A Dozen Biographies about Marvelous People
Some people live important lives that we can learn from. Here are 12 stories about people who have stories worth reading. Some of the people I already knew about and some are brand new to me. As I’ve said before, I consider reading books for this blog a gift!
As much as I love this book’s illustrations—they are wonderful—I love the text even more. I’ve always known Eleanor Roosevelt was a remarkable woman but this book told me so much more about her, and her life, that my respect for Eleanor Roosevelt has tripled.
Henry Brown was a slave. This story follows his life from when he was a child, to getting married, to having children, and then to watching his whole family being sold at the slave market. The rest of the story tells of his daring and dangerous escape to freedom. This book was a Caldecott Honor book in 2007.
Sylvia Earle’s love of the ocean started when she was a girl living by the Gulf of Mexico. This book follows her life as she explores the ocean. Among other accomplishments, she helps design a one-person spherical bubble that lets her go down 3,000 feet and later plunges 13,000 feet in a Japanese submersible. In 1970, Earle realizes her dream and lives underwater for 2 weeks, observing sea creatures both day and night. This is a life of truly following one’s dreams.
Philippe Petit was a street performer in New York City. His favorite act was walking and dancing on a rope he tied between two trees. When he saw the Twin Towers in New York City being built, he knew had to walk between them. It was no easy trick to get a cable from one tower to the other, but he finally did it. And then he was ready to walk and dance between the buildings! This is a great story with illustrations that won the Caldecott Medal in 2003.
Bessie Coleman was born in 1892. When she was 11, she learned of Orville and Wilbur Wright flying their first plane and knew she wanted to be the first African-American female pilot. This was a crazy dream: being both a woman and African-American made it doubly impossible. I really like how this story is told. Keeping to the facts of Coleman’s life, the story is fiction, told in the voices of people who attend Coleman’s funeral.
When Theodore Roosevelt was a boy, he was smart, but weak and sickly. This story tells about his endless curiosity and strong determination. These strengths led him to become an important leader and the youngest president of the United States.
When Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women in 1898, it was an overnight success, but a lot happened that led to her success. Alcott came from a family that was poor but freethinking: her parents believed that both boys and girls should be educated and that their opinions were important. Alcott started teaching at age 17 but writing was her passion. It took years, but she finally was able to reach her dream. This book gives a nicely paced telling of Alcott’s life.
Bass Reeves was born in 1838. He grew up as a slave: smart, honest, good-natured, an excellent rider, and a great shot. After a fight with his owner when he was in his 20s, he fled to Indian Territory. In his 30s, Bass was hired as a deputy marshal by the most feared judge in the west. This book gives lots of stories of Reeves’ life as an honest man who was very good at bringing outlaws to justice, by mostly peaceful means. This is a page-turner!
Tillie Anderson was born in 1875 and was an avid bicycle rider. Back then, women were expected to ride in a ladylike manner. But what was the fun of that? Not only did Tillie ride for speed and distance, she created an outrageous riding outfit: pants! Tillie went on to become a champion rider and broke a slew of records—both for speed and distance. Although she was a scandal to her family and most of her friends, she became a hero to those in the new women’s rights movement.
William Carlos Williams was born in 1883. As a boy, he used his sharp eyes and keen ears to record all the details of his surroundings. He started writing poetry, yet he knew he could never support himself with it. So he became a doctor, and between helping people get well, he’d write poems, sometimes even on his prescription pads. Eventually, his poems were published. The book’s illustrations are quite wonderful, making this a Caldecott Honor book in 2008.
Clara Barton had trouble speaking clearly as a child and so was often teased at school. As Clara grew, she learned she was gifted at healing and was often busy nursing the neighbors and their animals. Her biggest challenge came when her brother fell and suffered a terrible injury. The last pages give more information about Clara Barton’s work as founder of the American Red Cross.
Gandhi was one of the most famous leaders of peace and justice in the world. He was an inspiration for civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela. This book was co-written by Gandhi’s grandson and Bethany Hegedus. It tells of the time when Arun Gandhi was twelve and lived with his grandfather. It tells of his struggles to be a person of peace when he was so often filled with anger. He shares a story his grandfather told about lightning that I hope to remember forever.
I loved reading these books and I hope you do too. So many wonderful stories!
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