20 New, Incredible Children’s Book Biographies

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Because the biographies section of my to-review shelves was overflowing, I finally got all the books read and reviewed to share with you.

First, you’ll find the picture book biographies.

Then, scroll down to find the middle-grade biographies and biography collections.

As usual, I’ve added these new book reviews to any other related lists including:

Board and Picture Book Biographies Ages 3 – 8

George Washington Carver Loved Plants (Little Naturalists)
by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Seth Lucas
A simple but informative board book shares the inspiring story of George Washington Carver. Kids will learn how people called George “Plant Doctor” even as a boy, and that he went to college to study agriculture, taught at an all-black college, and helped people rotate crops and plant things like peanuts. Inviting earth-toned illustrations helps capture this man’s inspiring life story.

Wangari Maathai Planted Trees (Little Naturalists)
 by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Seth Lucas
A board book biography perfect for preschool readers. Learn about environmentalist and Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai. While she studied at school in America, men cut down trees in her homeland. When she returned home, she wondered where all the birds and streams had gone so she asked other women of Kenya to help her plant new trees — and they planted 50 million trees. Lovely earth-toned illustrations.

Cubs in the Tub
by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Julie Downing
Engaging illustrations throughout capture the sweetness of a woman who became the first zookeeper at the Brox Zoo. This caring woman named Helen Martini’s husband works at the zoo. When he brings home a lion cub, she becomes a foster mother. After her baby lion grows too big, she mothers tiger cubs. All of her mothering baby animals leads her to build her babies a nursery at the zoo and become the first woman zookeeper.

Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites
by Jamie Michalak & Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Yuko Jones
A little girl named Niki loves food and dreams of being a chef despite her family’s disapproval. Formatted in sections titled “Bites” — bite 1 through 13 — read the origins of her passion for food. As Nikki grows. she invents recipes, visits her cousin’s Japanese inn restaurant from which she draws inspiration, opens a sushi restaurant, and finally, opens a unique fusion restaurant called n/naka where she serves uniquely created 13 courses. Beautifully illustrated mixed-media and digital art on each page, this passionate story will inspire children to follow their dreams.

My Name Is Helen Keller
by Myron Uhlberg, illustrated by Jenn Kocsmiersky
This skillfully written biography alternates between the first-person narration from Helen and the occasional third-person narrator who explains the context of what’s going on. It’s very well-written and interesting to read and shares the most important information about Helen’s life.

Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat
by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Giselle Potter
Frieda Caplan introduces new fruits and vegetables at a produce market in Los Angeles starting in the 1950s with mushrooms. She continues sharing unusual foods at the market, foods that you probably haven’t even heard of, let alone tried such as the nopale and dragonfruit. Learn about this daring food pioneer and as you read, taste-test the unique foods shared in the book.

Above the Rim How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball
by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Frank Morrison
Elgin grew up during segregation which dictated where he was allowed to play basketball and attend college. Despite this, he was the top recruit for the NBA when he graduated from college. But even traveling with his basketball team, he was often turned away from places because of the color of his skin. Eglin decided to protest the discrimination by sitting out of future basketball games. His activist actions made a difference. The NBA put out a statement that they would not give their business to hotels and restaurants that discriminated against Black people. Rich, evocative illustrations and lyrical writing perfectly capture the importance of Eglin’s life and impact.

A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice
by Jasmine A. Stirling, illustrated by Vesper Stamper
Lovely pink and green illustrations and an incredible narrative biography capture the life of the talented Jane Austen. Jane grew up in a supportive family that encouraged reading and writing. She wrote prolifically while she was young but stopped writing after significant life challenges including loss, death, worry, and loneliness. After years passed, she realized that all her troubles gave her a new wisdom. Passion renewed Jane rewrote old stories and crafted new ones with lifelike characters. Her writing voice was authentic and unique, leading to her success and longevity.

The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee
by Julie Leung, illustrated by Julie Kwon
Read about the first Chinese American woman pilot in the U.S. military! Hazel always loved flying despite the challenges for women and Chinese Americans. She earned money to pursue a pilot’s license then joined the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II.

Code Breaker, Spy Hunter How Elizabeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars
by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by Brooke Smart
I loved this book even though it was a bit too long for me, it could have had the same impact with fewer examples. However, it’s an inspiring and interesting history of a brilliant cryptologist who helped her country in war and peace. She cracked codes for the Coast Guard to stop bootleggers and for the military to break NAzi spy rings. She created the CIA’s first cryptology unit, training others in the art of cryptology.

