Picture Book Biographies in Overdrive

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Alfred Nobel by Kathy-jo Wargin

Almost everyone has heard of the Nobel Prize, a collection of prizes awarded for accomplishments in science, medicine, literature, and peace. But few people know about the man who established the award and for whom it is named, Alfred Nobel. Alfred Nobel was born in Sweden in 1833. A quick and curious mind, combined with a love of science and chemistry, drove him to invent numerous technological devices throughout his long life. But he is perhaps most well known for his invention of dynamite. Intending it to help safely advance road and bridge construction, Nobel saw his most famous invention used in the development of military weaponry. After a newspaper headline mistakenly announces his death, Nobel was inspired to leave a legacy of another sort. The Man Behind the Peace Prize tells the story of the enduring legacy of Alfred Nobel.Kathy-jo Wargin is the bestselling author of more than 30 books for children. Among her many awards for her work are an International Reading Association Children’s Choice Award for The Legend of the Loon and an IRA Teachers’ Choice Award for Win One for the Gipper. She lives in the Great Lakes area. Zachary Pullen’s character-oriented picture book illustrations have won awards and garnered starred reviews. He has been honored several times with acceptance into the prestigious Society of Illustrators juried shows and Communication Arts Illustration Annual of the best in current illustration. Zachary lives in Wyoming.

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Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg

A picture book about the making of Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring, her most famous dance performance

Martha Graham : trailblazing choreographer

Aaron Copland : distinguished American composer

Isamu Noguchi : artist, sculptor, craftsman

Award-winning authors Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan tell the story behind the scenes of the collaboration that created APPALACHIAN SPRING, from its inception through the score’s composition to Martha’s intense rehearsal process. The authors’ collaborator is two-time Sibert Honor winner Brian Floca, whose vivid watercolors bring both the process and the performance to life.

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Barnum’s Bones – How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World by Tracey Fern

Barnum Brown’s (1873-1963) parents named him after the circus icon P.T. Barnum, hoping that he would do something extraordinary—and he did! As a paleonotologist for the American Museum of Natural History, he discovered the first documented skeleton of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, as well as most of the other dinosaurs on display there today.
An appealing and fun picture book biography, with zany and stunning illustrations by Boris Kulikov, BARNUM’S BONES captures the spirit of this remarkable man.
Barnum’s Bones is one The Washington Post’s Best Kids Books of 2012.

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The Boy Who Drew Birds – The Story of John James Audubon by Melissa Sweet

John James Audubon was a boy who loved the out-of-doors more than the in. He was a boy who believed in studying birds in nature, not just from books. And, in the fall of 1804, he was a boy determined to learn if the small birds nesting near his Pennsylvania home really would return the following spring.

This book reveals how the youthful Audubon pioneered a technique essential to our understanding of birds. Capturing the early passion of America’s greatest painter of birds, this story will leave young readers listening intently for the call of birds large and small near their own homes.

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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

The New York Times bestselling memoir of the heroic young inventor who brought electricity to his Malawian village is now perfect for young readers

When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba’s tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season’s crops, leaving them with nothing to eat and nothing to sell. William began to explore science books in his village library, looking for a solution. There, he came up with the idea that would change his family’s life forever: he could build a windmill. Made out of scrap metal and old bicycle parts, William’s windmill brought electricity to his home and helped his family pump the water they needed to farm the land.

Retold for a younger audience, this exciting memoir shows how, even in a desperate situation, one boy’s brilliant idea can light up the world. Complete with photographs, illustrations, and an epilogue that will bring readers up to date on William’s story, this is the perfect edition to read and share with the whole family.

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The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman

Most people think of mathematicians as solitary, working away in isolation. And, it’s true, many of them do. But Paul Erdos never followed the usual path. At the age of four, he could ask you when you were born and then calculate the number of seconds you had been alive in his head. But he didn’t learn to butter his own bread until he turned twenty. Instead, he traveled around the world, from one mathematician to the next, collaborating on an astonishing number of publications. With a simple, lyrical text and richly layered illustrations, this is a beautiful introduction to the world of math and a fascinating look at the unique character traits that made “Uncle Paul” a great man.

The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman is a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013 and a New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2013.

