I got two great new picture book biographies last week. I hadn't read either one of them, instead relying on reviews from the School Library Journal and the Non-Fiction Detectives. It turns out, having someone give you a good recommendation can save you a lot of time and money. Here are three that I really loved.
The first one is called "Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table" by Jacqueline Briggs. It's a beautiful and vibrantly illustrated story about Will Allen, an urban farmer who is trying to make sure that everyone gets fresh, healthy food. Here's a short interview with him.
The second biography is actually less of a biography (it doesn't tell her whole life story) but tells the story of a pivotal event. It's called "Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist makers' Strike of 1909" by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. It's the story of Clara Lemlich, who was an immigrant to NY in the early 1900s. She was the one in her family who was able to find a job (young girls were allowed to work in the garment factories) but under completely horrific conditions. Girls were fired for being late more than once, for bleeding on the fabric, given few breaks and were locked in the building where they worked during the day and searched before they left. Clara, along with others, organized strikes to gain better working conditions, in spite of being terrorized by thugs and factory owners. It's a great story about the empowerment of women as well as an opportunity to talk about working conditions and how they have changed over the years (and maybe connect to conversation about the minimum wage?)
The last one is called "On a Beam of Light" by Jennifer Berne. It's a biography about Albert Einstein and it's surprisingly accessible, even for little kids. The pictures are energetic and the text moves well. It's a great introduction to the idea that it's good to ask questions and try to find the answers.