Two recent professional articles (one from Children and Libraries and one from a teen librarian blog, The Hub) sing the praises of picture books for everyone, and I thought that would be a great message to pass along here, too. At Madison, we are fortunate to have a library budget to buy new books every year. (Some schools have NO budget, and some schools don’t have libraries, either, but that’s a whole different post…) There are hundreds of fantastic picture books in our collection, so choosing a few to feature here is difficult. I’ll zero in on examples of picture book biographies (pb bios) that can be utilized for a variety of instructional purposes, as well as for pure enjoyment.
Picture book biographies are amazing because they highlight a person’s achievements without going into boring details that longer books sometimes do. They can also introduce readers to people they might never otherwise know about because the books’ artwork and format are so appealing. One example is Miss Mary Reporting by Sue Macy. Many Madison students play or watch sports, so this story of a tiny woman sportswriter in the 1940s (when such a thing was unheard of) should perk their interest. The cover is perfect – Miss Mary standing proudly in the midst of athletes, particularly a ginormous linebacker. The story of her life and career is just as interesting and entertaining as the cover promises.
I can’t write about picture book biographies without mentioning three authors who specialize in this area: Don Brown, Jeanette Winter and Jonah Winter. Look for ANY of their pb bios and you and your students will be hooked.
One of Don Brown’s most recent titles is Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History. With the popularity of the musical Hamilton, and the obvious US History curriculum connection, this book can inform students (and adults) about this famous rivalry. A Madison Junior High social studies teacher saw this book arrive and was excited to immediately read it and share it with his students.
Jeanette Winter, like Don Brown, has written numerous pb bio titles. A unique one is a dual biography of Malala Yousafzai and Iqbal Masih, two Pakistani child heroes. The content is fascinating and the kids will like that you flip the book over to read the other biography. Malala/Iqbal can be used in a class to show that children and teens can make a real difference in our world.
Jonah Winter is Jeanette Winter’s son. He has his own books, and sometimes they collaborate. A favorite of mine is his biography of Frida Kahlo, illustrated by Ana Juan. The artwork is staggering – both Frida’s and Ana’s. Pb bios of artists are useful for all ages because for the youngest readers, they are an accessible introduction to an artist’s work, and for older students, the book is one artist’s interpretation of another artist’s creations requiring deeper consideration of the information.
Let me know if you enjoyed this pb bio feature and if you have any requests/suggestions for future topics.