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Monday, February 17, 2014

Picture-Book Biographies to delight and enlighten

A Ten for Tuesday List by S. C. Poe

Each of these picture books enthralled me with its illustrations, while telling a story I had never heard before. (I list them alphabetically, by the subject's surname.)

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos*

Deborah Heiligman (Author), LeUyen Pham (Illustrator)
Roaring Brook Press, 2013. Ages 3 – 8 years. 

By the time he was four, Paul already seemed to have a sophisticated calculator in his head. As an adult, he enjoyed a weird, vagabond-scholar's life, spent entirely as a guest in first one colleague's home after another's. With each host, he worked on math challenges and partnered on papers—so many hosts and so many papers that mathematicians and scientists still award themselves an "Erdos number" to show their degree of closeness to The Magician from Budapest. (Albert Einstein had a 2; Crick and Watson each a 4.)
The illustrations and voice of this book add layers of number-clues and images that make this a read-again (and again) story. (Read more here.)
Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013; New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of 2013.

Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee

Marissa Moss (Author), Carl Angel (Illustrator) 
Tricycle Press, 2009. Age 5 - 8.

Chinese-American Maggie Gee dreamed of flying from early childhood, and World War II gave her the chance—she won a coveted job as a Women's Airforce Service Pilot. Women were barred from combat, so Gee trained male pilots and ferried military aircraft—but she still found herself in some scary situations. (Read more here.)
Amelia Bloomer Best Book; Booklist Top Ten Biographies for 2010; a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People.

Magic Trash

J. H. Shapiro (Author), Vanessa Branley Newton (Illustrator)
Charlesbridge, 2011. Age 5 – 8. 

Tyree Guyton used art to heal. When his childhood neighborhood in Detroit lay trashed and dying in the 1980's, he worked artistic magic with junk, scraps, and paint to resurrect his street as the now-famous sculpture park, the Heidelberg Project. (Read more here.)

The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins

Barbara Kerley (Author), Brian Selznick (Illustrator)
Scholastic Press, 2001. Age 4 – 8. 

This scientist-artist examined the first dinosaur fossil evidence, deduced what kind of flesh covered the giant bones, and created life-size model dinosaurs that can still be seen in England's Crystal Palace Park, over 150 years later. (Read more here.)
A Caldecott Honor Book.  

Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl's Baseball Dream

Crystal Hubbard (Author), Randy Duburke (Illustrator)
Lee & Low Books, 2010. Age 5 and up. 

Growing up in the 1930's, Marcenia Lyle never doubted that her destiny lay in baseball. Here's the story of how she became Toni Stone, the first woman to play in the Negro Leagues, and one of the best players you have never heard of. (Read more here.)

Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian

Margarita Engle (Author), Julie Paschkis (Illustrator)
Henry Holt and Co., 2010. Age 5 - 8. 

Born in 1647, artist and scientist Maria Merian broke ground by actually observing the life cycles of insects—particularly butterflies—traveling, collecting specimens, and recording her observations in delicate paintings still treasured by collectors. (Read more here.) 

The Poppy Lady

Barbara Walsh (Author), Layne Johnson (Illustrator)
Calkins Creek, 2012. Age 7 - 10. 

The story of the red poppy, and of Moina Belle Michael, the schoolteacher who devoted much of her life to establishing it as the symbol we pin to our lapels to remember and honor war veterans.  (Read more here.)
A portion of the book’s proceeds supports the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple®, which benefi ts children of the U.S. military.

My Name is Gabriela / Me llamo Gabriela: The Life of Gabriela Mistral / la vida de Gabriela Mistral

Monica Brown (Author), John Parra (Illustrator)
Luna Rising, 2005. Age 4 – 8. 
English / Spanish.

Although her formal education ended by the time she was 12, this auto-didact became a prominent teacher and poet, and the first Latina to win the Nobel Prize for literature. This is part of a series of bilingual biographies by Luna Rising (Celia Cruz and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are other subjects in the series). (Read more here.)
Junior Library Guild Selection. 

Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing

James Rumford; Anna Sixkiller Huckaby (translator)
Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. Age 4 – 8. 
English / Cherokee. 

In the 1820s, with no knowledge of English, and with no experience of reading or writing, Sequoyah decided that his native Cherokee language needed a writing system--and set out to devise one. The bilingual text will show how Sequoyah borrowed symbols from English, Hebrew, and Greek texts (without using their sound values, which he did not know), to create his 85 syllabograms. (Read more here.) 
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor Award.

Queen of the Falls

Chris Van Allsburg
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2011. Age 6 - 9. 

The amazing true story of Annie Edson Taylor, who--at age 62--decided to create a retirement nest egg by having herself tossed over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Allsburg's characteristic illustrations capture the feeling of 1901 photography. (Read more here.)

*There should be a phonetic mark over the "o," but I don't know how to make Blogger put it in.

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