biography book pic

25 Wonderful Picture Book Biographies for Readers of All Ages

by AuthorAmy

Picture book biographies are one of my favorite genres. They chronicle the life and times of some of the most famous people in the world, including the people behind beloved inventions. They are accessible to all levels of students – even high schoolers! Readers get a broad overview in picture book form, and then authors generously include ample back matter for further research and reading.

Take a look through this list of my top 25 favorite picture book biographies. You will find the stories behind the invention of the super soaker, the fascinating life of the first Black ballerina to dance for the American Ballet Theatre, the man behind ramen noodles, and so much more.

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1. The Brilliant Deep : The Story of Ken Nedimeyer and the Coral Restoration Foundation

By Kate Messner

The Story of Ken  Nedimyer and the Coral Restoration Foundation - Picture Book Biographies

Environmental scientist Ken Nedimeyer is working to rebuild coral reefs by hand. The efforts are surprising, involving gluing grafted corals to barren sea floors and tending them. It is an education in the importance of coral reefs to our planet’s seas and also a treatise to human hope for a brighter, greener future.

2. Queen of Physics , How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom  

By Teresa Robeson

How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom  - Picture Book Biographies

At a time when girls were not routinely educated in China, Wu Chien Shiung’s parents encouraged her love of science. She became an accomplished physicist and the first female instructor at Princeton University, among many other accolades.

3. Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando  

Written by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Kana Urbanowicz

The Story of Momofuku Ando_Picture Book Biographies

This is the story of the invention of ramen, one of the world’s most famous foods, after Momofuku Ando saw long crowds in food lines after World War II.

4. The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons  

Written by Natascha Biebow and illustrated by Steven Salerno

The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons_Picture Book Biographies

The Crayon Man tells the story of Edwin Binney, the inventor of Crayola Crayons. Binney wished to bring the magic of nature’s vibrant colors into the lives of children, succeeding with his famous box of crayons that originally sold for five cents.

5. Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles

Written by Patricia Valdez and illustrated by Felicita Sala

Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor_Picture Book Biographies

Joan Proctor was the Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum and the designer of London Zoo’s famous Reptile House. She grew up hosting tea parties for her favorite reptiles, a tradition she continued in the Reptile House, where she hosted children’s tea parties complete with a Komodo dragon guest.

6. Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist  

Written by Jess Keating and illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens

The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most  Fearless Scientist_Picture Book Biographies

Eugenie Clark earned herself the nickname “Shark Lady” after devoting her life to them. She faced the dual challenges of people who feared and hated sharks and people who didn’t think women should be scientists.

7. Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré 

Written by Aneka Aldamuy Denise and illustrated by Paola Escobar

The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré_Picture Book Biographies

Pura Belpré, New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian, immigrated to America in 1921. She began her library career as a bilingual library assistant, where her Spanish retellings of stories were wildly popular. Her distinguished career still influences readers today, and the Amerian Library Association named an award after her given annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator “whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.”

8. Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade  

By Melissa Sweet

The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade _Picture Book Biographies

Puppeteer Tony Sarg is the inventor of the famous parade balloons that are part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This is a great STEM title that goes into detail about the mechanics of the balloons as well as delving into the joy they bring to millions each year.

9. It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way

Written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Julie Morstad

How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way_Picture Book Biographies

During WWII, Gyo Fujikawa’s family was taken to a Japanese internment camp while she worked as an illustrator in New York City. Watching the nation’s prejudice tear apart her family, she wanted to find a way to include diverse children in her illustrations. She wrote and illustrated the book Babies , which was initially rejected but once published sold nearly 2 million copies. She was a trailblazer in children’s literature in an era when we are still striving for inclusive texts.

10. Mae Among the Stars  

Written by Roda Ahmed and illustrated by Stasia Burrington

Mae Among the Stars_Picture Book Biographies

Mae Jemison was the first Black woman to travel in space. Mae Among the Stars encourages children to follow their dreams no matter what detractors may say.

11. Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery

Written by Sandra Neil Wallace and illustrated by Bryan Collier

How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art  Gallery_Picture Book Biographies

Ernie Barnes grew up in the segregated South. While he was recruited to play football for an all-black university and eventually played in the NFL for the Colts, his true passion was in creating art. He got his opportunity after leaving the NFL when he was hired as the first official artist for the American Football League.

12. The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin  

Written by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley

The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin _Picture Book Biographies

Temple Grandin, who was diagnosed with autism as a young child, has a unique and powerful connection with animals. She has used this connection and the unique way her mind works to improve the lives of farm animals all over the world.

13. Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George

Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome

The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George

Joseph Boulogne was the child of a Black slave and her white slaveowner. He was able to study music in Paris, where he became a master violinist and eventually composed operas. The illustrations in this book are exquisite.

14. What Miss Mitchell Saw

Written by Hayley Barrett and illustrated by Diana Sudyka

What Miss Mitchell Saw

The subject of this picture book biography, Maria Mitchell, will be an inspiration to girls everywhere. Mitchell was the first American scientist to discover a comet, which was named after her. She used her acclaim to advocate for science and math education for girls.

15. Just Being Audrey  

Written by Margaret Cardillo and illustrated by Julia Denos

Just Being Audrey

Audrey Hepburn was America’s sweetheart and a film icon, but she did much beyond acting. Growing up in Nazi Germany inspired in her a lifelong desire to spread kindness, and she used her fame to do humanitarian work through UNICEF.

16. Ron’s Big Mission

Written by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden and illustrated by Don Tate

Ron's Big Mission

This is the story of Ron McNair, a young boy who grew up to be an astronaut on the Challenger mission. As a young boy in the segregated South, Ron found himself unable to check out books from the public library. His was able to obtain a library card through peaceful resistance, which in turn fed his love of flight.

17. The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand New Colors  

Written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tony Persiani

The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas  and Brand-New Colors

Joe and Bob Switzer invented fluorescent colors, which didn’t exist prior to 1935. Like many great inventions, their brand-new colors were invented by accident when the brothers were experimenting for a magic act. Their colors went on to be used in WWII, street signs, advertisements, and more the world over. The book itself cleverly reflects the story, as it is largely black and white until the end culminates in color.

18. Buzzing with Questions

Written by Janice N. Harrington and illustrated by Theodore Taylor III

The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner

Charles Henry Turner is notable as the first Black entomologist. His lifelong fascination with bugs, animals, plants, and all things science is chronicled in this fun book. The author includes extensive back matter for further reading.

19. John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J.R.R. Tolkien  

Written by Caroline McAlister and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

The Story of J. R. R. Tolkien

The man we known as J.R.R. Tolkien is John Ronald in this delightful and surprising picture book about the boy who grew into the man behind the most famous fantasy series of all time. As a child, John Ronald loved dragons and imagined them everywhere he went. As an adult, his imagination only grew stronger, and he used his early love of dragons to create The Hobbit .

20. Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Don Tate

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions: Barton, Chris,  Tate, Don: 9781580892971: Books

Just like the invention of fluorescent colors, the invention of the iconic toy called the Super Soaker happened by accident. Engineer Lonnie Johnson was working on cooling mechanisms when he inadvertently created what has become one of the top twenty toys of all time.

21. On a Beam of Light: A Story About Albert Einstein

Written by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

A Story of Albert Einstein

On a Beam of Light is the story of the child who grew up to be Albert Einstein. As a child, Einstein didn’t really fit in with the other children. His wild imagination made him endlessly curious about the world around him. This is a great picture book to encourage children to use their imaginations and embrace who they are inside.

22. She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein  

Written by Lynn Fulton and illustrated by Felicita Sala

How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein

On a dark and stormy night, a young girl drifts off to sleep dreaming of a monster. She is determined to beat Lord Byron in their competition to see who can write the best ghost story. She eventually goes on to write one of the great gothic novels of our time, Frankenstein .

23. Firebird

Written by Misty Copeland and illustrated by Christopher Myers


Misty Copeland was the first African-American dancer to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre. In her picture book debut, she imagines a conversation between herself and an aspiring ballerina who struggles with self-confidence. The resulting book is a positive and empowering story for children everywhere.

24. Just Like Rube Goldberg: The Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines

Written by Sarah Aronson and illustrated by Robert Neubecker

The Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the  Machines

Rube Goldberg’s father encouraged him to find a career more practical than art, so Goldberg became an engineer. After college, he decided that his passion for art could not be denied and took a job as a newspaper cartoonist. He became famous for his elaborate machines which performed simple tasks in complicated fashion.

25. The Polio Pioneer:   Dr. Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine  

Written by Linda Elovitz Marshall and illustrated by Lisa Anchin

The Polio Pioneer

This picture book biography feels particularly appropriate to read during the Covid-19 pandemic. It chronicles the life of Dr. Jonas Salk, the inventor of the polio vaccine. Dr. Salk’s legacy lives on at the medical research facility, the Salk Institute.

Other Amy’s Book Lists You’ll Love:

25 Wonderful Picture Book Biographies for All Ages


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The 50 Best Biographies of All Time

Think you know the full and complete story about George Washington, Steve Jobs, or Joan of Arc? Think again.

Headshot of Adam Morgan

Biographies have always been controversial. On his deathbed, the novelist Henry James told his nephew that his “sole wish” was to “frustrate as utterly as possible the postmortem exploiter” by destroying his personal letters and journals. And one of our greatest living writers, Hermione Lee, once compared biographies to autopsies that add “a new terror to death”—the potential muddying of someone’s legacy when their life is held up to the scrutiny of investigation.

Why do we read so many books about the lives and deaths of strangers, as told by second-hand and third-hand sources? Is it merely our love for gossip, or are we trying to understand ourselves through the triumphs and failures of others?

To keep this list from blossoming into hundreds of titles, we only included books currently in print and translated into English. We also limited it to one book per author, and one book per subject. In ranked order, here are the best biographies of all time.

Crown The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, by Tom Reiss

You’re probably familiar with The Count of Monte Cristo , the 1844 revenge novel by Alexandre Dumas. But did you know it was based on the life of Dumas’s father, the mixed-race General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, son of a French nobleman and a Haitian slave? Thanks to Reiss’s masterful pacing and plotting, this rip-roaring biography of Thomas-Alexandre reads more like an adventure novel than a work of nonfiction. The Black Count won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 2013, and it’s only a matter of time before a filmmaker turns it into a big-screen blockbuster.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret, by Craig Brown

Few biographies are as genuinely fun to read as this barnburner from the irreverent English critic Craig Brown. Princess Margaret may have been everyone’s favorite character from Netflix’s The Crown , but Brown’s eye for ostentatious details and revelatory insights will help you see why everyone in the 1950s—from Pablo Picasso and Gore Vidal to Peter Sellers and Andy Warhol—was obsessed with her. When book critic Parul Sehgal says that she “ripped through the book with the avidity of Margaret attacking her morning vodka and orange juice,” you know you’re in for a treat.

Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller, by Alec Nevala-Lee

If you want to feel optimistic about the future again, look no further than this brilliant biography of Buckminster Fuller, the “modern Leonardo da Vinci” of the 1960s and 1970s who came up with the idea of a “Spaceship Earth” and inspired Silicon Valley’s belief that technology could be a global force for good (while earning plenty of critics who found his ideas impractical). Alec Nevala-Lee’s writing is as serene and precise as one of Fuller’s geodesic domes, and his research into never-before-seen documents makes this a genuinely groundbreaking book full of surprises.

Free Press Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, by Robin D.G. Kelley

The late American jazz composer and pianist Thelonious Monk has been so heavily mythologized that it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. But Robin D. G. Kelley’s biography is an essential book for jazz fans looking to understand the man behind the myths. Monk’s family provided Kelley with full access to their archives, resulting in chapter after chapter of fascinating details, from his birth in small-town North Carolina to his death across the Hudson from Manhattan.

University of Chicago Press Frank Lloyd Wright: A Biography, by Meryle Secrest

There are dozens of books about America’s most celebrated architect, but Secrest’s 1998 biography is still the most fun to read. For one, she doesn’t shy away from the fact that Wright could be an absolute monster, even to his own friends and family. Secondly, her research into more than 100,000 letters, as well as interviews with nearly every surviving person who knew Wright, makes this book a one-of-a-kind look at how Wright’s personal life influenced his architecture.

Ralph Ellison: A Biography, by Arnold Rampersad

Ralph Ellison’s landmark novel, Invisible Man , is about a Black man who faced systemic racism in the Deep South during his youth, then migrated to New York, only to find oppression of a slightly different kind. What makes Arnold Rampersand’s honest and insightful biography of Ellison so compelling is how he connects the dots between Invisible Man and Ellison’s own journey from small-town Oklahoma to New York’s literary scene during the Harlem Renaissance.

Oscar Wilde: A Life, by Matthew Sturgis

Now remembered for his 1891 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde was one of the most fascinating men of the fin-de-siècle thanks to his poems, plays, and some of the earliest reported “celebrity trials.” Sturgis’s scintillating biography is the most encyclopedic chronicle of Wilde’s life to date, thanks to new research into his personal notebooks and a full transcript of his libel trial.

Beacon Press A Surprised Queenhood in the New Black Sun: The Life & Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks, by Angela Jackson

The poet Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1950, but because she spent most of her life in Chicago instead of New York, she hasn’t been studied or celebrated as often as her peers in the Harlem Renaissance. Luckily, Angela Jackson’s biography is full of new details about Brooks’s personal life, and how it influenced her poetry across five decades.

Atria Books Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century, by Dana Stevens

Was Buster Keaton the most influential filmmaker of the first half of the twentieth century? Dana Stevens makes a compelling case in this dazzling mix of biography, essays, and cultural history. Much like Keaton’s filmography, Stevens playfully jumps from genre to genre in an endlessly entertaining way, while illuminating how Keaton’s influence on film and television continues to this day.

Algonquin Books Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation, by Dean Jobb

Dean Jobb is a master of narrative nonfiction on par with Erik Larsen, author of The Devil in the White City . Jobb’s biography of Leo Koretz, the Bernie Madoff of the Jazz Age, is among the few great biographies that read like a thriller. Set in Chicago during the 1880s through the 1920s, it’s also filled with sumptuous period details, from lakeside mansions to streets choked with Model Ts.

Vintage Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life, by Hermione Lee

Hermione Lee’s biographies of Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton could easily have made this list. But her book about a less famous person—Penelope Fitzgerald, the English novelist who wrote The Bookshop, The Blue Flower , and The Beginning of Spring —might be her best yet. At just over 500 pages, it’s considerably shorter than those other biographies, partially because Fitzgerald’s life wasn’t nearly as well documented. But Lee’s conciseness is exactly what makes this book a more enjoyable read, along with the thrilling feeling that she’s uncovering a new story literary historians haven’t already explored.

Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath, by Heather Clark

Many biographers have written about Sylvia Plath, often drawing parallels between her poetry and her death by suicide at the age of thirty. But in this startling book, Plath isn’t wholly defined by her tragedy, and Heather Clark’s craftsmanship as a writer makes it a joy to read. It’s also the most comprehensive account of Plath’s final year yet put to paper, with new information that will change the way you think of her life, poetry, and death.

Pontius Pilate, by Ann Wroe

Compared to most biography subjects, there isn’t much surviving documentation about the life of Pontius Pilate, the Judaean governor who ordered the execution of the historical Jesus in the first century AD. But Ann Wroe leans into all that uncertainty in her groundbreaking book, making for a fascinating mix of research and informed speculation that often feels like reading a really good historical novel.

Brand: History Book Club Bolívar: American Liberator, by Marie Arana

In the early nineteenth century, Simón Bolívar led six modern countries—Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela—to independence from the Spanish Empire. In this rousing work of biography and geopolitical history, Marie Arana deftly chronicles his epic life with propulsive prose, including a killer first sentence: “They heard him before they saw him: the sound of hooves striking the earth, steady as a heartbeat, urgent as a revolution.”

Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History, by Yunte Huang

Ever read a biography of a fictional character? In the 1930s and 1940s, Charlie Chan came to popularity as a Chinese American police detective in Earl Derr Biggers’s mystery novels and their big-screen adaptations. In writing this book, Yunte Huang became something of a detective himself to track down the real-life inspiration for the character, a Hawaiian cop named Chang Apana born shortly after the Civil War. The result is an astute blend between biography and cultural criticism as Huang analyzes how Chan served as a crucial counterpoint to stereotypical Chinese villains in early Hollywood.