And I Paint It by Henriette Wyeth’s World
by Beth Kephart, illustrated by Amy June Bates
This biography reads like a memoir which I love. You’ll read about moments painting with her father outside in nature and they are filled with rich, sensory images. “His big hand is red-and-blue-and-purple freckled, his old coat smells like apple cores and packing moss and turpentine.” Lovely, earthy watercolors perfectly capture the naturalistic world of this little-known artist.

The Stuff Between the Stars How Vera Rubin Discovered Most of the Universe
by Sandra Nickel, illustrated by Amee Sicuro
Vera Rubin was an inspiring female pioneer in astronomy who persevered to make huge discoveries that she wasn’t credited for but she didn’t love science because of the accolades. She continued to pursue her questions about the universe and to mentor others.

Wood, Wire, Wings Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane
by Kirsten W. Larson, illustrated by Tracy Subisak
A well-written narrative biography about a female airplane inventor and engineer named Lilian Todd. Lilian followed her passion and curiosity with persistence to figure out how to make an aircraft. She persisted and failed but eventually designed a successful airplane.

Without Separation Prejudice, Segregation, and the Case of Roberto Alvarez
by Larry Dane Brimmer, illustrated by Maya Gonzalez
Expository text recounts the history of a community that tried to send the Mexican American students to a separate school for Mexicans only. But Roberto and his family and friends fought this forced segregation first by protesting school attendance and later in a court case. Roberto and his fellow students eventually won when a judge said that this school segregation wasn’t legal. Impressive colorful folksy illustrations shine throughout the book.

Sing with Me The Story of Selena Quintanilla
by Diana López, illustrated by Teresa Martinez
A concise, entertaining biography of Selena’s early years as she worked hard until she saw success as a singer — winning awards and learning Spanish and getting married. (You’ll appreciate that this biography does not talk about her death.)

Chapter and Middle-Grade Biographies (ages 6 – 12)

Rule the Music Scene Like Queen Beyonce Knowles
by Caroline Moss, illustrated by Sinem Erkas
You’ll zip through this impressive biography with information, history, conversation, and short chapters all accompanied by cool graphic illustrations. You don’t have to be a Beyonce fan to enjoy this biography because it’s so well-written and appealing.

Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers & Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing
by Rochelle Melander, illustrated by Melina Ontiveros
Incredible writing showcases the inspiring stories of individuals throughout history and across cultures who have used their writing to change the world! The first biography is about Murasaki Shikibu, a Japanese novelist who lived around the first century, who wasn’t supposed to learn Chinese writing but who did anyway–and wrote an impactful and famous novel called The Tale of Genji. The biographies continue by featuring 39 more writers who made a difference like Abu Abdullah Muhammad, Frederick Douglass, Qiu Jin, James Baldwin, Octavia Bulter, and Sophie Cruz. Each biography is illustrated and includes a quote from the person, a section to give background or context, and a section asking how you could apply the ideas in your own writing. Back matter includes advice for revising and writing. I LOVE this book!

Stolen Science: Thirteen Untold Stories of Scientists and Inventors ALmost Written out of History
by Ella Schwartz, illustrated by Gaby D’Alessandro
Engrossing lightly illustrated biographies share the lives of passionate scientists who made big discoveries yet didn’t receive credit for one reason or the other. After you read about each scientist, learn information about the science they discovered or related information about it. The writing is engaging enough that you’ll find all of the stories mesmerizing.

Greta’s Story The Schoolgirl Who Went on Strike to Save the Planet
by Valentina Camerini, illustrated by Veronica Veci Carratelo, translated by Moreno Giovannoni
One day a 15-year-old girl in Sweden skipped school and went on strike in front of the parliament building. Before this day, Greta felt fearful about the world’s climate and the environment, and she struggled with depression. She helped her family learn to live sustainably and reduce behaviors that were harmful to the planet. But when the fires roared and the temperatures soared, Greta decided to protest with signs and wake up people to climate problems. The story shows that one person can make a huge impact — Greta’s name is well-known around the world and she’s made a difference by educating others.

Unforgotten The Wild Life of Dian Fossey and Her Relentless Quest to Save Mountain Gorillas
by Anita Silvey
Learn how Dian found her passion for primates and worked hard to get to Africa to study with Louis Leakey and Jane Goodall, then settling in the congo to study mountain gorillas. It wasn’t easy — she was even captured by the military. As you read about her life and her passion for mountain gorillas, you’ll also learn from the informational section about gorilla species, the landscape around her, and Gorillas that became well known to Dian. The writing is superb — you’ll be so fascinated that you won’t be able to put it down. Full-color photographs grace every page — this book is stunning!

20 new biographies 2021



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