years in vaudeville, and achievements as the first African American actress to be offered a studio contract.

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Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop, Slave-Explorer by Heather Henson; illustrated by Bryan Collier
The story of Stephen Bishop, a slave and early explorer and guide at Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.

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Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born by Gene Barretta; illustrated by Frank Morrison
Presents a biography of the legendary boxing champion that traces the childhood event that inspired his career and the achievements that became his enduring legacy.

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Preaching to the Chickens by Jabari Asim; illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Critically acclaimed author Jabari Asim and Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator E. B. Lewis give readers a fascinating glimpse into the boyhood of Civil Rights leader John Lewis. John wants to be a preacher when he grows up a leader whose words stir hearts to change, minds to think, and bodies to take action. But why wait? When John is put in charge of the family farm’s flock of chickens, he discovers that they make a wonderful congregation! So he preaches to his flock, and they listen, content under his watchful care, riveted by the rhythm of his voice. Celebrating ingenuity and dreaming big, this inspirational story, featuring Jabari Asim’s stirring prose and E. B. Lewis’s stunning, light-filled impressionistic watercolor paintings, includes an author’s note about John Lewis, who grew up to be a member of the Freedom Riders, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and demonstrator on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, and is now a Georgia congressman.

Remembering Joseph Medicine Crow

You may have seen the news yesterday about the death of Joseph Medicine Crow. He was described as “the Crow’s last war chief… an activist, an author, a Medal of Freedom recipient and a vital chronicler of the history of his tribe.” He fought in World War II and “heard stories of the Battle of Little Bighorn from people who were there.” He was the first Crow to earn a master’s degree (in anthropology), and became the tribal historian and anthropologist.

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Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond by Joseph Medicine Crow with Herman Viola

Couting Coup, one of his many books, won the 2008 American Indian Youth Literature Award.  Reviewers praised his autobiography for its “absorbing, humorous style” and as an “informative yet entertaining read” that “brings the past to life.”

Here are some other books available in our library system that he wrote or contributed to:

From the Heart of the Crow Country: The Crow Indians’ Own Stories by Joseph Medicine Crow (a book for adults)

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Brave Wolf and the Thunderbird story by Joe Medicine Crow; illustrations by Linda R. Martin

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The Earth Made New: Plains Indian Stories of Creation by Paul Goble; foreword by Joe Medicine Crow

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Custer’s Last Battle: Red Hawk’s Account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, June 25, 1876 told & illustrated by Paul Goble; foreword by Joe Medicine Crow

Picture Book Biographies: Women

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Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Presents a collage-illustrated treasury of poems and spirituals inspired by the life and work of civil rights advocate Fannie Lou Hamer.
This title won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award this year, as well as being a Caldecott Honor Book and a Sibert Honor Book.

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Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told by Walter Dean Myers
“Details the extraordinary life and accomplishments of the activist, educator, writer, journalist, suffragette, and pioneering voice against the horrors of lynching who set out to better the lives of African-Americans long before the Civil Rights Movement.” – (Baker & Taylor)

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Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence by Gretchen Woelfle; Illustrated by Alix Delinois
Mumbets Declaration of Independence tells the story of a Massachusetts slave from the Revolutionary era–in 1781, she successfully used the new Massachusetts Constitution to make a legal case that she should be free.  This book has been made into a DVD and is also available as an ebook.

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My Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth by Ann Turner; illustrated by James Ransome
“A vibrantly illustrated picture book introduction to the abolitionist and women’s rights activist narrates her rise from former slave to preacher and orator a century before the Civil Rights Movement.” – (Baker & Taylor)

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Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney
“Presents the life of Sojourner Truth, discussing her childhood as a slave, the purchase of her freedom by a Quaker couple, and her subsequent work as an advocate and lecturer for the abolitionist movement.” – (Baker & Taylor)

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When the Slave Esperança Garcia Wrote a Letter written by Sonia Rosa; illustrated by Luciana Justiniani Hees; translated by Jane Springer
A Brazilian woman sold away from her family wrote a letter to the governor–found hundreds of years later in an archive–to try to improve her situation.

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Picture Book Biographies: Men

The past few lists have featured people grouped by the kind of work they do, or did.  That left a few people– like explorers– who weren’t easy to fit into a theme.  So here’s a list of men with a variety of talents, which will be followed by a list of women.

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The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton; illustrated by Don Tate
“A picture book biography of John Roy Lynch, one of the first African-Americans elected into the United States Congress”–Provided by publisher.

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American Slave American Hero: York of the Lewis and Clark Expedition by Laurence Pringle; illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
A biography of William Clark’s personal slave, who provided invaluable assistance to the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

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John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson; illustrations by Benny Andrews
“A biography of John Lewis, Georgia Congressman and one of the ‘Big Six’ civil rights leaders of the 1960s, focusing on his youth and culminating in the voter registration drives that sparked ‘Bloody Sunday,’ as hundreds of people walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Includes a note by Congressman Lewis and a timeline”–Provided by publisher.

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My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III; illustrated by AG Ford
“An account of the author’s brief years shared with his civil rights leader father offers insight into their special bond, their separation during Dr. King’s imprisonment, and the author’s five-year-old witness to the famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.” – (Baker & Taylor)

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Robert Smalls: The Boat Thief by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; illustrations by Patrick Faricy
“Examines the life and military career of Robert Smalls, a Southern slave who coordinated the theft of a Confederate gunship, went on to be promoted to the rank of captain in the Federal Navy, and appealed to President Lincoln to enlist five thousand former slaves into the Union army, breaking the U.S. Armed Forces color barrier.” – (Baker & Taylor)

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Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story by Janet Halfmann; illustrated by Duane Smith
“A biography of Robert Smalls who, during the Civil War, commandeered the Confederate ship Planter to carry his family and twelve other slaves to freedom, and went on to become a United States Congressman working toward African American advancement”–Provided by publisher.
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