The best children’s books about remarkable people who made a difference

The Books I Picked & Why

The Secret World of Walter Anderson

By Hester Bass, E. B. Lewis

The Secret World of Walter Anderson

Why this book?

The Secret World of Walter Anderson is one of my favorite picture book biographies. From the first lyrical lines, Bass draws the reader into another time and place where a solitary Mississippi artist climbs into his leaky skiff and sails off to an uninhabited island to paint the world around him. The watercolor illustrations are so wonderful, the reader will hear the crash of the waves, feel the warm sun on their shoulders, and breathe in the salty air right along with the illusive artist. It’s a brilliant story about a man who “may be the most famous American artist you’ve never heard of.”


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She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein

By Lynn Fulton, Felicita Sala

She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein

Why this book?

Everyone’s heard of Frankenstein, but a lot of people may not know that this legendary monster was created by a woman named Mary Shelley. In this fascinating picture book biography, Fulton doesn’t cover Mary Shelley’s entire life from beginning to end. Instead, she hones in on the most fascinating part—Lake Geneva, a stormy night, and a ghost-story challenge—that prompted Shelley to explore her imagination and write what has become one of the most famous monster stories of all time-- Frankenstein.


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Strange Mr. Satie: Composer of the Absurd

By M. T. Anderson, Petra Mathers

Strange Mr. Satie: Composer of the Absurd

Why this book?

I love this picture book biography about composer Erik Satie. It has all the ingredients I love—lyrical language, fascinating details, and most of all a compelling story, in this case, about a man as odd and enchanting as his music that sounded happy and sad, like “kick line songs and ancient chants, but mixed together.” His most famous musical composition is Gymnopédie. Although Satie was a musical misfit and struggled throughout his life, in the end, he succeeded, leaving the world with a legacy of unforgettable music.


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Me... Jane

By Patrick McDonnell

Me... Jane

Why this book?

Me... Jane is the epitome of a well-written children’s picture book biography. With just a few words, McDonnell beautifully captures the sweet, inspiring story of how young Jane, accompanied by her toy chimpanzee, Jubilee, dreamed of living in Africa and helping animals near and far. This simple story is about following a dream, never giving up, and then blazing a trail that others can follow. Classic. Inspiring. Perfect.


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Alice Ramsey's Grand Adventure

By Don Brown

Alice Ramsey's Grand Adventure

Why this book?

I’m a big fan of Don Brown and this is one of my favorites. In this biography, we follow the adventure of Alice Ramsey who was the first woman to drive across the United States. It was 1909, so no easy task since there weren’t any interstates, road maps, or gas stations. Yet, Alice, along with her companions, set off. Magically, Brown lets us go along with them as they ramble past farms and fields, muster their way down roads clogged with pigs, dig themselves out of muddy holes, and urge the car across vast moonlit deserts, and over the grueling Sierra Nevada mountains. Alice’s grand adventure not only celebrates a woman’s first, but takes us along for the long, extraordinary, bumpy ride. Bravo Alice! Bravo Don Brown!


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