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Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky

Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) was a world-renowned modern artist noted for her sculptures made of wood, steel, stone, and cast rubber. Her most famous spider sculpture, Maman, stands more than 30 feet high.Just as spiders spin and repair their webs, Louise’s own mother was a weaver of tapestries. Louise spent her childhood in France as an apprentice to her mother before she became a tapestry artist herself. She worked with fabric throughout her career, and this biographical picture book shows how Bourgeois’s childhood experiences weaving with her loving, nurturing mother provided the inspiration for her most famous works. With a beautifully nuanced and poetic story, this book stunningly captures the relationship between mother and daughter and illuminates how memories are woven into us all.

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Dare the Wind – The Record-breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud by Emily Arnold McCully

Ellen Prentiss’s papa said she was born with saltwater in her veins, so he gave her sailing lessons and taught her how to navigate. As soon as she met a man who loved sailing like she did, she married him. When her husband was given command of a clipper ship custom-made to travel quickly, she knew that they would need every bit of its speed for their maiden voyage: out of New York City, down around the tip of Cape Horn, and into San Francisco, where the Gold Rush was well under way. In a time when few women even accompanied their husbands onboard, Ellen Prentiss navigated their ship to set the world record for speed along that route.

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Diego Rivera – His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh

This charming book introduces one of the most popular artists of the twentieth century, Diego Rivera, to young readers. It tells the story of Diego as a young, mischievous boy who demonstrated a clear passion for art and then went on to become one of the most famous painters in the world.

Duncan Tonatiuh also prompts readers to think about what Diego would paint today. Just as Diego’s murals depicted great historical events in Mexican culture or celebrated native peoples, if Diego were painting today, what would his artwork depict? How would his paintings reflect today’s culture?

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours is a wonderful introduction to this great artist.

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Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle

Girls cannot be drummers. Long ago on an island filled with music, no one questioned that rule—until the drum dream girl. In her city of drumbeats, she dreamed of pounding tall congas and tapping small bongós. She had to keep quiet. She had to practice in secret. But when at last her dream-bright music was heard, everyone sang and danced and decided that both girls and boys should be free to drum and dream.
Inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers, Drum Dream Girl tells an inspiring true story for dreamers everywhere.

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Edward Hopper Paints His World by Robert Burleigh

As a boy, Edward Hopper knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up: on the cover of his pencil box, he wrote the words EDWARD HOPPER, WOULD-BE ARTIST. He traveled to New York and to Paris to hone his craft. And even though no one wanted to buy his paintings for a long time, he never stopped believing in his dream to be an artist. He was fascinated with painting light and shadow and his works explore this challenge.

Edward Hopper’s story is one of courage, resilience, and determination. In this striking picture book biography, Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor invite young readers into the world of a truly special American painter (most celebrated for his paintings “Nighthawks” and “Gas”).

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The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino

Jacques Cousteau was the world’s ambassador of the oceans. His popular TV series brought whales, otters, and dolphins right into people’s living rooms. Now, in this exciting picturebook biography, Dan Yaccarino introduces young readers to the man behind the snorkel.

From the first moment he got a glimpse of what lived under the ocean’s waves, Cousteau was hooked. And so he set sail aboard the Calypso to see the sea. He and his team of scientists invented diving equipment and waterproof cameras. They made films and televisions shows and wrote books so they could share what they learned. The oceans were a vast unexplored world, and Cousteau became our guide. And when he saw that pollution was taking its toll on the seas, Cousteau became our guide in how to protect the oceans as well.

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Galileo’s Leaning Tower Experiment by Wendy MacDonald

When the scientist Galileo befriends a bright farm boy, Massimo, the two begin to investigate the science of motion.

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George Ferris, What a Wheel by Barbara Lowell

Have you ever ridden a Ferris wheel? You go up, up, up and can see for miles! But when the inventor of the Ferris wheel, George Ferris, first pitched the idea, everyone thought he was crazy. A 250-foot bicycle wheel that goes around and around and carries people in train cars? Can’t be done, they said. But George proved them wrong. Read about how George’s hard work, courage, and imagination created one of the most famous fair rides today.
George Ferris, What a Wheel covers the concepts Imagination and Problem Solving.