Random House Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, by Nancy Milford

Edna St. Vincent Millay was one of the most fascinating women of the twentieth century—an openly bisexual poet, playwright, and feminist icon who helped make Greenwich Village a cultural bohemia in the 1920s. With a knack for torrid details and creative insights, Nancy Milford successfully captures what made Millay so irresistible—right down to her voice, “an instrument of seduction” that captivated men and women alike.

Simon & Schuster Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

Few people have the luxury of choosing their own biographers, but that’s exactly what the late co-founder of Apple did when he tapped Walter Isaacson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin. Adapted for the big screen by Aaron Sorkin in 2015, Steve Jobs is full of plot twists and suspense thanks to a mind-blowing amount of research on the part of Isaacson, who interviewed Jobs more than forty times and spoke with just about everyone who’d ever come into contact with him.

Brand: Random House Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), by Stacy Schiff

The Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov once said, “Without my wife, I wouldn’t have written a single novel.” And while Stacy Schiff’s biography of Cleopatra could also easily make this list, her telling of Véra Nabokova’s life in Russia, Europe, and the United States is revolutionary for finally bringing Véra out of her husband’s shadow. It’s also one of the most romantic biographies you’ll ever read, with some truly unforgettable images, like Vera’s habit of carrying a handgun to protect Vladimir on butterfly-hunting excursions.

Greenblatt, Stephen Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, by Stephen Greenblatt

We know what you’re thinking. Who needs another book about Shakespeare?! But Greenblatt’s masterful biography is like traveling back in time to see firsthand how a small-town Englishman became the greatest writer of all time. Like Wroe’s biography of Pontius Pilate, there’s plenty of speculation here, as there are very few surviving records of Shakespeare’s daily life, but Greenblatt’s best trick is the way he pulls details from Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets to construct a compelling narrative.

Crown Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

When Kiese Laymon calls a book a “literary miracle,” you pay attention. James Baldwin’s legacy has enjoyed something of a revival over the last few years thanks to films like I Am Not Your Negro and If Beale Street Could Talk , as well as books like Glaude’s new biography. It’s genuinely a bit of a miracle how he manages to combine the story of Baldwin’s life with interpretations of Baldwin’s work—as well as Glaude’s own story of discovering, resisting, and rediscovering Baldwin’s books throughout his life.

Headshot of Adam Morgan

Adam Morgan is a literary critic and the founder of the Chicago Review of Books , Southern Review of Books , and Chicago Literary Archive . 

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10 Great Picture Book Biographies

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This list of picture book biographies is sponsored by Owlkids Books, publisher of A Likkle Miss Lou and other children’s books.

biography book pic

The best picture book biographies introduce children to the person they might want to become one day. For girls, this is particularly important, as they can see female role models who exemplify courage, innovation, kindness, creativity, and other qualities in fields that are often male-dominated. Now more than ever, new picture books celebrate diverse female leaders whose stories have been overlooked, elevating their stories into the spotlight. This list showcases ten great recent picture book biographies by and about trailblazing women—get ready to inspire the young reader in your life.

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown, Illustrated by John Parra

Monica Brown’s acclaimed biography of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo creates an entryway into the revolutionary painter’s life by building on Kahlo’s love for animals. Over the years, Kahlo kept several pets including a black cat, a parrot, two monkeys, a fawn, turkeys, and even an eagle. Brown juxtaposes the “animalitos” alongside Kahlo, showing how she exemplified some of their qualities. This picture book also details how Kahlo’s interest in Mexican and Aztec culture and history weaved into her art and love for animals.

Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams by Lesa Cline-Ransome, Illustrated by James E. Ransome

The iconic sisters Venus and Serena Williams are athletes for the ages. In  Game Changers , Lesa Cline-Ransome lets readers into the lives of these the Williams sisters, immersing us in their early training and ascent to the top of tennis. Cline-Ransome doesn’t shy away from the discrimination Venus and Serena faced as people of color, and instead shows how the sisters changed the conversation with their once-in-a-generation skills.

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca and Daniel Rieley

A champion of neurodiversity, Dr. Temple Grandin received her autism diagnosis young. In  The Girl Who Thought in Picture s , Julia Finley Mosca dials into Temple’s childhood as a young neurodiverse person, one whose creative thinking led to world-changing insights and discoveries. Mosca celebrates Grandin’s divergent thinking while also helping readers understand the stress of sensory overload and physical contact. The playfully rhyming text is catchy and fun, perfect for readers who enjoy rhythm in their picture books.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Annika Aldamuy Denise, Illustrated by Paola Escobar

Introduce children to the power of libraries—and the bold, compassionate librarians who lead them—with  Planting Stories . This diverse picture book biography illuminates New York Public Library’s first Puerto Rican librarian, Pura Belpré. After her immigration to America in 1921, Bulpré took a job in New York City’s public library system, advocating for bilingual materials and leading inclusive story times. Kids reading Planting Stories will appreciate the ways that libraries are vital resources for communities.  Planting Stories  weaves in Spanish language, and a Spanish edition is also available.

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s most fearless scientist by Jess Keating, Illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens

Aquariums are wondrous places, especially for children who are captivated by the surreal scenes and mysterious creatures drifting through the water. For Japanese American Eugenie Clark, seeing a shark tank was a formative experience. From that day on, Clark was obsessed with sharks. At a time when a career in science was largely limited to men, Clark became an ichthyologist (a scientist who specializes in fish) and gathered crucial research on sharks. Known as “Shark Lady,” Clark helped establish methods of scuba diving for research. In  Shark Lady , readers learn of Clark’s background and career, including her efforts to promote marine conservation.

She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lynn Fulton and Felicita Sala

The legendary origins of Mary Shelley’s  Frankenstein are brought to life in this excellent picture book biography. With Sala’s moody, atmospheric illustrations, Fulton sets the stage for the now-famous contest when poet Lord Byron challenged other writers to create a ghost story. In  She Made a Monster , Fulton teases out the threads of influence that Mary Shelley would draw on to craft her chilling tale, an early work of science fiction and horror. Here we see Shelley yearning to live up to her mother, an acclaimed feminist, and her father, a notable author.

Turning Pages by Sonia Sotomayor, Illustrated by Lulu Delacre

I’ll never forget when I heard that Sonia Sotomayor had been named to the Supreme Court. The first Hispanic and Latina justice on the Supreme Court, Sotomayor is also one of only four women to serve as Justice on the Court’s history. The announcement that her nomination was confirmed gave me hope that we will see more diverse leaders shaping the country. In  Turning Pages , Justice Sotomayor tells the story of her personal journey to get to the Supreme Court.  Turning Pages empowers kids to see how they can take their earliest steps on a path to a place where they break barriers.

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Ekua Holmes

A Caldecott Honor Book, this biography tells the story of Fannie Lou Hamer, a Civil Rights leader. Hamer played a crucial role in the Freedom Summer of 1964 and gave an influential, televised speech at the 19654 Democratic National Convention to raise awareness of the Freedom Democrats, which she helped found. Weatherford’s poetic writing is expertly paired to Ekua Holmes’s vibrant mixed media illustration.

The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter

The first time I visited the Guggenheim Museum was a mind-bending experience. Seeing the breathtaking designs of the late Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid made me reconsider the way I see the world. In  The World Is Not a Rectangle , Jeanette Winter introduces young readers to the remarkable life and work of this visionary artist. Winter charts how the sights of Hadid’s childhood—Persian carpet design, Iraqi landscapes, and more—made an impression on Hadid and shaped her style as she blossomed into a leading architect. This  Washington Post Best Children’s Book of 2017 also addresses the skepticism and doubt Hadid faced as a Muslim woman in a white male-dominated industry.

Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity! by Sarah Suzuki and Ellen Weinstein

This vivid picture book biography of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is authored by Sarah Suzuki, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art. On one pivotal day of her childhood in Japan, Kusama had a striking vision that the entire world was covered in polka dots. Influenced by Abstract impressionism, Kusuma later studied art, developing her look. Working with dots became her signature in a long career that has spanned everything from painting to poetry and performance art. In From Here to Infinity , readers are treated to Suzuki’s expert take on Kusama’s life, with punchy illustrations by Ellen Weinstein.

