Picture Book Biographies

Real people who have made real contributions to our world!

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Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade
.  Melissa Sweet.  Houghton Mifflin, 2011.
Sweet wonderfully tells the fascinating true story of Tony Sarg who invented the balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.  They debuted in 1928 as Macy’s way of honoring immigrant employees who missed their holiday traditions of music and dancing in the streets.  The illustrations are a combination of collage and watercolors.  Picture book biography at its best.
Read-aloud 1st-4th grade

 


The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau.  Michelle Markel.  Eerdmans, 2012.
Henri Rousseau started painting in his 40’s.  His self-taught style faced much criticism in the art world, yet he believed in his art and persevered. Well written and beautifully illustrated.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud K-4th grade

 


Life in the Ocean : the Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle.  Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012.
An awe-inspiring picture book biography about the life of the renowned oceanographer.  As a child she explored and observed creatures for hours on end.  She said “she was a biologist and a botanist long before she even knew what those words meant.”  When her family moved to Florida, she “lost her heart to the water.”  The book goes on to beautifully describe her many, many accomplishments as an oceanographer.  Students will be amazed at her accomplishments and inspired to take better care of our oceans.
Picture Book.
Read-aloud 2nd – 5th grade

 Me…Jane.  Patrick McDonnell.  Little, Brown andCompany 2011.
This brief picture book about young Jane Goodall is charming.  She has a stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee, loves a tree, observes nature and reads Tarzan books.  She dreamed of living with and helping animals in Africa.  Pair this with Jeanette Winters’ “The Watcher.”  Picture Book.
Read-aloud K-2nd grade

 


Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World.  Laurie Lawlor.  Holiday House, 2012.
Rachel Carson’s lonely childhood led her to observe and develop a love and respect for all of nature.  She attended college on a scholarship and became a biologist and environmentalist, which were fields not generally open to women at the time.  This biography is a great way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication Silent Spring, showed the dangerous effects of chemicals on the world.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 2nd-4th grade

Stand Straight, Ella Kate : The True Story of a Real Giant.  Kate Klise.  Dial, 2010.
Ella Kate Ewing was born in 1873 in Rainbow Missouri.  At age 7 she began growing at a very rapid rate.  By age 13 she was 6 feet tall.  She reached her final height of 8 feet, four inches at age 22.  She had, what at that time, was an unnamed condition now known as giantism.  She traveled the world and made a life of fame and fortune for herself by being a star attraction in many traveling shows.  Fascinating picture book.
Read-aloud 1st-5th grade

 

Summer Birds : The Butterflies of Maria Merian.  Margarita Engle.  Holt, 2010.
In the 1600’s, insects were considered evil creatures that came from mud.  Thirteen year old Maria loved butterflies and observed, chronicled and painted their life cycle.
Copies of her prints are now in museums around the world.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 1st-4th grade

 

 

The Watcher : Jane Goodall’s Life With the Chimps.  Schwartz & Wade Books, 2011.
This wonderful picture-book biography describes the primatologist’s childhood and her years observing chimps, and her efforts to preserve primates and their habitats.  Beautifully told.  Combine this with Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell.
Read-aloud 1st-4th grade

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