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If You Spent a Day with Thoreau at Walden Pond by Robert Burleigh

In 1845 in Concord, Massachusetts, Henry David Thoreau began a radical experiment: he built a cabin in the woods and lived there, alone, examining the world around him. He spent his days walking the shores of Walden Pond, growing beans, observing plants and animals, and recording his reflections in his notebook. These reflections eventually became his seminal work Walden.

In this lovely picture book, Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor imagine a special day spent with the celebrated writer and naturalist through the eyes of a child. Together Thoreau and the young boy watch small but significant wonders such as swimming fish, fighting ants, and clouds in the sky. It is a day full of splendor and appreciation of the outdoor world.

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In Mary’s Garden by Tina Kugler

While the rest of her classmates were making pastries in cooking classes, Mary Nohl was making art—anything she fancied out of anything she could find. Inspiration struck Mary even when she wasn’t looking for it. Mary used common objects to make uncommon art. And one day, her garden was a gallery.
Mary Nohl passed away in 2001 at the age of eighty-seven. Her famous garden gallery is located in the front yard of her Fox Point, Wisconsin, home to this day.

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The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan

If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary town in northern France, what would your life be like? Would it be full of color and art? Full of lines and dancing figures?

Find out in this beautiful, unusual picture book about one of the world’s most famous and influential artists by acclaimed author and Newbery Medal-winning Patricia MacLachlan and innovative illustrator Hadley Hooper.

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The Librarian of Basra – A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter

“In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammad was ‘Read.'”*
—Alia Muhammad Baker

Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library—along with the thirty thousand books within it—will be destroyed forever.

In a war-stricken country where civilians—especially women—have little power, this true story about a librarian’s struggle to save her community’s priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries. Illustrated by Jeanette Winter in bright acrylic and ink.

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Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola

Sylvia Earle first lost her heart to the ocean as a young girl when she discovered the wonders of the Gulf of Mexico in her backyard. As an adult, she dives even deeper. Whether she’s designing submersibles, swimming with the whales, or taking deep-water walks, Sylvia Earle has dedicated her life to learning more about what she calls “the blue heart of the planet.” With stunningly detailed pictures of the wonders of the sea, Life in the Ocean tells the story of Sylvia’s growing passion and how her ocean exploration and advocacy have made her known around the world. This picture book biography also includes an informative author’s note that will motivate young environmentalists.

Life in the Ocean is one of The Washington Post’s Best Kids Books of 2012

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Magic Trash by J. H. Shapiro

Vacant lots. Abandoned houses. Trash—lots of trash. Heidelberg Street was in trouble! Tyree Guyton loved his childhood home—that’s where his grandpa Sam taught him to “paint the world.” So he wanted to wake people up… to make them see Detroit’s crumbling communities. Paintbrush in hand, Tyree cast his artistic spell, transforming everyday junk into magic trash. Soon local kids and families joined Tyree in rebuilding their neighborhood, discovering the healing power of art along the way. This picture book biography of Tyree Guyton, an urban environmental artist, shows how he transformed his decaying, crime-ridden neighborhood into the Heidelberg Project, an interactive sculpture park. The story spans from Tyree’s childhood in 1950s Detroit to his early efforts to heal his community through art in the 1980s. Tyree’s awards include Michigan Artist of the Year and International Artist. MAGIC TRASH offers strong themes of working together, the power of art, and the importance of inspiring community—especially kids—to affect action. The Heidelberg Project is internationally recognized for providing arts education to children and adults and for the ongoing development of several houses on Heidelberg Street. Not only does the Heidelberg Project prove that when a community works together it can rebuild itself, but it also addresses the issues of recycling, environmentalism, and community on a global level.

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Manfish – The Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne

Before Jacques Cousteau became an internationally known oceanographer and champion of the seas, he was a curious little boy. In this lovely biography, poetic text and gorgeous paintings combine to create a portrait of Jacques Cousteau that is as magical as it is inspiring.

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The Man Who Walked Between Two Towers by Mordicai Gerstein

In 1974, French aerialist Philippe Petit threw a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center and spent an hour walking, dancing, and performing high-wire tricks a quarter mile in the sky. This picture book captures the poetry and magic of the event with a poetry of its own: lyrical words and lovely paintings that present the detail, daring, and—in two dramatic foldout spreads— the vertiginous drama of Petit’s feat.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers is the winner of the 2004 Caldecott Medal, the winner of the 2004 Boston Globe – Horn Book Award for Picture Books, and the winner of the 2006 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children’s Video.