For more  Book Riot coverage of diverse and feminist children’s books, check out:

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APRIL 1, 2021

by Anna Harber Freeman & Barbara Gonzales ; illustrated by Aphelandra

A deserved celebration of a famous Tewa potter who elevated her craft to fine art. Full review >


SEPT. 28, 2021

by Benjamin Giroux ; illustrated by Roz MacLean

Giroux expresses core truths through his insightful and heartfelt poem. Full review >


FEB. 2, 2021

by Julie Leung ; illustrated by Julie Kwon

Another welcome biography of an Asian American contributor to U.S. history. Full review >


JUNE 8, 2021

by Areli Morales ; illustrated by Luisa Uribe

Powerful in its cleareyed optimism. Full review >


SEPT. 7, 2021

by Annette Bay Pimentel ; illustrated by Magaly Morales

A vibrant portrayal of an important figure. Full review >


OCT. 19, 2021

by Charles R. Smith Jr. ; illustrated by Edel Rodriguez

This creative, impassioned, in-your-face biography is as on fire as Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. Full review >


MARCH 2, 2021

by Traci Sorell ; illustrated by Natasha Donovan

Liftoff. A biography that lands beyond the stars! Full review >


by Traci N. Todd ; illustrated by Christian Robinson

Do not miss this complex story of an American legend. Full review >


JAN. 12, 2021

by Alicia D. Williams ; illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara

This introduction to an American icon feels just right. Full review >


by Rita Winkler with Mark Winkler and Helen Winkler ; illustrated by Rita Winkler & Leon Balaban

For all art bookshelves. Full review >


OCT. 5, 2021

by Kao Kalia Yang ; illustrated by Rachel Wada

A visually striking, compelling recollection. Full review >

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Reading Middle Grade

Books for Kids and Grown Ups

Book Lists , Picture Book Lists · May 2, 2022

Best Picture Book Biographies

Biographies helped build my love for reading and I remember reading Hilary Clinton’s biography as a young teen (I skipped lots of portions and loved the pictures and family stories the most). These picture book biographies can teach kids about history, historical figures, and inspiring examples of people who beat the odds in different spheres of life. What a plus that they have beautiful pictures to look at as they enjoy these stories.

Best Picture Book Biographies

Inspiring Picture Book Biographies to Read

Here are 45 best picture book biographies to have on your radar:

I Color Myself Different

I Color Myself Different - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: April 5, 2022

When Colin Kaepernick was five years old, he was given a simple school assignment: draw a picture of yourself and your family. What young Colin does next with his brown crayon changes his whole world and worldview, providing a valuable lesson on embracing and celebrating his Black identity through the power of radical self-love and knowing your inherent worth.

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: November 1, 2011

2012 Robert F. Sibert Medal Winner

Winner of the 2012 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award Everyone’s a New Yorker on Thanksgiving Day, when young and old rise early to see what giant new balloons will fill the skies for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Who first invented these “upside-down puppets”? Meet Tony Sarg, puppeteer extraordinaire! In brilliant collage illustrations, the award-winning artist Melissa Sweet tells the story of the puppeteer Tony Sarg, capturing his genius, his dedication, his zest for play, and his long-lasting gift to America—the inspired helium balloons that would become the trademark of Macy’s Parade.

My Little Golden Book About Betty White

My Little Golden Book About Betty White

Published: September 28, 2021

This Little Golden Book about Betty White–television star, comedian, animal lover, and game show competitor–is a celebration of the beloved woman! A great read-aloud for young girls and boys–as well as their parents and grandparents who grew up watching Betty on  The Mary Tyler Moore Show  and  The Golden Girls .

Stacey’s Extraordinary Words

Stacey’s Extraordinary Words - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: December 28, 2021

Stacey is a little girl who loves words more than anything. She loves reading them, sounding them out, and finding comfort in them when things are hard. 

But when her teacher chooses her to compete in the local spelling bee, she isn’t as excited as she thought she’d be. What if she messes up? Or worse, if she can’t bring herself to speak up, like sometimes happens when facing bullies at school? 

Stacey will learn that win or lose . . . her words are powerful, and sometimes  perseverance  is the most important word of all. 

Respect: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul

Published: August 25, 2020

Aretha Franklin was born to sing. The daughter of a pastor and a gospel singer, her musical talent was clear from her earliest days in her father’s Detroit church where her soaring voice spanned more than three octaves.

Her string of hit songs earned her the title “the Queen of Soul,” multiple Grammy Awards, and a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But Aretha didn’t just raise her voice in song, she also spoke out against injustice and fought for civil rights.

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: September 12, 2017

Where is our historian to give us our side?  Arturo asked. Amid the scholars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance stood an Afro–Puerto Rican named Arturo Schomburg. This law clerk’s life’s passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora and bring to light the achievements of people of African descent through the ages. When Schomburg’s collection became so big it began to overflow his house (and his wife threatened to mutiny), he turned to the New York Public Library, where he created and curated a collection that was the cornerstone of a new Negro Division. A century later, his groundbreaking collection, known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, has become a beacon to scholars all over the world.

Joey: The Story of Joe Biden

Joey: The Story of Joe Biden

Published: June 30, 2020

Joe Biden grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the oldest of four children. His parents always encouraged him and his siblings to be independent and strong. The family moved to Wilmington, Delaware, where at twenty-nine, Biden was elected one the youngest United States Senators ever elected. This is his story.

Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice

Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice

When Kamala Harris was young, she often accompanied her parents to civil rights marches—so many, in fact, that when her mother asked a frustrated Kamala what she wanted, the young girl responded with: “Freedom!”

As Kamala grew from a small girl in Oakland to a senator running for president, it was this long-fostered belief in freedom and justice for all people that shaped her into the inspiring figure she is today. From fighting for the use of a soccer field in middle school to fighting for the people of her home state in Congress, Senator Harris used her voice to speak up for what she believed in and for those who were otherwise unheard. And now this dedication has led her all the way to being elected Vice President of the United States.

The Noisy Paint Box

The Noisy Paint Box - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: February 11, 2014

Vasya Kandinsky was a proper little boy: he studied math and history, he practiced the piano, he sat up straight and was perfectly polite. And when his family sent him to art classes, they expected him to paint pretty houses and flowers—like a proper artist.   But as Vasya opened his paint box and began mixing the reds, the yellows, the blues, he heard a strange sound—the swirling colors trilled like an orchestra tuning up for a symphony! And as he grew older, he continued to  hear  brilliant colors singing and  see  vibrant sounds dancing. But was Vasya brave enough to put aside his proper still lifes and portraits and paint . . .  music?

Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.? - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: December 8, 2020

The chronology and themes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s meaningful life are presented in a masterfully succinct text, with just a few sentences per page. The fresh, stylized illustrations are sure to captivate young readers and adults alike. With a read-aloud biographical summary in the back, this age-appropriate introduction honors and shares the life and work of one of the most influential civil rights activists of our time.

Baseball Biographies for Kids

Baseball Biographies for Kids

Published: May 17, 2022

It’s the bottom of the ninth, bases are loaded, and your team is down by three―who do you want coming up to bat?  Baseball Biographies for Kids  answers this question and more!

Bursting with statistics and impressive feats from the greatest players of the last 60 years, this lineup of inspirational baseball biographies shows you what it takes to be a real MVP. Discover the ultimate dream team as you explore the best pros for each position. You’ll also get quick looks into some truly legendary baseball players and lots of fun facts!

Itzhak: The Boy Who Loved the Violin

Itzhak: A Boy Who Loved the Violin

Published: May 12, 2020

Before becoming one of the greatest violinists of all time, Itzhak Perlman was simply a boy who loved music. Raised by a poor immigrant family in a tiny Tel Aviv apartment, baby Itzhak was transformed by the sounds from his family’s kitchen radio—graceful classical symphonies, lively klezmer tunes, and soulful cantorial chants. The rich melodies and vibrant rhythms spoke to him like magic, filling his mind with vivid rainbows of color. After begging his parents for an instrument, Itzhak threw his heart and soul into playing the violin. Despite enormous obstacles—including a near-fatal bout of polio that left him crippled for life—Itzhak persevered, honing his extraordinary gift. When he performed on the  Ed Sullivan Show  sat only 13, audiences around the world were mesmerized by the warmth, joy, and passion in every note. Gorgeously illustrated with extensive back matter, this picture-book biography recounts Itzhak’s childhood journey—from a boy with a dream to an internationally acclaimed violin virtuoso.

