Tuesday, December 6, 2022

7 Days of Books, Day 6 Biography & Historical Nonfiction in Children's Picture Books

When I first read the biographical and historical nonfiction books for children that I'm sharing with you today, I knew they were all SPECIAL. Since then, a couple have recently received Major awards and Honors, and I suspect even more are coming. 

Parents, guardians, aunties, uncles, grandparents, librarians, teachers -- you won't want to miss out on sharing these books with the young readers in your life.

The Tower of Life. How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt her Town in Stories and Photographs by Chana Stiefel, illustrated by Susan Gal (Scholastic Press 2022)

Tingles all over. That's what I felt upon reading this beautiful book, this story about a woman who survived the erasure of her town and then went on to resurrect its memory and reunite its extended families through photographs that had been taken by her mother. This WINNER of the Russel Freedman Award for Nonfiction for a Better World is utterly astounding and deeply touching. It's a must-read book for all readers as an inspiration for finding light from darkness and treasuring traditions, like stories and story-telling, which connect us to the places we call home.

Mister Rogers' Gift of Music 
by Donna Cangelosi, illustrated by Amanda Calatzis (Page Street Kids 2022). 

The beautiful and whimsical illustrations that paint some of the favorite verses of the songs Mr Rogers sang in his television show will captivate young readers along with the story about what his life as a child was like, and why he so earnestly believed in connecting with children everywhere. When I was little, I remember my younger brother shouting to my mother, "Mom! He's talking to ME!" We loved Mr. Rogers. This kind soul was and is an inspiration to all.

Just Wild Enough. Mireya Major, Primatologist
by Marta Magellan, illustrated by Clementine Rocheron (Albert Whitman 2022). 

This remarkable story that breaks notions of scientists was among the very short list of titles being considered for the Prestigious Russell Freedman Award for Nonfiction for a Better World given by SCBWI. What is most surprising about this book is that it shows an interest in science can lie in everyone, including a girl with interests in dancing and ballet who worked as a Miami Dolphins cheerleader. A girl who went on to help establish nature preserves for rare and endangered lemurs in Madagascar and has gone on field assignment for National Geographic and makes TV programs about wild places and animals. This book is definitely one that ought to be shared with ALL readers, who will see life's goals and passions have no limits. 

Revolutionary Prudence Wright, Leading the Minute Women In the Fight for Independence by Beth Anderson, illustrated by Susan Reagan (Calkins Creek 2022). 

Having grown up in New England, where it seemed signs of colonial history could be found near every curve and corner, I was absolutely tickled when I discovered that Prudence Wright and I had grown up in the same area. We'd likely traveled the same dirt roads and fields, where the seeds for Prudence's independence had taken root. (I had a horse when I was tween, and the areas was quite rural.) However, this book will appeal to all kids, not just those in New England. The brings the history of events of the Revolutionary War to life, and sheds light on what the sparks for rebellion looked like in small towns. The additional information provided in the back matter from both the author and illustrator are also fantastic with additional insights on Prudence's story, such as the paper "love box" she made as a young girl and noted in the story. I highly recommend this book along with Beth's other new release CLOAKED IN COURAGE. UNCOVERING DEBORAH SAMPSON, PATRIOT SOLDIER.

Pizza! A Slice of History 
by Greg Pizzoli (Viking 2022). 

This origin story of pizza is packed with fascinating facts (like of Persian soldiers who baked shallow crusts on their shields) and subtle humor (like when the first pizza delivery may have occurred). Given the widespread popularity of this well-known meal, this book is bound to be a hit with young readers. 

Lola Out Loud, Inspired by the Childhood of Activist Delores Huerta by Jennifer Torres
, illustrated by Sara Palcios (Little, Brown and Company 2022). 

The story shares insight into the childhood of activist Delores (Lola) Huerta during her days spent at the Hotel Delano, her family's business enterprise. Between her child-like distractions and watching the generosity of her mother extended to guests who couldn't afford to pay to stay at their hotel, Lola learns to show that same generation and protective arm to others who need it. One line from the story struck me with its empathy: "because Lola and her Mama kept more than clean towels at Hotel Delano."Lola's story shows young readers that "one small voice can make a difference," and "if you see a problem, fix it! . . . Don't pretend it isn't there." Lola Out Loud is a wonderful story of human kindness that kids can model.

Jump At the Sun. The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston by Alicia D. Williams, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara (Athenum 2021). 

Just like the title promises, and just like her Mama told her to do - Jump at the sun, so that she might at least get off the ground - the passion that author Zora Neale Hurston had for telling tales ever since she was a young child, bounces from the pages. Despite the hardships she faced when her mother died, and her father sent her away, Zora dug deep to follow her dreams and persevere. The illustrations match what must have been her zeal for storytelling, and which continued in to her adulthood. With its strong voice-driven narrative written by Alicia D. Williams, this book would make a perfection companion with BRAINSTORM written by Rebecca Gardyn Levington for aspiring young creatives. That book was reviewed on Day 3 here. Jump at the Sun is another fabulous title for young book lovers everywhere.

Today's prizes for the raffle include:

1) a signed copy of THE TOWER OF LIFE from Chana Stiefel to US address

2) a PB manuscript critique from Donna Cangelosi

3) a copy of the ARC of JUST WILD ENOUGH  and PB critique from Marta Magellan to US address

4) a copy of REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT from Beth Anderson to US address

To earn your chance at winning one of these prizes offered for today's post, make a comment on this blog post. Are there any favorite works of NF or biography that you would like to share?

Then grab more entries with this rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I love biographies. I have read a lot of these on this list. One I read this year that I loved was The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee by Julie Leung and illustrated by Julie Kwon.

  2. More excellent book recommendations. I enjoy reading and writing nonfiction.

    Thank you for the opportunity for the giveaways.

    Sue Leopold

  3. I haven't read a lot of biographical picture books, but I'm really impressed by what's out there. I recently enjoyed Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion by Shannon Stocker and Devon Holzwarth.

  4. I love nonfiction but I have to admit that I haven't read many on this list! I need to get my act together! When I homeschooled I used NF picture book texts all the time as teaching tools.

  5. Mr. Rogers was really sweet and Tower of Life is incredibly powerful. Looking forward to reading the others on this list.

  6. This is a fabulous list! I have loved Mr. Rogers for sooo many years, and I just watched Chana talk about The Tower of Life on 12x12. I love Beth Anderson's books, and Jump At the Sun! Adding more to my TBR list. Thank you!

  7. Nonfiction has become a new favorite amongst the kiddos this year!


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