22 Recent Picture Book Biographies of Fascinating People

22 Recent Picture Book Biographies of Fascinating People

Biographies for the picture-book set are in abundance, so we pulled out recent titles that got our reviewers’ attention and became stars in the first months of 2024. Use the link for the full review!

It’s only July and already it’s a banner year for picture book biographies and narrative nonfiction centered around famous people. We pulled out recent titles that got our reviewers’ attention and became stars in the first months of 2024. Use the links for the full reviews!

ALEXANDER, Lori. Cactus Queen: Minerva Hoyt Establishes Joshua Tree National Park. illus. by Jenn Ely. Astra/Calkins Creek.
Gr 1-3–A lively picture book biography with tie-ins to Earth Day and Women’s History Month. Highly recommended.

BAUSUM, Ann. The Bard and the Book. illus. by Marta Sevilla. Peachtree.
Gr 5-10–A voluminous book centering the playwright, along with a group of people who saved him from outright oblivion, this is a sharply funny, delightful must-have for every library shelf.

BURNS, Loree Griffin. One Long Line: Marching Caterpillars and the Scientists Who Followed Them. illus. by Jamie Green. MIT Kids.
Gr 3-5–Burns’s writing style invites readers into a compelling narrative of wonder and discovery.

CLINE-RANSOME, Lesa. Fighting with Love: The Legacy of John Lewis. illus. by James E. Ransome. S. & S. /Paula Wiseman.
Gr 1-3–A strong biography on John Lewis, this highly recommended volume will complement the civil rights shelves as well as collections on Black Americans who worked for the good of the country.

CREWS, Nina. Extraordinary Magic: The Storytelling Life of Virginia Hamilton. Little, Brown/Christy Ottaviano.
Gr 1-3–Purchase this lovely biography as an intro to Hamilton’s work or to encourage future creators. With each page, readers will be inspired to follow their own magic.

DAY, Nicholas. Nothing: John Cage and 4’33”. illus. by Chris Raschka. Holiday House/Neal Porter.
Gr 1-5–A beautifully written and illustrated story of a man who wanted people to explore nothingness, which is a necessity in today’s busy world. A great read-aloud and a must-purchase for all library collections.

FINKELSTEIN, Norman H. Amazing Abe: How Abraham Cahan’s Newspaper Gave a Voice to Jewish Immigrants. illus. by Vesper Stamper. Holiday House.
Gr 1-3–A commendable addition to library collections focused on immigration, little-known historical figures, and the pivotal role of language and the written word in shaping the immigrant experience.

HOYT, Megan. A Grand Idea: How William J. Wilgus Created Grand Central Terminal. illus. by David Szalay. HarperCollins.
K-Gr 4–Whether readers are train and construction buffs or not, this is a living, breathing biography of a building, and the man who believed in it from the ground up. Extraordinary.

KIM, Cheryl. What Takes His Shot: The Life & Legacy of Basketball Hero Wataru Misaka. illus. by Nat Iwata. Lee & Low.
K-Gr 4–Readers of all ages, especially those who love basketball, will rejoice over Wat’s triumphs.

KING, Coretta Scott. Coretta: The Autobiography of Mrs. Coretta Scott King. illus. by Ekua Holmes. Macmillan/Godwin.
Gr3-5–A gorgeous book to introduce children to the triumphs and tragedies of one of the Civil Rights Movement’s most avid champions.

LAPATI, Joanna. Guts for Glory: The Story of Civil War Soldier Rosetta Wakeman. Eerdmans.
Gr 3-6–Epic is an overused word—most of the time. It barely begins to explain the tremendous work and vision behind this sensational piece of compelling nonfiction that truly is a picture book for young readers and adults.

LEAN, Julie. Mr. Pei’s Perfect Shapes: The Story of Architect I.M. Pei. illus. by Yifan Wu. HarperCollins/Quill Tree.
PreS-Gr 3–A fascinating and beautifully illustrated biography of one of our most celebrated architects.

MCDANIEL, Brenna J. Go Forth and Tell: The Life of Augusta Baker, Librarian and Master Storyteller. illus. by April Harrison. Penguin/Dial.
K-Gr 4–An essential purchase not to be missed—what a wonderful person, and what a worthy life.

MEADOWS, Michelle. Jimmy’s Rhythm & Blues: The Extraordinary Life of James Baldwin. illus. by Jamiel Law. HarperCollins.
Gr 4-6–In this stunning picture book biography, Meadows gets into enough detail for readers to understand the nuances of Baldwin’s life without totally overwhelming them.

MEDINA, Uma. Daughter of the Light-Footed People: The Story of Indigenous Marathon Champion Lorena Ramírez. illus. by Natalia Rojas Castro. S. & S. /Atheneum.
Gr 1-4–This is a striking introduction to ultra-marathon runner Lorena Ramírez of the Indigenous Rarámuri people of Mexico. An exceptional addition to all collections.

ALLPIMENT, Annette Bay. The cuentos of Pura Belpré. illus. by Magaly Morales. Vintage Spanish. SP
Gr 1-4–A biographical text that teaches the importance of inclusion, heritage, and seeing oneself in the stories one reads. A must for biography shelves.

ROCCO, Hayley. Wild Places: The Life of Naturalist David Attenborough. illus. by John Rocco. Putnam.
Gr 1-3–A must-purchase for libraries; children will delight in learning about the “voice of nature.” ”

ROGERS, Kim. I Am Osage: How Clarence Tinker Became the First Native American Major General. illus. by Bobby Von Martin. HarperCollins/Heartdrum.
PreS-Gr 3–The incredible life story of Clarence Tinker, the first Native American major general in the United States, is an excellent addition to nonfiction collections for young readers.

RUSSELL-BROWN, Katheryn. The little Melba and his big trombone. tr. from English by Rita Elena Urquijo-Ruiz. illus. by Frank Morrison. Lee & Low. SP
K-Gr 4–A biographical read about a young woman who beat many odds due to her love of music. Perfect for budding musicians and aficionados, and certainly for the nonfiction shelves.

SANCHEZ VEGARA, Maria Isabel. Tenzing Norgay. illus. by Bandana Tulachan. Quarto/Frances Lincoln.
K-Gr 2–Well researched and carefully presented, this is a quality introductory biography for young readers.

SMITH, Emma Bland. The Fabulous Fannie Farmer: Kitchen Scientist and America’s Cook. illus. by Susan Reagan. Astra/Calkins Creek.
Gr 1-3–This book rightfully bestows hall-of-fame status on a woman who insisted on accuracy when it came to getting success—not waste—from a recipe every time. For the biography shelves.

STONE, Tanya Lee. Remembering Rosalind Franklin: Rosalind Franklin & the Discovery of the Double Helix Structure of DNA. illus. by Gretchen Ellen Powers. Little, Brown/Christy Ottaviano.
K-Gr 4–While the book’s technical vocabulary and complex scientific concepts may pose a minimal challenge for younger readers, older students with an appreciation for learning about unsung historical figures and an interest in science will find inspiration in Franklin’s resilience.