Picture Book Biographies

A Few Great Women

helen keller

I have always loved biographies and they are a wonderful way to introduce history to kids . I know it was through biographies that I got interested in history, a love that culminated in my first bachelor’s degree. Do not under estimate the seeds that are planted when your child is young, encourage and offer diverse experiences and watch your child bloom. Biographies made me dream as a little girl , in that spirit I have chosen to feature biographies of great women this week.

A Picture Book of Helen Keller by David  A. Adler tells the story of this great heroine in a simple way without loosing the magnificence of her life.  From her illness as a young toddler, to meeting her “miracle worker” Anne Sullivan and earning the first degree ever awarded to any deaf and blind person all of the amazing things that Helen Keller acomplished is covered. The author doesn’t sanctify Helen though , they talk openly about her tantrums as a child and her naughty behavior.  My son sat for this whole book, it opened up a bedtime talk about blindness to which we turned off the light and experienced a little ourselfs. I am hoing reading this book will open more doors of empathy for my son, to recognize that we are all different with different abilities but are all capable of great things.


Rosa by Nikki Giovanni is not so much a biography, but it is most definately a historical account of one woman who changed a nation.  We all know the story of Rosa Parks but no matter how well you know the facts, reading a children’s book about it makes me cry. The author has done a fantastic job settingthe stage, explaining how Rosa Parks was not your typical heroine, she was just a seamstress, just like everyone else.  This is imparitive to the message that a single person can stand up for what is right and  make big changes. I also appreciated that the author included so much about the women who spearheaded the bus boycott. I am 32 and I feel inspired reading this as a woman, to think of the power it can have over young girls excites me. This would be a wonderful introduction to learning about the civil rights movement for kids 5-10. I did not read this book to my son, the text was far too lengthy for his 2.5 year old attention span, however it’s on the list for the future.


The Story of Anne Frank by Brenda Ralph Lewis impressed me. I struggle with how to tell such a horrifying story to young children. I should explain that this book is not geared for preschoolers, it’s a school age book , but still it’s a daunting task.  This book helps break down the facts while including details about this young girl’s personal and family life.   This balance of historical facts and Anne’s family life is the key to why this book works. There is so much horror to digest that the little details like how Anne was a bit of a trouble maker, and talked too much in class helps to tune the reader back into the very personal story.  I think this is a fantastic precursor to reading Anne Frank: The Diary Of A Young Girl , it will give all the needed backgroud for your older child to fully comprehend and appareciate the diary itself.


Eleanor: Quiet No More by Doreen Rappaport is an inspiring look at Elanor Roosevelt’s life and legacy. Readers learn about Eleanor’s childhood, being orphaned and sent away to school in England where she experienced independece for the first time. It covers her romance and marriage with FDR is a sweet, loving way that won’t make your child cringe about “mushy” things but they will understand that there was real life and partnership. There is ample information about her work  over the years as a politician’s wife as well as the First Lady.  My favorite part of the book were all the fantastic quotes woven into the biography, it connects the reader to her and not just her story.

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  1. says

    Thanks for this list – so nice to see moms with that same reading list as me! Going to look for the Eleanor book – hopefully I’ll sell the Rosa & More book collection {http://tinyurl.com/rosa-more} and purchase more! The books I list on eBay are usually duplicates – so I always hope they go to a good family with a great library!

  2. says

    Those books sound great. I just checked out “My Name Is Not Isabella” by Jennifer Fosberry from my local library. It’s the tale of a little girl (Isabella) who is constantly preteneding to be various well-known great women, such as Rosa Parks and Marie Curie and her own Mommy! At the end of the book there is a quick bio blurb for each woman. This has been a big hit and a great way to introduce these women to my very imaginitive 3 yr old daughter.
    I do have to say trying to explain the story of Rosa Parks to my wide-eyed girl was difficult and heart-wrenching.


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