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Find more Top 10 Biographies for Youth
From czars to rock stars, and from artists to agents of change, the following books introduce readers to some of the world’s most fascinating people. All titles were reviewed in Booklist from June 1, 2014, to May 15, 2015.
Brown Girl Dreaming. By Jacqueline Woodson. 2014. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen, $16.99 (9780399252518). Gr. 5–8.
In an author’s note, Woodson writes that this book of free verse poems is about “my past, my people, my memories, my story.” The result is a marvel, turning her deeply felt remembrances of preadolescent life into art.
Elvis: The Story of the Rock and Roll King. By Bonnie Christensen. Illus. by the author. 2014. Holt, $17.99 (9780805094473). Gr. 1–3.
The early life of Elvis Presley is presented here in prose that is sometimes lyrical and sometimes sharp-edged, bringing the singer close. Christensen also offers a particularly pithy explanation of crossover music.
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia. By Candace Fleming. 2014. illus. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $18.99 (9780375867828). Gr. 7–12.
History comes to vivid life in Fleming’s sweeping story of the House of Romanov’s dramatic decline. This artful work of narrative history is splendidly researched and documented.
Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life. By Catherine Reef. 2014. illus. Clarion, $18.99 (9780547821849). Gr. 7–10.
Writing a dual biography can be difficult, but Reef meets the challenge admirably in a braided narrative that captures the complexities of this legendary couple’s relationship. A handsome book that is both engaging and enlightening.
Ida M.Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business—and Won! By Emily Arnold McCully. 2014. illus. Clarion, $18.99 (9780547290928). Gr. 7–10.
McCully introduces a woman who had the intelligence, drive, and personality to carve out a career in the world of investigative journalism. A lively biography that does an excellent job of bringing Tarbell and her times crisply into focus.
The Iridescence of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse. By Patricia MacLachlan. Illus. by Hadley Hooper. 2014. Roaring Book/Neal Porter, $17.99 (9781596439481). Gr. K–3.
In two long, lyrical sentences, MacLachlan speculates about the great artist’s early experiences and how they shaped his genius. The illustrations vibrate and hum, echoing Matisse’s dynamic sense of composition.
Mahalia Jackson: Walking with Kings and Queens. By Nina Nolan. Illus. by John Holyfield. 2015. Amistad, $17.99 (9780060879440). Gr. K–3.
Nolan and Holyfield make music a visible presence in this book as they tell the legendary gospel singer’s story. An evocative piece of storytelling whose homespun words evoke the sublime.
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus. By Jen Bryant. Illus. by Melissa Sweet. 2014. Eerdmans, $17.50 (9780802853851). Gr. K–3.
Bryant and Sweet combine their considerable talents to illuminate the life of Peter Mark Roget. In pages teeming with enthusiasm for language and learning, they joyfully celebrate the power of words.
This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon. By Nancy Plain. 2015. illus. Univ. of Nebraska, paper, $19.95 (9780803248847). Gr. 7–10.
Plain chronicles the naturalist’s adventurous life in a succinct, absorbing narrative that is well researched, meticulously documented, and beautifully written. The copious illustrations are excellent.
Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees. By Franck Prevot. Illus. by Aurelia Fronty. 2014. Charlesbridge, $17.95 (9781580896269) Gr. 3–5.
This inspired biography of the Nobel Prize–winning Kenyan political and environmental activist has aesthetic and educational qualities that make it a classroom must-have.
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