13 New Picture Book Biographies, September 2022
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I’m happy that every year more excellent picture book biographies are published. But, it makes me wonder how many schools and libraries are buying them and if there’s an oversaturation in the market or at least the tendency for older books to go out of print. I’m going to email a few friends about this but if you know, comment! I’m curious.
Here are my evergreen biography lists you might also like:
BIG LIST of Picture Book Biographies
13 New Picture Book Biographies
A Story Is to Share: How Ruth Krauss Found Another Way to Tell a Tale by Carter Higgins, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Carter Higgins’ brilliant writing references Ruth Krauss’s syntax and pays homage to it. This biography captures the quirky, passionate personality of Ruth Krauss who wore her clothes backward and preferred dancing to athletics. Krauss scribbles and scratches and scrambles to find the stories that she wants to tell in her own way. It’s whimsical and playful and will inspire you to reread your favorite Ruth Krauss picture books.
Bessie the Motorcycle Queen by Charles R. Smith Jr., illustrated by Charlot Kristensen
I love the lyrical, poetic writing about an independent woman named Bessie, a stunt-riding, long-distance motorcycle rider in 1920s when women of color weren’t treated equally. Bessie loved traveling on her motorcycle throughout the U.S. where she met mostly curious and kind people, until she reached the south with its Jim Crow signs and segregation and Klan members. She had to be careful about where to get gas and where to stop. But, she kept traveling. Bessie flipped her lucky penny onto a map to decide where to go next. She was free, and she loved her life on the road. Lush, inviting illustrations.
Dazzlin’ Dolly by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
Exceptionally skilled writing with strong narrative voice! Dolly Parton grows up a singer with determination to achieve her dreams. She overcome stage fright, performed on the weekends despite her Daddy’s disapproval, and moved to Nashville after high school. Kids will love this interesting biography about the queen of country! “Perched on her front-porch stage with a tin can microphone, Dolly performed for anyone she could corral– a bunch of baby siblings (’til they crawled away), a flock of ducks (’til they waddled away), and a pen of pigs (fortunately, they couldn’t get away).”
Annette Feels Free by Katie Mazeika
Annette changed the world for herself and all women! She became a swimmer after her struggles to walk after an illness. But, Annette hated the bulky, heavy bathing costumes she was forced to wear for races and exhibitions, so she made her own suit. Even though it was scandalous and she faced troubles because of it, her new design gave women more options to wear what they liked. And nowadays, they do.
Mister Rogers Gift of Music by Donna Cangelosi, illustrated by Amanda Calatzis
For Fred Rogers, music gave him joy and a way to express his feelings. He shared his love for music with songs for kids on his Mr. Rogers television show. The lyrics were a gift for kids then and now with messages of friendship, acceptance, and love. A warm-hearted tribute to Mr. Rogers.
Until Someone Listens by Estela Juarez with Lissette Norman, illustrated by Teresa Martinez
Written in the first person from the author’s own life, Estela shares how her family lived together in a home full of love. But, when she was a little girl, her mom was sent to live in Mexico because she was born there. One family in two countries is hard. And Estela lived with her mom sometimes, but it wasn’t fair that she had to leave her country either. So she wrote letters and still is fighting to get her mom permission to live in the U.S. again. Heartbreaking.
Building an Orchestra of Hope: How Favio Chavez Taught Children to Make Music from Trash by Carmen Oliver, illustrated by Luisa Uribe
A kind and innovative man named Favio offers the children that live on the landfill in Paraguay the chance to learn music — and when they don’t have enough instruments, he figures out how to make instruments out of recycled materials. It’s an inspiring story.
Going Places: Victor Hugo Green and His Glorious Book by Tonya Bolden, illustrated by Eric Velasquez
Victor Hugo Green, a mail carrier, wrote The Green Book to help Black people like him find safe places to stay when they were traveling. Because in the years of Jim Crow (segregation), many places were unsafe or closed to Black families. Green died before The Civil Rights Act became a law prohibiting the unjust treatment of Black people who were going places, but he hoped that The Green Book wouldn’t be needed anymore.
Only the Best by Kate Messner and Margaret E. Powell, illustrated by Erin K. Robinson
Beautiful writing shares the story of a girl named Ann who grew up to become the first nationally known Black fashion designer — including creating gowns for John F. Kennedy’s wedding. She worked hard and dreamed big — even with the racism and challenges she faced as a Black woman — and her talent and creativity impressed her classmates and her clients.
Growing an Artist: The Story of a Landscaper and His Son by John Parra
In a first-person personal narrative, a boy accompanies his Papi to his job as a landscaper. He sees a classmate looking through the window at him and feels awkward but focuses on helping his dad at the nursery and visiting a new site ready for development. The boy asks if he can draw a design for the space and his father agrees and uses his design for the land. He realizes that he wants to use his art to tell stories of hardworking people like his father and his friend Javier.
The Poem Forest: Poet W.S. Merwin and the Palm Tree Forest He Grew from Scratch by Carrie Fountain, illustrated by Chris Turnham
This biography focuses on Merwin’s love of nature — and commitment to planting new trees, particularly palm trees, in his Hawaiian home. The author shares how Merwin loved to write and became the Poet Laurette. The back matter includes a poem about a palm tree. (Which is amazing.)
Covered in Color: Christo & Jeanne-Claude’s Fabrics of Freedom by Elisa Boxer, illustrated by Susanna Chapman
Christo loved color and freedom. He escaped his first home of communist-controlled Bulgaria for France where he met his future wife, and they moved to the U.S. Together, they created large-scale art installations that were not meant to last with fabric and color.
Yoshi and the Ocean by Lindsay Moore
This is the story of an injured turtle who is rehabilitated in South Africa and eventually freed but tracked by scientists through the ocean. The repetition and lyricism depict a beautiful journey towards a home in Australia. “This is Yoshi, ocean wanderer. She loops through plankton blooms that form like clouds near the sunlit surface. Miles of wispy garden feed crowds of fish and floating sea creatures. A plankton bloom attracts a feast for pilchards and penguins and Yoshi.”