I love love love picture book biographies. I love learning from them, leaning into their worlds, crying over the ways they depict such vibrant successes and triumphs, and using them in programming. Here’s a round-up of a few picture book biographies I’ve read recently.
Blips on a Screen: How Ralph Baer Invented TV Video Gaming and Launched a Worldwide Obsession by Kate Hannigan, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora
I knew pretty much nothing about this, and found this biography a really accessible entry. It assumes you know what a video game is, but doesn’t assume knowledge of circuitry or specific games. It’s a lighter biography, with the word count growing, but has a great amount of backmatter (including a really expansive timeline) that allows for further investigation. It’s not a knockout, stunning piece of art–but great for showing how fascinating people in history weren’t just one thing (president, political activists, athletes, etc)
Cut: How Lottie Reiniger and a Pair of Scissors Revolutionized Animation by C.E. Winters and Matt Schu
I love learning about someone brand new (to me) through a picture book biography. Lottie–a 20th century filmmaker who focused on silhouettes–was absolutely one of them. This is an upper elementary school read–better for developed readers who can handle a fair amount of text and not an “action-packed” book–but it was a great learning opportunity and made me want to see some of her work!
To Boldly Go: How Nichelle Nichols and Star Trek Helped Advance Civil Rights by Angela Dalton, illustrated by Lauren Semmer
This is another super-wordy picture book that is going to be the right book for some special reader, but maybe not everyone. I don’t know how many young readers actually know about Star Trek today, but I can see this being a book adults or grandparents get for younger readers, and I liked the way it looked at the intersection of pop culture and political movements.
A Seat at the Table: The Nancy Pelosi Show by Elisa Boxer, illustrated by Laura Freeman
I thought this was a pretty well done political-figure biography, especially for someone who is living and yes, important, but not someone who’s had the sort of career of a Civil Rights activist or anything like that. I aprpeciated the structure of it–starting with her father as mayor, but more importantly seeing the role her mother played in that and how it inspired Nancy to run. I like that it spanned a wide range without doing TOO MUCH skipping around–though I get why a kid’s book wouldn’t really care about Congressional politics of the 1990s, haha. STRANGE mouth illustrations, but that’s a whole other can of worms..
Love is Loud: How Diane Nash Led the Civil Rights Movement by Sandra Neil Wallace, illustrated by Bryan Collier
This was a gorgeous picture book biography—moving words, great illustrations—but I’m not sure what age of child I would hand this too. Honestly, I think it would do BEST in the hands of high schoolers able to learn about Civil Rights and understand the nuance throughout the book, because while it is poetic, it is not didactic, and a younger reader without the cultural context might miss the nuance. Collier’s collage-esque take on the people, which helps them jump through time and the page, is gorgeous.
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