Picture Book Month – Biographies

Picture book biographies shine. They offer readers an easy way to learn about well-known people as compared to reading a longer biography that may be too daunting for them.

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Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball written by John Coy and illustrated by Joe Morse is a picture book biography that shines. In 1891 in Springfield, MA, James Naismith took over a gym class that no one else wanted to teach. In desperation, he created a game that required skill and rules that had to be followed if the players wanted to remain playing. His game piqued the interest of the boys, and basketball became a hit. Coy provides concise information about how James Naismith invented the game of basketball and how it became a national pastime. The graphic illustrations by Joe Morse offer readers a glimpse into the time period when basketball was invented. Make sure to look at the endpapers to see Naismith’s first draft of basketball rules.

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Another picture book biography worth reading is Louisa May’s Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Carlyn Beccia. Krull offers a slice of Louisa May Alcott’s life that played an important role in the way she ultimately looked at her own life. In 1862, Louisa traveled to Washington D.C. to help nurse the wounded and sick soldiers of the Civil War. Conditions in the makeshift hospital were horrible, and tending to the seriously wounded soldiers made Louisa come face-to-face with the reality of war. In her short time there, she saw the disparity between how white workers and black workers were treated. Three weeks into Louisa’s time in Washington, she became very ill and was eventually brought home by her father. Alcott’s experience in Washington was live-changing. Her heartfelt writing about what she saw in the hospital made editors sit up and pay attention. Her writing was suddenly in demand. Soon afterward, she was asked to write a book about girls. Little Women, set during the Civil War, was the result, and it became a best seller. Carlyn Beccia’s colorful illustrations and Kathleen Krull’s story give readers a new look into the life and writings of Louisa May Alcott. Back matter and endpapers in the book provide more information about the time period. A list of  websites related to Louisa May Alcott and a timeline of her books can also be found.

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2 Comments on “Picture Book Month – Biographies”

  1. Sandy Brehl Says:

    I’m an utter fan-girl of picture book biographies, and you’ve highlighted two of my favorites. My post for the week took the same approach- honoring the new biography of Randolph Caldecott by the amazing Leonard S. Marcus. Love your post, Cathy.


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