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Minette’s Feast – The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat by Susanna Reich

Minette’s Feast introduces the iconic American chef Julia Child to a new audience of young readers through the story of her spirited cat, Minette, whom Julia adopted when living in Paris. While Julia is in the kitchen learning to master delicious French dishes, the only feast Minette is truly interested in is that of fresh mouse! This lively story is complete with an author’s note, a bibliography, and actual quotations from Julia Child and comes just in time for the 100th anniversary of her birth.

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Monet Paints a Day by Julie Dannenberg

A glimpse into a day of Claude Monet’s life shows the painter racing against changing light, the incoming tide, and the elements as he paints an ocean scene in the plein-air style. Based on a true incident, the story is enhanced by brief facts about Impressionist painting, Monet’s life, and excerpts from the painter’s letters and notes.

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Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis

Capturing an engineer’s creative vision and mind for detail, this fully illustrated picture book biography sheds light on how the American inventor George Ferris defied gravity and seemingly impossible odds to invent the world’s most iconic amusement park attraction, the Ferris wheel.
A fun, fact-filled text by Kathryn Gibbs Davis combines with Gilbert Ford’s dazzling full-color illustrations to transport readers to the 1893 World’s Fair, where George Ferris and his big, wonderful wheel lifted passengers to the skies for the first time.

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My Name is Gabito – The Life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Monica Brown

Can you imagine a shipwrecked sailor living on air and seaweed for eight days? Can you imagine a trail of yellow butterflies fluttering their wings to songs of love? Once, there was a little boy named Gabito who could. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is perhaps one of the most brilliant writers of our time. He is a tremendous figure, enomously talented, and unabashedly admired. This is his story, lovingly told, for children to enjoy. Using the imagery from his novels, Monica Brown traces the novelist’s life in this creative nonfiction picture book from his childhood in Colombia to today. This is an inspring story about an inspring life, full of imagination and beauty.

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On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne

A boy rides a bicycle down a dusty road. But in his mind, he envisions himself traveling at a speed beyond imagining, on a beam of light. This brilliant mind will one day offer up some of the most revolutionary ideas ever conceived. From a boy endlessly fascinated by the wonders around him, Albert Einstein ultimately grows into a man of genius recognized the world over for profoundly illuminating our understanding of the universe. Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky invite the reader to travel along with Einstein on a journey full of curiosity, laughter, and scientific discovery. Parents and children alike will appreciate this moving story of the powerful difference imagination can make in any life.

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One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul

Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way. One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred.

The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some bags were burned, leaving behind a terrible smell. Some were buried, but they strangled gardens. They killed livestock that tried to eat them. Something had to change.

Isatou Ceesay was that change. She found a way to recycle the bags and transform her community. This inspirational true story shows how one person’s actions really can make a difference in our world.

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Papa is a Poet – A Story about Robert Frost by Natalie S. Bober

When Robert Frost was a child, his family thought he would grow up to be a baseball player. Instead, he became a poet. His life on a farm in New Hampshire inspired him to write “poetry that talked,” and today he is famous for his vivid descriptions of the rural life he loved so much. There was a time, though, when Frost had to struggle to get his poetry published. Told from the point of view of Lesley, Robert Frost’s oldest daughter, this is the story of how a lover of language found his voice.

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Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Flemming

Clink! Clankety-bang! Thump-whirr! That’s the sound of Papa at work. Although he is an inventor, he has never made anything that works perfectly, and that’s because he hasn’t yet found a truly fantastic idea. But when he takes his family fishing on Lake Michigan, his daughter Virena asks, “Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a fish?”—and Papa is off to his workshop. With a lot of persistence and a little bit of help, Papa—who is based on the real-life inventor Lodner Phillips—creates a submarine that can take his family for a trip to the bottom of Lake Michigan.