All the Way to the Top

All the Way to the Top - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: March 10, 2020

Jennifer Keelan was determined to make a change―even if she was just a kid. She never thought her wheelchair could slow her down, but the way the world around her was built made it hard to do even simple things. Like going to school, or eating lunch in the cafeteria.

Jennifer knew that everyone deserves a voice! Then the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law that would make public spaces much more accessible to people with disabilities, was proposed to Congress. And to make sure it passed, Jennifer went to the steps of the Capitol building in Washington DC to convince them.

And, without her wheelchair, she climbed.

How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion

How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion

Published: April 7, 2020

From Ashima Shiraishi, one of the world’s youngest and most skilled climbers, comes a true story of strength and perseverance–in rock climbing and in life. To a rock climber, a boulder is called a “problem,” and you solve it by climbing to the top. There are twists and turns, falls and scrapes, and obstacles that seem insurmountable until you learn to see the possibilities within them. And then there is the moment of triumph, when there’s nothing above you but sky and nothing below but a goal achieved. Ashima Shiraishi draws on her experience as a world-class climber in this story that challenges readers to tackle the problems in their own lives and rise to greater heights than they would have ever thought possible.

A is for Awesome!: 23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World

A is for Awesome!: 23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: February 5, 2019

Why stick with plain old  A ,  B ,  C  when you can have  Amelia  (Earhart),  Malala ,  Tina  (Turner),  Ruth  (Bader Ginsburg), all the way to  eXtraordinary You —and the  Zillion  of adventures you will go on? Instagram superstar Eva Chen, author of  Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes , is back with an alphabet board book depicting feminist icons in  A Is for Awesome: 23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World , featuring spirited illustrations by Derek Desierto.

The Cat Man of Aleppo

The Cat Man of Aleppo

Published: April 14, 2020

Aleppo’s city center no longer echoes with the rich, exciting sounds of copper-pot pounding and traditional sword sharpening. His neighborhood is empty–except for the many cats left behind. Alaa loves Aleppo, but when war comes his neighbors flee to safety, leaving their many pets behind. Alaa decides to stay–he can make a difference by driving an ambulance, carrying the sick and wounded to safety. One day he hears hungry cats calling out to him on his way home. They are lonely and scared, just like him. He feeds and pets them to let them know they are loved. The next day more cats come, and then even more! There are too many for Alaa to take care of on his own. Alaa has a big heart, but he will need help from others if he wants to keep all of his new friends safe.

Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant, and Artist

Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant, and Artist - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: September 24, 2019

Before he became an artist named Tyrus Wong, he was a boy named Wong Geng Yeo. He traveled across a vast ocean from China to America with only a suitcase and a few papers. Not papers for drawing–which he loved to do–but immigration papers to start a new life. Once in America, Tyrus seized every opportunity to make art, eventually enrolling at an art institute in Los Angeles. Working as a janitor at night, his mop twirled like a paintbrush in his hands. Eventually, he was given the opportunity of a lifetime–and using sparse brushstrokes and soft watercolors, Tyrus created the iconic backgrounds of  Bambi . Julie Leung and Chris Sasaki perfectly capture the beautiful life and work of a painter who came to this country with dreams and talent–and who changed the world of animation forever.

My Little Golden Book About Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My Little Golden Book About Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Published: December 1, 2020

This Little Golden Book is a compelling introduction to an inspiring woman, written for the youngest readers. From a young age, Ruth Bader Ginsburg knew that she wanted to fight for girls and women to have equal rights. She studied and worked very hard and became just the second woman–and the first Jewish woman–to be a United States Supreme Court Justice. This is a terrific read for future trailblazers and their parents!

The Story of Jane Goodall: A Biography Book for New Readers

The Story of Jane Goodall: A Biography Book for New Readers - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: September 14, 2021

Jane Goodall is a celebrated scientist for her studies of chimpanzees in the forests of Africa. Before she observed chimps and helped save them from losing their home, Jane was a curious kid who loved learning about animals. She showed people that women could be scientists, just like men, and fought to follow her dream of working with wild chimps. Explore how Jane Goodall went from being a young nature lover in England to the most important chimpanzee expert in the world.

Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secret of the Atom

Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secret of the Atom - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: October 8, 2019

When Wu Chien Shiung was born in China 100 years ago, most girls did not attend school; no one considered them as smart as boys. But her parents felt differently. Giving her a name meaning “Courageous Hero,” they encouraged her love of learning and science. This engaging biography follows Wu Chien Shiung as she battles sexism and racism to become what  Newsweek  magazine called the “Queen of Physics” for her work on beta decay. Along the way, she earned the admiration of famous scientists like Enrico Fermi and Robert Oppenheimer and became the first woman hired as an instructor by Princeton University, the first woman elected President of the American Physical Society, the first scientist to have an asteroid named after her when she was still alive, and many other honors.

The Story of Simone Biles: A Biography Book for New Readers

The Story of Simone Biles: A Biography Book for New Readers

Published: September 29, 2020

Simone Biles has been called the greatest gymnast of all time, winning five Olympic and 25 World Champion medals by age 22. Before she wowed the world with her incredible gymnastics skills, Simone was an energetic young girl who dreamed of becoming a top gymnast. She trained for hours every day and made many sacrifices to pursue her goals. Explore how Simone Biles went from being a kid growing up in Texas to an Olympic athlete who has won more gymnastics medals than anyone in history.

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks - Best Picture Book Biographies

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917–2000) is known for her poems about “real life.” She wrote about love, loneliness, family, and poverty—showing readers how just about anything could become a beautiful poem. Exquisite follows Gwendolyn from early girlhood into her adult life, showcasing her desire to write poetry from a very young age. This picture-book biography explores the intersections of race, gender, and the ubiquitous poverty of the Great Depression—all with a lyrical touch worthy of the subject. Gwendolyn Brooks was the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize, receiving the award for poetry in 1950. And in 1958, she was named the poet laureate of Illinois. A bold artist who from a very young age dared to dream, Brooks will inspire young readers to create poetry from their own lives

The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver

The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver

Published: January 14, 2020

When George Washington Carver was just a young child, he had a secret: a garden of his own.

Here, he rolled dirt between his fingers to check if plants needed more rain or sun. He protected roots through harsh winters, so plants could be reborn in the spring. He trimmed flowers, spread soil, studied life cycles. And it was in this very place that George’s love of nature sprouted into something so much more—his future.

Gene Barretta’s moving words and Frank Morrison’s beautiful paintings tell the inspiring life and history of George Washington Carver, from a baby born into slavery to celebrated botanist, scientist, and inventor. His passion and determination are the seeds to this lasting story about triumph over hardship—a tale that begins in a secret garden.

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreno Played The Piano for President Lincoln

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: August 27, 2019

As a little girl, Teresa Carreño loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her up, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals. Then a revolution in Venezuela forced her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the people she met spoke Spanish. Worst of all, there was fighting in her new home, too—the Civil War.

Still, Teresa kept playing, and soon she grew famous as the talented Piano Girl who could play anything from a folk song to a sonata. So famous, in fact, that President Abraham Lincoln wanted her to play at the White House! Yet with the country torn apart by war, could Teresa’s music bring comfort to those who needed it most?

Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille

Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: September 6, 2016

Louis Braille was just five years old when he lost his sight. He was a clever boy, determined to live like everyone else, and what he wanted more than anything was to be able to read.   Even at the school for the blind in Paris, there were no books for him.   And so he invented his own alphabet—a whole new system for writing that could be read by touch. A system so ingenious that it is still used by the blind community today.

It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way

It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way

Published: January 1, 2019

Growing up quiet and lonely at the beginning of the twentieth century, Gyo learned from her relatives the ways in which both women and Japanese people lacked opportunity. Her teachers and family believed in her and sent her to art school and later Japan, where her talent flourished. But while Gyo’s career grew and led her to work for Walt Disney Studios, World War II began, and with it, her family’s internment. But Gyo never stopped fighting — for herself, her vision, her family and her readers — and later wrote and illustrated the first children’s book to feature children of different races interacting together.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: January 15, 2019

When she came to America in 1921, Pura Belpré carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular retellings into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and storytellers continue to share her tales and celebrate Pura’s legacy.

Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles

Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: March 13, 2018

Back in the days of long skirts and afternoon teas, young Joan Procter entertained the most unusual party guests: slithery and scaly ones, who turned over teacups and crawled past the crumpets….  While other girls played with dolls, Joan preferred the company of reptiles. She carried her favorite lizard with her everywhere–she even brought a crocodile to school! When Joan grew older, she became the Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum. She went on to design the Reptile House at the London Zoo, including a home for the rumored-to-be-vicious komodo dragons. There, just like when she was a little girl, Joan hosted children’s tea parties–with her komodo dragon as the guest of honor.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

Published: January 7, 2020

In 1848, Mary Walker was born into slavery. At age 15, she was freed, and by age 20, she was married and had her first child. By age 68, she had worked numerous jobs, including cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and selling sandwiches to raise money for her church. At 114, she was the last remaining member of her family. And at 116, she learned to read. From Rita Lorraine Hubbard and rising star Oge More comes the inspirational story of Mary Walker, a woman whose long life spanned from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, and who–with perseverance and dedication–proved that you’re never too old to learn.

Dinosaur Lady: The Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Paleontologist

Dinosaur Lady: The Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Paleontologist - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: July 7, 2020

Mary Anning loved scouring the beach near her home in England for shells and fossils. She fearlessly climbed over crumbling cliffs and rocky peaks, searching for new specimens. One day, something caught Mary’s eye.

Bones. Dinosaur Bones.

Mary’s discoveries rocked the world of science and helped create a brand-new field of study: paleontology. But many people believed women couldn’t be scientists, so Mary wasn’t given the credit she deserved. Nevertheless, Mary kept looking and learning more, making discoveries that reshaped scientific beliefs about the natural world.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: December 5, 2017

An important book for all ages,  Little Leaders  educates and inspires as it relates true stories of forty trailblazing black women in American history. Illuminating text paired with irresistible illustrations bring to life both iconic and lesser-known female figures of Black history such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash. Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things – bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn’t always accept them. The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something  big  and amazing, inspiring generations to come.

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Published: May 3, 2016

You know the Super Soaker. It’s one of top twenty toys of all time. And it was invented entirely by accident. Trying to create a new cooling system for refrigerators and air conditioners, impressive inventor Lonnie Johnson instead created the mechanics for the iconic toy.   A love for rockets, robots, inventions, and a mind for creativity began early in Lonnie Johnson’s life. Growing up in a house full of brothers and sisters, persistence and a passion for problem solving became the cornerstone for a career as an engineer and his work with NASA. But it is his invention of the Super Soaker water gun that has made his most memorable splash with kids and adults.

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: May 30, 2017

Throughout United States history, there have always been women who have spoken out for what’s right, even when they have to fight to be heard. In this book, Chelsea Clinton celebrates thirteen American women who helped shape our country through their tenacity, sometimes through speaking out, sometimes by staying seated, sometimes by captivating an audience. They all certainly persisted.   She Persisted  is for everyone who has ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down, for everyone who has ever tried to reach for the stars but was told to sit down, and for everyone who has ever been made to feel unworthy or unimportant or small.   With vivid, compelling art by Alexandra Boiger, this book shows readers that no matter what obstacles may be in their paths, they shouldn’t give up on their dreams. Persistence is power.

Mae Among the Stars

Mae Among the Stars

Published: January 9, 2018

A great classroom and bedtime read-aloud,  Mae Among the Stars  is the perfect book for young readers who have big dreams and even bigger hearts.

When Little Mae was a child, she dreamed of dancing in space. She imagined herself surrounded by billions of stars, floating, gliding, and discovering.

She wanted to be an astronaut.

Her mom told her, “If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.”

Little Mae’s curiosity, intelligence, and determination, matched with her parents’ encouraging words, paved the way for her incredible success at NASA as the first African American woman to travel in space.

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: January 16, 2018

Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math… really  good.

They participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America’s first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world.

In this beautifully illustrated picture book edition, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, known as “colored computers,” and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career.

“Finally, the extraordinary lives of four African American women who helped NASA put the first men in space is available for picture book readers,” proclaims Brightly in their article “18 Must-Read Picture Books of 2018.” “Will inspire girls and boys alike to love math, believe in themselves, and reach for the stars.”

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofusu Yeboah

Emmanuel's Dream

Published: January 6, 2015

Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled.

Thompson’s lyrical prose and Qualls’s bold collage illustrations offer a powerful celebration of triumphing over adversity.

Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13

Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: June 19, 2018

You’ve likely heard of the historic Apollo 13 moon landing. But do you know about the mathematical genius who made sure that Apollo 13 returned safely home?

As a child, Katherine Johnson loved to count. She counted the steps on the road, the number of dishes and spoons she washed in the kitchen sink, everything! Boundless, curious, and excited by calculations, young Katherine longed to know as much as she could about math, about the universe.

The Crayon Man: the True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons

The Crayon Man

Published: March 19, 2019

What child doesn’t love to hold a crayon in their hands?  But children didn’t always have such magical boxes of crayons.  Before Edwin Binney set out to change things, children couldn’t really even draw in color. Here’s the true story of an inventor who so loved nature’s vibrant colors that he found a way to bring the outside world to children – in a bright green box for only a nickel! With experimentation, and a special knack for listening, Edwin Binney and his dynamic team at Crayola created one of the world’s most enduring, best-loved childhood toys – empowering children to dream in COLOR!

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist

Shark Lady - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: June 6, 2017

Eugenie Clark fell in love with sharks from the first moment she saw them at the aquarium. She couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than studying these graceful creatures. But Eugenie quickly discovered that many people believed sharks to be ugly and scary―and they didn’t think women should be scientists.

Determined to prove them wrong, Eugenie devoted her life to learning about sharks. After earning several college degrees and making countless discoveries, Eugenie wrote herself into the history of science, earning the nickname “Shark Lady.” Through her accomplishments, she taught the world that sharks were to be admired rather than feared and that women can do anything they set their minds to.

The Tree Lady

The Tree Lady - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: September 17, 2013

Katherine Olivia Sessions never thought she’d live in a place without trees. After all, Kate grew up among the towering pines and redwoods of Northern California. But after becoming the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science, she took a job as a teacher far south in the dry desert town of San Diego. Where there were almost no trees.

Kate decided that San Diego needed trees more than anything else. So this trailblazing young woman singlehandedly started a massive movement that transformed the town into the green, garden-filled oasis it is today. Now, more than 100 years after Kate first arrived in San Diego, her gorgeous gardens and parks can be found all over the city.

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin

Published: August 29, 2017

When young Temple was diagnosed with autism, no one expected her to talk, let alone become one of the most powerful voices in modern science. Yet, the determined visual thinker did just that. Her unique mind allowed her to connect with animals in a special way, helping her invent groundbreaking improvements for farms around the globe! The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin is the first book in a brand new educational series about the inspirational lives of amazing scientists. In addition to the illustrated rhyming tale, you’ll find a complete biography, fun facts, a colorful timeline of events, and even a note from Temple herself!

Stephen Curry: The Boy Who Never Gave Up

Stephen Curry - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: August 16, 2016

The Boy Who Never Gave Up  is the inspiring true story of NBA superstar Stephen Curry. This Fully illustrated picture book biography tells the story of a young boy who many said was too short to play in high school, too weak to play in college and not good enough to play in the NBA.

Against all odds, this small boy who follows his dream, not only makes it to the NBA, but becomes one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball.

Before She Was Harriet

Before She Was Harriet - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: November 7, 2017

We know her today as Harriet Tubman, but in her lifetime she was called by many names. As General Tubman she was a Union spy. As Moses she led hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad. As Minty she was a slave whose spirit could not be broken. As Araminta she was a young girl whose father showed her the stars and the first steps on the path to freedom.

An evocative poem and stunning watercolors come together to honor a woman of humble origins whose courage and compassion make her a larger than life hero.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Published: January 2, 2013

In this lush, acclaimed book, award-winning author-illustrator Kadir Nelson tells the story of global icon and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela in poignant free verse and glorious illustrations.

It is the story of a young boy’s determination to change South Africa, and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country. Mandela believed in equality for all people, no matter the color of their skin. Readers will be inspired by Mandela’s triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world.

