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Are biographies a hard sell?

Can’t get kids to read biographies, you say? Have you tried reading aloud picture book biographies? It’s a sure way to hook kids into the lives, obstacles, and contributions of thousands of individuals, both historical and present day. But aren’t picture books only for young children? Never! Today’s picture book biographies are rich adventure stories told engagingly with the best in fascinating illustrations for all ages, primary grades through high school. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the following picture book biographies. I dare your students not to get caught up in the subjects’ lives:

Out of the WoodsOut of the Woods: A True Story of an Unforgettable Event by Rebecca Bond 
Antonio Willie Giroux lived in Ontario, Canada in the early 1900’s with his mother in the boarding house she ran. He was intrigued by the guests, but even more interested in the woods and all its wildlife. But he only saw glimpses of their having been in the forest, as they escaped as far as possible when the lumberjacks and hunters appeared. Once a forest fire threatened, all of the boarding house members stood waist deep in the pond, and were joined by the fauna, which came out of hiding! When the threat was gone, all returned peacefully to their respective homes. Illustrations are rendered in sketched and painted earth tones that complement the text. This picture book biography concludes with a photo and a note by Bond, granddaughter of Giroux, that relates additional information on his life.

Earmuffs for Everyone!Earmuffs for Everyone: How Chester Greenwood Became Know as the Inventor of Earmuffs by Megan McCarthy 
In this engaging story, told directly to the reader, McCarthy writes enthusiastically and employs her usual bug eyed characters to relate how Greenwood, in the late 1800’s, improved the already invented earmuffs — and many other products, as well. On top of being busy inventing, he and his wife were women’s rights activists. Regrettably, he died rather young, but his legacy lives on. In 1977 Chester Greenwood Day became official in his home state of Maine. Tall tales abound, but McCarthy has ferreted out the fiction from the nonfiction, as she relates in her endnote. Backmatter also includes a note about patents and a bibliography.

Matisse's GardenMatisse’s Garden by Samantha Friedman, illustrated by Cristina Amodeo with reproductions of works by Henri Matisse
In spare, yet powerful text, and simple, yet fluid illustrations, this picture book biography relates the story of Matisse’s art in his final years. Made from cut, hand painted paper, Mattise’s creations are paired with Amodeo’s renditions of him at work. The book ends with additional biographical notes, identifying notes on the reproduced artwork, and photo credits. This is a small treasure of a title.

Christina Dorr About Christina Dorr

Christina Dorr is an elementary and middle school media specialist in Hilliard, OH and has a middle school classroom teaching license. She received a Ph.D. in children’s literature from the Ohio State University and is currently serving on the 2016 Coretta Scott King Book Award jury.



  1. Katie Bircher Katie Bircher says:

    We just put up another great one as our NF Review of the Week today!

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