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Passage to Freedom by Ken Mochizuki

Mochizuki and Lee’s (Baseball Saved Us) skillful volume pays tribute to Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat posted to Lithuania who in 1940 saved the lives of thousands of Polish Jews. Defying orders from his government, Sugihara handwrote visas for weeks to grant refugees passage through the Soviet Union to Japan. Told in the voice of his then-five-year-old son, the narrative centers upon the boy’s impressions: the creaking of the bedsprings as his sleepless father tossed and turned, the Jewish children huddled outside the consulate, his mother massaging her husband’s cramped arm. Lee’s precise, haunting art, created by scratching out images from beeswax applied to paper and then adding oil paint and colored pencil, has the look of sepia-toned photographs: it unites carefully balanced compositions and emotional intensity. Mochizuki and Lee’s inspired treatment brings out the import of Sugihara’s brave and compassionate decision. An afterword by Sugihara’s son updates the account: the family spent 18 months in a Soviet internment camp, and his father was stripped of his diplomatic post. A stirring story. Ages 4-up.

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Piano Starts Here – The Young Art Tatum by Robert A. Parker

Regardless of whether they’ve heard of jazz or Art Tatum, young readers will appreciate how Parker uses simple, lyrical storytelling and colorful, energetic ink-and-wash illustrations to show the world as young Art Tatum might have seen it. Tatum came from modest beginnings and was nearly blind, but his passion for the piano and his acute memory for any sound that he heard drove him to become a virtuoso who was revered by both classical and jazz pianists alike. Included in the back matter is a biography and bibliography.

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The Pilot and the Little Prince – The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery by Peter Sis

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was born in France in 1900, when airplanes were just being invented. Antoine dreamed of flying and grew up to be a pilot—and that was when his adventures began. He found a job delivering mail by plane, which had never been done before. He and his fellow pilots traveled to faraway places and discovered new ways of getting from one place to the next. Antoine flew over mountains and deserts. He battled winds and storms. He tried to break aviation records, and sometimes he even crashed. From his plane, Antoine looked down on the earth and was inspired to write about his life and his pilot-hero friends in memoirs and in fiction. Peter Sís’s remarkable biography The Pilot and the Little Prince celebrates the author of The Little Prince, one of the most beloved books in the world. This title has Common Core connections.

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Pippo the Fool by Tracey E. Fern

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence was a marvel of art, architecture, and engineering. But it lacked a finishing ornament, a crown—a dome! This book tells the story of architect Filippo Brunelleschi and the construction of his masterpiece.

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Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor

In celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring, here is a biography of the pioneering environmentalist. “Once you are aware of the wonder and beauty of earth, you will want to learn about it,” wrote Rachel Carson. She wrote Silent Spring, the book that woke people up to the harmful impact humans were having on our planet. Silent Spring was first published in 1962. Winner of the award for Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 for 2013, a cooperative project of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the Children’s Book Council.

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Rosa by Nikki Giovanni

She had not sought this moment but she was ready for it. When the policeman bent down to ask “Auntie, are you going to move?” all the strength of all the people through all those many years joined in her. She said, “No.”

An inspiring account of an event that shaped American history

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.

Award-winning poet, writer, and activist Nikki Giovanni’s evocative text combines with Bryan Collier’s striking cut-paper images to retell the story of this historic event from a wholly unique and original perspective.

Rosa is a 2006 Caldecott Honor Book and the winner of the 2006 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

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Ruth Law Thrills a Nation by Don Brown

In 1916 a young woman named Ruth Law attempted to fly from Chicago to New York City in one day—something no one else had ever done. This is the story of that daring attempt. Beautifully detailed watercolors dramatize a dangerous journey made by the pilot President Woodrow Wilson called “great.”

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Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh

Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.

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Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant

An inspiring picture-book biography of Louis Braille—a blind boy so determined to read that he invented his own alphabet.

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.

Award-winning writer Jen Bryant tells Braille’s inspiring story with a lively and accessible text, filled with the sounds, the smells, and the touch of Louis’s world. Boris Kulikov’s inspired paintings help readers to understand what Louis lost, and what he was determined to gain back through books.

An author’s note and additional resources at the end of the book complement the simple story and offer more information for parents and teachers.

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Starry Messenger by Peter Sis

“If they had seen what we see, they would have judged as we judge.” — Galileo Galilei

In every age there are courageous people who break with tradition to explore new ideas and challenge accepted truths. Galileo Galilei was just such a man—a genius—and the first to turn the telescope to the skies to map the heavens. In doing so, he offered objective evidence that the earth was not the fixed center of the universe but that it and all the other planets revolved around the sun. Galileo kept careful notes and made beautiful drawings of all that he observed. Through his telescope he brought the starts down to earth for everyone to see.

