What’s New in Biographical Picture Books

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Are you looking for new picture book biographies? Here’s what’s been published recently. My two favorites are Along Came Coco and Planting Stories.

What’s New in Biographical Picture Books, Winter 2019

  Along Came Coco by Eva Byrne Coco grew up in an orphanage run by nuns where she learned to sew but didn’t much like all the rules. After she left, she started designing hats and clothes that broke the rules. She used menswear and practicality (who needs corsets anyway!) to create chic, revolutionary fashion. Coco became a well-known, successful designer known worldwide. Whimsical, gorgeous illustrations capture Coco’s creative spirit –I highly recommend it. Added to: Famous Women’s Biographies Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paola Escobar WOW– what a beautiful picture book with rich, warm illustrations. At her new job in the New York City Library, Pura saw the need for stories like her abuela’s folk stories from Puerto Rico. She shared the stories at story time, made puppets, and wrote books; books like Perez y Martina and left a legacy that celebrated the culture of Puerto Rico.   A Green Place to Be: The Creation of Central Park by Ashley Benham Yazdani What an absolutely fascinating part of New York City’s history! I loved learning how Central Park came to be (hint: a contest and teamwork.) This is a great introduction to the job of landscape design. After you read this book, go visit interesting parks then design your own park.   The Cat Who Lived with Anne Frank by David Lee Miller and Steven Jay Rubin, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley The story of Anne Frank is familiar to adults but pretty heavy to introduce to children. However, this picture book is a kid-appropriate very limited introduction to Anne Frank’s story through the perspective of a cat who belonged to a boy who also lived in the attic.   Doctor Esperanto and the Language of Hope by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Zosia Dzierzawsa I suspect this book will get kids curious about language as well as communication bridges and barriers. In the late 1800s, a Jewish man from Poland realized that no one trusted each other most likely because so many people spoke different languages. Maybe, he thought, if they spoke a common language, they would get along! So he invented a new language which eventually became known as Esperanto. The language is simple and phonetical. It even caught on with many people.   What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton, illustrated by Ekua Holmes First of all, let me just say how much I love the textured, collage-like illustrations. I also like the repeated phrases and bigger text size emphasizing particular sentences on each page. This biography of Barbara’s life will show readers how she persisted to become a political leader in Texas and then in the U.S. Congress. It also shows examples of how much she fought for the underdog and for civil rights as well as for the Constitution. Then a health diagnosis of MS changed her path to teaching in the college classroom. Wilma’s Way Home: The Life of Wilma Mankiller by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Linda Kukuk Wilma’s was a woman whose biggest accomplishments were helping her Native American community. She served as the leader of the Cherokee Nation for ten years. This story will tell how she got there and what she did with her leadership.   The Journey of York: The Unsung Hero of the Lewis and Clark Expedition by Hasan Davis, illustrated by Alleanna Harris This is the story of Lewis and Clark’s expedition west from the viewpoint of a slave named York who went with them, doing a great deal to help the mission succeed. The author clearly wants to show Lewis and Clark and the people around them in a different light than other history books. The first person point of view feels bitter, “It wasn’t my decision to leave my wife and loved ones,” but maybe that’s really how he felt or could have felt. “I wanted to show the others how much I deserved that vote. I think I proved my point.” It’s a little-known story fictionalized that will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Gloria Takes a Stand: How Gloria Steinem Listened, Wrote, and Changed the World by Jessica M. Rinker, illustrated by Daria Peoples-Riley Gloria wanted to tell women’s stories. She started a magazine called Ms. because she believed that “Girls need to know they can break the rules.” The book explains that Gloria’s work began what is known as women’s liberation movement and feminism. I normally like the use of repeated text but I feel like this author overdoes it a bit — “Gloria listened. She watched. And wrote.” However, it’s a well-written biography that shows how one person can make a huge impact on the world. Added to: Famous Women’s Biographies   new picture book biographies winter 2019


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  1. Recently I read biographies with my kid. It’s really lucky to find this list. Thanks for sharing these newly published biographical books. I can’t wait to check them out.