Subscribe to The Horn Book

Literary biographies

Brown, Monica Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People
Gr. K–3  32 pp.  Holt

Illustrated by Julie Paschkis. Brown opens with Neftali’s boyhood love of reading, writing, and nature, celebrating the subjects that informed his poetry and his “dreams of peace.” Paschkis’s signature effusions of color and stylized forms are embellished with words — in English, Spanish, and other languages — poetically related in both sound and sense. It all adds up to an intriguing dramatization of Neruda’s themes and concerns. Reading list, websites.
Subjects: Individual biographies; Neruda, Pablo; Poets; Chile; Poetry; Nobel Prize

Zora!Fradin, Dennis Brindell and Fradin, Judith Bloom Zora!: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston
Middle school, high school  180 pp.  Clarion

Documenting the life of Zora Neale Hurston can present a challenge because she often lied about herself in print, beginning with the year of her birth. The Fradins make discrepancies part of the story, using Hurston’s autobiographical tall tales to give readers a strong sense of her personality. Illustrated with carefully selected photographs, this biography is pleasurable as well as informative. Timeline. Bib., ind.
Subjects: Individual biographies; Harlem Renaissance; Hurston, Zora Neale; Authors; Women—Biographies; Women—Authors; African Americans; Women—African Americans; Behavior—Truthfulness and falsehood

Neimark, Anne E. Mythmaker: The Life of J. R. R. Tolkien, Creator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
Gr. 4–6  136 pp.  Harcourt

Illustrated by Brad Weinman. New ed., 1996. This readable biography of one of the world’s master fantasists details Tolkien’s challenges and achievements in both his personal life and career. Accompanied by black-and-white illustrations, the text relates his experiences as an orphaned student, a distinguished philologist, and a beloved author. A chronological list of Tolkien’s work is appended. Ind.
Subjects: Individual biographies; Tolkien, J. R. R.; Fantasy; Authors

Reef, Catherine The Brontë Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne
High school  231 pp.  Clarion

This thorough biography of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë chronicles their individual personalities and how early experiences with their surroundings, family, schools, and teaching had profound influences on their writing. Reef quotes her subjects’ own diary entries, poems, and stories in addition to relying on other primary sources, historical information, and descriptions of the Brontës’ work. Reading list. Bib., ind.
Subjects: Individual biographies; Women—Authors; Authors; Brontë, Emily; Brontë, Charlotte; Brontë, Anne; Women—Biographies; England; Writing; Family—Siblings

Yolen, Jane The Emily Sonnets: The Life of Emily Dickinson
Gr. 4–6, middle school  40 pp.  Creative Editions

Illustrated by Gary Kelley. Yolen presents the broad scope of Dickinson’s life in fifteen graceful sonnets. Told in various voices, from Emily herself and her relatives to critics of the day, the poems illuminate the revered poet’s background, relationships, reclusiveness, and most importantly, her writing. Like the verse, Kelley’s paintings are subdued and dignified. Appended notes elaborate on each sonnet and help further readers’ understanding.
Subjects: Individual biographies; Women—Poets; Poets; Women—Biographies; Dickinson, Emily; Poetry—Sonnets

From the October 2013 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind