Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Biographies that show Passion 3.15.17

Every Wednesday I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

Passion - it's a word that comes to mind when I read many picture book biographies.  So many people who have gone on to do amazing accomplishments have such a passion for what they believe in.  These two new picture biographies spotlight people who show a real passion for their dreams.

Lighter Than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot
Lighter Than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot
written by Matthew Clark Smith
illustrated by Matt Tavares
published by Candlewick Press

Believe it and you can achieve it.  We tell students, our children, ourselves this encouraging phase.  But when you read Lighter Than Air, you know this is what Sophie believed.
The reader can see Sophie's passion for flying through Smith's words and Tavares' illustrations.  We see Sophie as a young child showing her natural curiosity and wonder about flying as she admires the birds around her and watching them take to flight.  We are drawn to Tavares' illustration of Sophie as she sits on a hill on a dark day as she ponders the world's attitude of the place of a woman - that place certainly not being the pilot in a balloon.  But it's the passion for flying that drives Sophie to accomplish her dream.  The reader is taken through other milestones in her life, as she tries new things and meets new goals.  Tavares sets the mood of each scene through his use of light and dark colors.  Our spirits life and soar with every accomplishment Sophie meets.

I think readers will be drawn to Sophie's story.  Her story does not come without failures and disappointments.  But having that dream, that passion, kept her moving forward and finding new goals and finding true happiness.

The author's note continues Sophie's story, although the ending is not a happy one.  But when you think about how her bravery and passion paved the way for many other women who continued that path into the sky, you really view Sophie as a pioneer.

Other books you may pair with this text:
A Voyage in the Clouds by Matthew Olshan
Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton by Meghan McCarthy
Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic by Robert Burleigh
Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine by Heather Lang

Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing
Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing
written by Kay A. Haring
illustrated by Robert Neubecker
published by Dial Books

Keith Haring's artwork is probably familiar to many people.  Even some of the young readers of the book will be familiar with the broad lines and comic-like outlines of characters.  But the story of the artist will probably be new.  And what stands out to the reader is the passion this artist had for his work.  It wasn't about the fame or the money, it really was about creating and giving back.  Haring's work with the public, and the way he encouraged children to explore the arts, was something that stuck with me.  To have a passion so deep for something and to use that enthusiasm to encourage others is definitely something to recognize! 

This picture book biography struck a chord in my own memories.  Growing up in the 80s, I remember spending a lot of time coloring.  As I got older, it was fun to experiment with broad strokes, coloring in the different spaces with bright colors.  I'm not sure if what I was doing was inspired by Haring's artwork, but I'm guessing his influence on the art scene in the 80s filtered down to us kids!

Other books you may pair with this text:
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant
A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney


  1. Although I like the way you described these better than what I did, Michele. we wrote similar posts. I too wrote about passion and the wonderful stories we can now learn about through the recent picture books! Lighter Than Air is a new one to me, and I have the Keith Haring book on my list. I'm looking forward to reading them! Thanks!

  2. It's so important to share these kinds of stories with kids - we're so often surrounded with these "be yourself, believe in yourself, you can be anything" expressions that they can easily become background noise. But having real examples of this kind of passion, and seeing real people persevere through disappointments and hardships, can really be inspirational!

  3. I love your focus on passion! There needs to be some kernel to build a picture book around, and passion is powerful.

  4. lighter than air seems fascinating. i'll probably end up reading that soon.

  5. I really enjoyed the Keith Haring book. Still need to find Lighter Than Air.