Rosa - Best Picture Book Biographies

Published: October 1, 2005

Fifty years after her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus, Mrs. Rosa Parks is still one of the most important figures in the American civil rights movement. This picture- book tribute to Mrs. Parks is a celebration of her courageous action and the events that followed.

There they are: 45 of the best picture book biographies to read today! Which of these books have you read and loved? What did I miss?

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Julia Whelan Audiobooks To Start Listening To

Penguin Random House

Picture Book Biography Series

For almost thirty years, David Adler’s Picture Book Biography series has profiled famous people who changed the world. Colorful, kid-friendly illustrations combine with Adler’s “expert mixtures of facts and personality” ( Booklist ) to introduce young readers to history through compelling biographies of presidents, heroes, inventors, explorers, and adventurers. These books are ideal for first and second graders interested in history or who need reliable sources for school book reports. 

A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. by by David A. Adler; illustrated by Robert Casilla

Picture Book Biography Series (29 Titles)

A Picture Book of Alexander Hamilton

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Top 10 Biography And Autobiography Picture Books

Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire

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The Waldock Way

Biography Picture Books for Your Homeschool

Even before becoming a homeschooler I knew the importance of reading aloud. I vividly remember reading books to my ginormous pregnant belly (yes I was that mom).

But it was not until I became a homeschooler and read Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook then subsequently stumbled upon the amazing Sarah Mackenzie at Read Aloud Revival that I realized just how important the time spent reading aloud really was.

I was determined then that books would be the staple for everything in our homeschool. We would learn everything we could in all of the subjects with books as our base.

More than forty biography picture books your kids will love – an extensive list of biographies for elementary school.

For us picture books are the perfect place to linger. Emily is an auditory learner and I am a visual learner. So we use beautiful picture books to bridge our gap. This way we are both getting what we need and learning together along the way.

This series will feature our favorite picture books broken down into academic subjects so you can learn with books along with us! This post will be all about biography based picture books, these are a favorite for learning about history in our homeschool.


  Hidden Figures: The American Dream and   Shark Lady: The True Story of   I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes   The Girl Who Thought in Pictures:   Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan   The Boy Who Loved Math: The   Dinosaur Lady: The Daring Discoveries of   Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper   On a Beam of Light: A   William Still and His Freedom Stories:   Marie’s Ocean: Marie Tharp Maps the   A Race Around the World: The   Finding Narnia: The Story of C.   Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous   Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson   Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind   Stephen Curry: The Children’s Book: The   The Crayon Man: The True Story   Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played   Ada Byron Lovelace & the Thinking   Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code   Bread for Words: A Frederick Douglass   Six Dots: A Story of Young   W Is For Webster: Noah Webster

biography book pic

  Mr. Ferris and His Wheel   Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of   Small Wonders: Jean-Henri Fabre and His   Trombone Shorty   Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist: The True   The Tree Lady: The True Story   The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with   Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of   The Power of Her Pen: The   Malala’s Magic Pencil   Bard of Avon: The Story of   Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration

  Rescatando palabras (Digging for Words Spanish   Rachel Carson and Her Book That   The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors   The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael   The Boo-Boos That Changed the World:   Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman   Before She Was Harriet   Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen: The Story   Fly High!: The Story of Bessie   Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian   Finding Winnie   Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist: The True

biography book pic

  Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote   So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long   The Secret Garden of George Washington   Jump at the Sun: The True   The Real Mccoy, The: Life of   Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells:   Eleanor Makes Her Mark   Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the   Coretta Scott   She Caught the Light: Williamina Stevens   No Truth Without Ruth: The Life   The Only Woman in the Photo:   Molly, by Golly!: The Legend of   Thanks to Frances Perkins: Fighter for   Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos (1)   Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien


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Imagination Soup

Best Picture Book Biographies

This post may contain affiliate links.

Introduce kids to ordinary people who did amazing things by reading picture book biographies. These books are inspirational narrative nonfiction , written like a story, appealing to children, and beautifully illustrated.

A reading strategy I like to use with children reading nonfiction is connecting to background knowledge. As you read these biographies, both picture books for preschool and elementary ages as well as biographical story collections for upper elementary and middle school, help your kids connect to what they’re reading. 

Start with prompts like:

How are you like or not like this person?

Do you know someone who is like this person?

What other biographies or famous people does this person remind you of?

Reading biographies is informative and instructive. We learn more about people which helps us learn more about ourselves– who we are and who we want to be.

The Best Picture Book Biographies for Kids

Table of Contents:

Artists and Musicians

Famous americans.

STEM (Scientists, coders, engineers, and mathematicians)

biography book pic

Contenders: Two Native Baseball Players, One World Series by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Arigon Starr Learn about two Native baseball players who loved the game but endured huge racism from everywhere — name calling, derogatory chants, and more. Charles Bender and John Meyers were groundbreaking athletes. You’ll read their history and how they got to the 1911 World Series. Interesting and important.

Picture Book Biographies About Athletes

More Picture Book Biographies & Collections

biography book pic

Melissa Taylor, MA, is the creator of Imagination Soup. She's a mother, teacher, author, and freelance writer. She writes Imagination Soup and freelances for publications online and in print, including Brightly for Penguin Random House, USA Today Health, Colorado Parent, and Parenting.

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Wow, just wow. Thank you. I was googling and googling for a specific kind of pb bio, and nothing was coming up. Found 3 of what I was looking for in your list

I’m so happy to hear this list was helpful!

What an amazing list! Thank you so much for sharing!

Glad it’s helpful!

Ideas, Inspiration, and Giveaways for Teachers

We Are Teachers

The How and Why of Using Picture Book Biographies in the Classroom

Bring historical figures to life!

Samantha Cleaver

As a genre, picture book biographies have taken off in recent years. There are biographies of famous people ( Vincent Can’t Sleep by Barb Rosenstock) and obscure people ( The Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom by Teresa Robeson). Some biographies span entire lives ( Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder) or one-day events ( A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr and the Speech that Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein). Whatever you’re planning to teach, chances are, you’ll find a biography to go with it.

Picture book biographies are a great way to help bring historical figures to life, and to encourage students to ask deeper questions about a person, time period, or event. One thing to know: as a read aloud, they are long and often complex books, so it’s good to plan to read one book across multiple days.

Below find 4 reading skills that picture book biographies help teach, and 5 ways to use picture book biographies with your class (think: grades 2-5).

Just a heads up, WeAreTeachers may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. We only recommend items our team loves!

4 Important Skills Readers Learn from Picture Book Biographies

These skills will make picture book biographies an integral part of your reading curriculum.

1. How to Approach Narrative Nonfiction

biography book pic

Narrative nonfiction requires reading skills from both fiction and nonfiction. Students have to identify details that are true, and bring their background knowledge about a time period or person to a text to better understand it. They also have to follow the narrative of a person’s life or experience.

Biography to Try: Reading a picture book biography that tells a narrative, like Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere by Barb Rosenstock, gives students a chance to practice connecting background knowledge with new information. In this case, they’ll learn about the ocean’s depths with the story of the Bathysphere. At the same time, they are reading a narrative with a beginning, middle, end, and other features.

2. Expanded Vocabulary

biography book pic

Unlike expository texts, which have lots of academic words specific to a topic, picture book biographies have a broader vocabulary. Students will encounter words they’ll see in other fiction stories. This allows them to expand their vocabulary alongside the academic words that go with each story.

Biography to Try: The Noisy Paintbox by Barb Rosenstock allows you to to talk about common words like proper and appreciate . You’ll also talk about words that have to do with art: palette, cerulean, and many more. 

3. Empathetic Connection with Nonfiction

biography book pic

Another aspect of connecting to text is the ability to empathize with characters, or in this case historical figures. Sometimes the best way to understand what it was like to live through something is a story. Picture book biographies allow students to engage with important events and people using empathy.

Biography to Try:   The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Mosca helps students really understand what it felt to be Temple Grandin and face the challenges she did as a researcher with autism.

4. Ability to See Connections

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Reading picture book biographies across a school year, you’ll find lots of ways to connect across and between books.

Biographies to Try:  Read Shark Lady by Jess Keating, about shark researcher Eugenie Clark. Then, read Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed about Mae Jemison. Last, read I Dissent by Debbie Levy about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Then bring it together to talk about how these three very different stories showcased women who pursued their dreams at a time when women were expected to stay out of the public sphere.