By changing the way people saw the galaxy, Galileo was also changing the way they saw themselves and their place in the universe. This was very exciting, but to some to some it was deeply disturbing. Galileo has upset the harmonious view of heaven and earth that had been accepted since ancient times. He had turned the world upside down.

In this amazing new book, Peter Sís employs the artist’s lens to give us an extraordinary view of the life of Galileo Galilei. Sís tells his story in language as simple as a fairy tale, in pictures as rich and tightly woven as a tapestry, and in Galileo’s own words, written more than 350 years ago and still resonant with truth. This title has Common Core connections.

Starry Messenger is a 1997 Caldecott Honor Book.

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Swan by Laurel Snyder

The world is big.

Anna is small.

The snow is

everywhere

and all around.

But one night . . .

One night, her mother takes her to the ballet, and everything is changed. Anna finds a beauty inside herself that she cannot contain.

So begins the journey of a girl who will one day grow up to be the most famous prima ballerina of all time, inspiring legions of dancers after her: the brave, the generous, the transcendently gifted Anna Pavlova. Beautiful, inspirational, and triumphant, Anna Pavlova’s life is masterfully captured in this exquisite picture book. Plus, this is the fixed format version, which will look almost identical to the print version. Additionally for devices that support audio, this ebook includes a read-along setting.

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The Wall by Peter Sis

“I was born at the beginning of it all, on the Red side—the Communist side—of the Iron Curtain.” Through annotated illustrations, journals, maps, and dreamscapes, Peter Sís shows what life was like for a child who loved to draw, proudly wore the red scarf of a Young Pioneer, stood guard at the giant statue of Stalin, and believed whatever he was told to believe. But adolescence brought questions. Cracks began to appear in the Iron Curtain, and news from the West slowly filtered into the country. Sís learned about beat poetry, rock ‘n’ roll, blue jeans, and Coca-Cola. He let his hair grow long, secretly read banned books, and joined a rock band. Then came the Prague Spring of 1968, and for a teenager who wanted to see the world and meet the Beatles, this was a magical time. It was short-lived, however, brought to a sudden and brutal end by the Soviet-led invasion. But this brief flowering had provided a glimpse of new possibilities—creativity could be discouraged but not easily killed.

By joining memory and history, Sís takes us on his extraordinary journey: from infant with paintbrush in hand to young man borne aloft by the wings of his art. This title has Common Core connections.

The Wall is a 2007 New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year, a 2008 Caldecott Honor Book, a 2008 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year, the winner of the 2008 Boston Globe – Horn Book Award for Nonfiction, and a nominee for the 2008 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids.

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Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees by Frank Prevot

Wangari Maathai received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her efforts to lead women in a nonviolent struggle to bring peace and democracy to Africa through its reforestation. Her organization planted over thirty million trees in thirty years. This beautiful picture book tells the story of an amazing woman and an inspiring idea.

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W is for Webster – Noah Webster and His American Dictionary by Tracey Fern

From an early age, Noah Webster was an odd fellow who liked to talk big and loved learning. He thought America needed its own national language and knew he was just the man to create it. He started with a speller, including everyday words like “scab,” “grub,” and “mop,” and moved on to create a small dictionary. He rode around on a horse, selling his books by hand. Then Noah decided to compile a complete and comprehensive dictionary of American English. He thought the book would take him five years to finish. It took twenty, but his dictionary today is the second-most printed book in the English language.

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Who Says Women Can’t be Doctors – The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone

In the 1830s, when a brave and curious girl named Elizabeth Blackwell was growing up, women were supposed to be wives and mothers. Some women could be teachers or seamstresses, but career options were few. Certainly no women were doctors.

But Elizabeth refused to accept the common beliefs that women weren’t smart enough to be doctors, or that they were too weak for such hard work. And she would not take no for an answer. Although she faced much opposition, she worked hard and finally—when she graduated from medical school and went on to have a brilliant career—proved her detractors wrong. This inspiring story of the first female doctor shows how one strong-willed woman opened the doors for all the female doctors to come.

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? by Tanya Lee Stone is an NPR Best Book of 2013

Reviews by Overdrive

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