Great Picture Book Biographies

Elementary teachers often assign a biography report for students who are just learning what makes up a biography- the story of someone’s life. An autobiography is written by the famous person. In our libraries we dedicate special places for biographies: adult, young adult and children.  Many students ask for the “Who Was” books, known by some as the “Big Head” books. Those are great, but I want to mention some other options. As a former first through third grade teacher, I am excited to see some of the wonderful new picture book biographies we have for this age group. I discover new favorites every day and I hope you and your children will too.

 Betsy Ross by Becky White contains directions  in back pages to make your  own Betsy Ross five pointed star What I love about this book is its simplicity. “Betsy ripped. Rip, Rip. Seven rich crimson strips. Betsy clipped. Clip, clip.” Perfect introduction to biography at about the first grade reading level with big bold fabric pictures which illustrate the story and the arts of embroidery, dye, applique The illustrator says she also ripped, dipped, and stitched to give us a feeling of materials Betsy dyed and used to make our flag.

 Dumpling Dreams: How Joyce Chen Brought the Dumpling from Beijing to Cambridge by Carrie Clickard. Chinese New Year’s is also celebrated this month, and this is a nice introduction to Chinese culture and how we embrace these customs in America.

The Quest for Z  the True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon by Greg Pizzzolis the fascinating story of British explorer who eventually disappeared on his searched for the fabled city in South America. Adventures with insects, poisoned arrows, an anaconda, even caimans (like crocodiles) did not deter his desire to find the city which he felt was his destiny.

A Lady Has the Floor, Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights by Kate Hannigan tells of an early advocate for equal pay for women, who was the first woman to appear on ballots for president. Resources at the back of the book include a timeline which continues right up to 2016, a bibliography with several types of resources and source notes for the quotations used in the illustrations.

Other picture books found with the biographies follow: John Brown His Fight for Freedom by John Hendrix.

Dangerous Jane by Suzanne Slade about Jane Addams who started Hull House, a settlement house in Chicago.










Margaret and the Moon How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing by Dean Roberts for grades 3-8 is quite intriguing, as is Anne Jump Cannon, Astronomer by Carole Gerber.


How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk is also available as an eBook.  When Marian Sang, the True Recital of Marian Anderson by Pam Munoz Ryan can be found in our hanging bags which would include the book and a CD.


Drawing from Memory by Allen Say, Caldecott medal winner, is his memoir including, cartoons, drawings, vintage photos and maps.


I hope you will enjoy picking out several biographies your child can read and research. Whether it’s their first biography or they are just exploring the wealth of new books and exciting accounts of how people have overcome obstacles and contribute to the world. They can see many examples of what Epictetus said in the early second century, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

 Miss Lee, Children’s Associate, Canyon Country


Miss Angie

I am a children's librarian at SCPL's Canyon Country Library. My favorite things are funny books, ice cream, and the Matterhorn at Disneyland.

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