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Unprecedented daring: awe-inspiring picture book biographies

Are you a daredevil at heart? Ready to take on a challenge? Are you passionate about causes and willing to jump in when you see injustice, even in the face of possible danger? If you answered “yes” to any of these, you’ll find a kindred spirit in the subjects of these two books. If you answered “no”, then these picture book biographies will be an inspiration to you and your students. Share them with elementary through middle grade children when you want to show determination and perseverance. Or when you need to take students outside of their world to see life through others’ eyes. Or when you simply want to share stunningly powerful titles with your kids. The following two titles won’t disappoint.

Malala: A Brave Girl From Pakistan and Iqbal: A Brave Boy From Pakistan by Jeanette Winter (Beach Lane, 2014)
This two-books-in-one title gives the reader a picture of two children living in Pakistan under dangerous rule. Iqbal becomes a slave in a carpet factory to repay his parents' $12 loan. Over time he learns the law requiring this slavery has been repealed. He spreads the word in his village, in Pakistan, and in America. Returning home, he is shot and killed after threats by factory owners. Malala defies Taliban law to go to school, and speaks out in Pakistan for other girls to do the same. She, too, is shot, but survives to speak globally about educational rights for girls. She’s won many awards and continues to use her voice. Winter begins each story with a short biographical note of each child and more information about their life. The illustrations are classic Winter pieces, full of emotion, expression, and action that will appeal to children.

crossing-niagaraCrossing Niagara: The Death Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin by Matt Tavares (Candlewick, 2016)
This over-sized picture book biography is illustrated with stunning paintings that vary in perspective, layout, and color palette, making the story of the Great Blondin come alive. A tightrope walker since childhood, Blondin worked for a circus but longed for a greater feat. He gained permission, prepared the ropes, and — to a huge crowd’s astonishment — walked over Niagara Falls from the United States to Canada and then back again! He repeated the performance many times, adding new tricks and even balancing his manager on his shoulders. He then toured the world performing his skills. An endnote gives further biographical information, including the fact that the Great Blondin performed over a sixty-five year period. Also includes a selected bibliography.


Christina Dorr
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.

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