More Inspiring Biographies for 5th & 6th Graders

Emma’s Poem : The Voice of the Statue of Liberty.  Linda Glaser.  Houghton Mifflin, 2010.
Emma Lazarus lead a privileged life in 1800’s New York.  Meeting poor immigrants during a visit to Ward’s Island in the 1880’s moved her to help.  She helped them learn English and get jobs.  An accomplished writer, she brought awareness of their plight to others.  She was asked, along with other writers, to write a poem to help raise money to build the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty.  She wrote the poem “The New Colossus” in 1883.  Sadly, she died at age 38 before the statue was completed.  Twenty years later a friend had her poem engraved on a plaque and placed inside the entrance to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-6th grade



Harry Houdini : The Legend of the World’s Great Escape Artist.  Janice Weaver.  Abrams, 2011.
This is an attractive and fascinating picture book biography of how this fascinating Jewish immigrant became the world’s greatest illusionist.  It took hard work, good (and bad) luck as well as determination and willpower to achieve his dreams.  Artwork includes many archival letters, photos and playbills.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 4th – 8th grade



Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played with Puppets.  Kathleen Krull.  Random House, 2011.
Whether you love the Muppets or not, this is a fabulous picture book biography.  Henson grew up in the 1930’ before television was available.  He spent his time watching nature, singing, storytelling, reading, writing poetry and drawing.  His first cartoon was published by age 13 and by 16 he was on TV working with puppets.  He lived out his goal  “to be one of the people who made a difference in this world.”  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 4th-6th grade


Lives of the Presidents : Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought).  Kathleen Krull and Kathryn Hewitt.  Harcourt, 2011.
Explores the lives of U.S. Presidents, including Barack Obama.  Krull is a master at including important information as well as anecdotes and facts that have kid appeal in a very readable format.
Read-aloud 5th grade and up



Queen of the Falls.  Chris Van Allsburg.  Houghton Mifflin, 2010.
Van Allsburg approaches non-fiction in much the same way as he does fiction in this captivating story of Annie Edson Taylor, who at age 62 finds herself widowed, retired from teaching charm school and worried about how she will support herself.  She decides to be the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel in the hopes of gaining fame and fortune.  A captivating story wonderfully told.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-6th grade



Red Bird Sings:  The Story of Zitkala-Sa, Native American Author, Musician, and Activist.  Gina Capaldi.  Carolrhoda Books, 2011.
At age 8, Zitkala-Sa was sent from the Yankton Sioux reservation in South Dakota to a boarding school in Indiana.  As she mourns the loss of her culture, she also learns that she has a love and talent for music, writing and public speaking.  She became an activist for Native American rights in the early 1920s.  Poignantly portrays the struggle of surviving in two very different worlds.  An exceptional picture book biography.
Read-aloud 3rd-6th grade


Seeds of Change : Planting a Path to Peace.  Jen Cullerton Johnson.  Lee & Low Books, 2010.
This is the 4th recent picture book about Wanagari Maathai and her Green Belt Movement in Kenya which won her the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.  Beautifully illustrated,  this one is more comprehensive than the others, so can be used with older kids.  Very inspiring.  Picture Book.  Other picture books about Maathai; Mama Miti: Wanagari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya, Wangari’s Trees of Peace, Planting the Trees of Kenya.
Read-aloud 3rd-6th grade

She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story.  Audrey Vernick.  Collins, 2010.
Effa and her husband, Abe, owned and managed the Newark Eagles, in the Negro League.  She was a tireless champion for her players and became the first woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  She was also a civil rights activist.  A fine tribute.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-4th grade



Sparky: The Life and Art of Charles Schultz. Beverly Gherman.  Chronicle Books, 2010.
Photographs and selections from his comic strip fill half of this engaging biography.  Organized in 11 chapters full of facts and anecdotes, including how he got his nickname, Sparky, before he was a week old.
Read-aloud 5th-8th grade



Come See the Earth Turn: The Story of Leon Foucault.  Lori Mortensen.  Tricycle Press, 2010.
Until this French physicist came along, scientists believed that the earth turned on its axis, but couldn’t prove it.  Foucault invented the pendulum that proved it.  Equally fascinating are the details of his difficult life.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-6th grade




The Unforgettable Season: The Story of Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and the Record-Setting Summer of ’41.  Phil Bildner.  Putnam’s, 2011.
This amazing tribute will capture the attention of young readers, even if they don’t love baseball.  the records they set have never been broken.  Exciting an inspiring.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 5th-6th grade
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