5 Ways to Use Picture Book Biographies

Once you’ve chosen your biography, here are five ways to use it:

1. Start with the Who

biography book pic

When you start a new unit, engage students in thinking about the most important (or maybe a lesser figure) with a biography.

Biography to Try: To start a unit about the Revolutionary period, read a biography of George Washington, like A Parade for George Washington by David Adler. Have students brainstorm questions starting with Washington.

2. Dig Deeper

biography book pic

Add a picture book biography partway through a unit to help students bring the general knowledge they’ve gained from expository text to one person’s experience. What questions were answered by studying this person’s life? And, what questions are students interested in exploring after learning more about one person?

Biography to Try: During a unit on astronomy, incorporate Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker. This book showcases Katherine Johnson and her work with Apollo 13. It can help expand and deepen students’ knowledge of how people first explored space. 

3. Introduce the Obscure

biography book pic

Sometimes you’re teaching a subject that seems completely foreign to students. Introducing it through a person can make the topic feel less obscure.

Biography to Try: Use the biography Emily Writes: Emily Dickinson and her Poetic Beginnings by Jane Yolen to talk about poetry and segue into Dickinson’s poetry.

4. Make the Familiar Unfamiliar

biography book pic

You’ll come across topics that students have studied over and over. Picture book biographies that focus on a lesser-known hero, or on a specific part of a famous person’s life, can inject new energy into familiar topics.

Biography to Try: When studying the founding of America, try reading Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock. You can talk about the life of Jefferson and go beyond the basic expository timeline or textbook.

5. Humanize Dry Subjects

biography book pic

Reading a biography in science, math, art, or another topic is a great way to show students how those topics impacted real people. Bringing real people into lessons can make dry topics more interesting and real-world. 

Biography to Try: In Nothing Stopped Sophie by Cheryl Bardoe and Barbara McClintock, you’ll read about Sophie Germain. She grew up during the French Revolution and was interested in finding the order in math. Reading about Sophie will inspire more curiosity than solving math problems on day one of a math unit.

How do you use picture book biographies in your classroom? Share on our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE Facebook page.

The How and Why of Using Picture Book Biographies in the Classroom

Samantha Cleaver, PhD, has taught everything from kindergarten to 8th grade special education. She loves to write about her favorite thing to do, read!

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8 Biography Picture Books for Upper Elementary

One of the most exciting times of the school year is when we dive into biographies!

Not only do the kids love biography project time, but so do I! Why? Here are some of the reasons why I just LOVE biography project time :

Sounds great, right? It is true! SO much goodness comes from completing biography projects . On top of all of that, students work independently on the project and feel a huge sense of accomplishment and pride when they are done.

But before all of this goodness can happen, we start small. We kick off our biography unit and project by reading high-quality picture books that truly illustrate the elements that are found in biographies, like these .  

This list of 8 picture books includes titles that are must adds to your upper elementary classroom . And bonus, grab the FREE organizer and activity to use with any of these books to help you kick off biographies in your classroom!

Shark Lady written by Jess Keating

8 Biography Picture Books for Upper Elementary

The only thing more engaging than reading about sharks is reading about the woman who just swam with the sharks. This biography tells the story of Eugenie Clark. I love this picture book biography because it begins the story of Eugenie's life with her as a young girl. The reader goes on a journey learning about her life and her actions to make her dream of becoming a marine biologist a reality. I especially love the book's last pages that include informational paragraphs about sharks, the timeline of Eugenie Clark's life , and the author's note. 

Dinosaur Lady written by Linda Skeers

8 Biography Picture Books for Upper Elementary

One of the reasons why this book makes my list of top biography picture books is because there are so many examples that help students discover the character traits of Mary Anning , like being determined, brave, and curious. This biography book is a great choice to read during a  biography  unit and a character trait unit. This exciting story will shock some of your students as they learn that Mary Anning discovered dinosaur fossils and bones before the word dinosaur was even invented! With all the goodies at the end of this book, too, your students will love to read and reread this book. The last pages include informational paragraphs about fossils, Mary Anning's life timeline, and the author's note. This highly engaging story is a must-read in your class.

WHOOSH! written by Chris Barton

8 Biography Picture Books for Upper Elementary

This story of Lonnie Johnson and his super soaking invention was recently recommended to me, and I instantly fell in love with it! This book begins with Lonnie Johnson as a young child who enjoys making things work and being challenged. Students will easily relate to Lonnie and his failures with some of his inventions. The reader follows Lonnie through his young adult life, his adult life, and all of his ups and downs . This book is filled with amazing illustrations and diagrams that kids love to check out. The author’s note at the end will certainly encourage students to dream big and come up with the next best invention.

Breaking the Ice written by Angie Bullaro

8 Biography Picture Books for Upper Elementary

You don't have to be a hockey lover or even a sports fanatic to love the story of Manon Rheaume, the first woman to play in the National Hockey League . This picture book is the perfect match for upper elementary students. It is filled with important dates, figurative language, dialogue, and excellent word choice. Manon's story Remind students that working hard and failure go hand in hand with trying to achieve your goal. As with the other picture books included in this list, the afterword, real photographs, and timeline at the end of the book truly bring to life for the students that this story is a true story.

King of Ragtime written by Stephen Costanza

8 Biography Picture Books for Upper Elementary

The King of Ragtime tells the story of the talented Scott Joplin. This biography is another perfect read-aloud for upper elementary students. The author gives great detail about all elements of Scott's life beginning in his childhood, while the illustrator supports the vivid story with beautiful pictures on each page. With rich vocabulary, onomatopoeia, and an easy-to-follow sequential telling of Scott's life, Students will be engaged and learn how important it is to follow their dreams. I especially love that this book allows you to bring music into your classroom, which is sure to catch the attention of your musically talented students.

Helen's Big World written by Doreen Rapport

Helen Keller read aloud for kids

Helen's Big World not only makes my list of top biographies to read with your class, but it also holds a spot on my Women's History Month Picture Book Lis t , too. That is because I always look forward to reading this book year after year. I may be a little biased because I have driven by her beautiful home in Connecticut on my way to teach each morning for many years.  See her Connecticut home here . Her story is one of pure inspiration for both students and adults alike. The author of this book does a fantastic job of bringing the story of Helen Keller to life through rich text and beautiful illustrations . I especially love the powerful quotes throughout the book, the focus on both the struggles and accomplishments of Helen Keller's life and the sign language chart included in the book. Definitely a must-read!

Martin's Big Words written by Doreen Rapport

Martin Luther King Jr read aloud for kids

This biography is part of Doreen Rappaport's biography series. All of the books in this series are just right for upper elementary students, include powerful quotes and illustrations, and get students critically thinking about the focus person of the book. This one, about Martin Luther King, Jr, is no exception. While many students may have heard a story or two about Dr. King, the powerful quotes woven throughout the book will leave students with a lasting impression about the accomplishments, struggles, and determination of Martin Luther King, Jr. No matter what other book you have read about Dr. King, read this one during your biography unit. 

KIDSTORY: Anthology of 50 Children and Young People Who Shook Up the World written by Tom Adams

biography anthology read aloud for kids

I love having anthologies in the classroom, like this biography anthology. They are perfect for when you do not have a lot of time to read aloud to your students. This one tells the story of 50 exceptional children and young people who left their mark on the world . I especially love this book because the contents page categorizes the biographies by topic, with ten amazing children for each subject. For example, one topic is “Create and Dream.” This category has ten mini-biographies about children like Louis Braille and Shirley Temple. Each biography in the book is only two pages long, making it the perfect quick read for each day of your biography unit. From Emma Watson to Pocahontas, this anthology has a wide range of children and young adults to read and learn about each time you pick it up. With a beautiful mix of photographs, illustrations, and quotes, your students will enjoy reading as they put their nonfiction reading skills to the test. This book is one that you will love to visit each day and that your students will love to borrow again and again.

While there are so many biography picture books that you can share with students, these make my list because of their unique stories. These are books that your students probably have not heard...yet! Add them to your own stack of read-aloud books and watch student engagement soar as you read each of these powerful biography stories.

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You might be interested in reading:, 3 tips for creating the best biography projects how to use interactive anchor charts to assess students 6 must read picture books about women's history, getting ready to start a biography project click  here ..

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8 Biography Picture Books for Upper Elementary

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