Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - What's In My Nonfiction Pile? series - biographies 10.04.17

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.

I have had a large number of nonfiction picture books in my piles lately, that I decided to make October into the "What's in My Nonfiction Pile? series".  Today I'm spotlighting nonfiction picture book biographies.

The Girl Who Ran by Kristina Yee
The Girl Who Ran: Bobbi Gibb, the First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon
written by Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee
illustrated by Susanna Chapman
published by Compendium

As someone who has run distance events, this book really appealed to me.  I'm not someone who has aspirations to run Boston, I'm not someone who has the need to run and run, but I certainly can appreciate those who do!
Very interesting story, reads well and captures the hard work and persistence of Bobbi Gibb.

Strong as Sandow by Don Tate
Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth
by Don Tate
published by Charlesbridge

Interesting story about Eugen Sandow, who was known as the strongest man on Earth, yet from his childhood, was a very weak child.  Tate weaves a story that shows how Sandow worked very hard to achieve his goals and the success he enjoyed.  My favorite part of the book is the end pages where we learn why Don Tate choose Sandow to write about as well as some exercises young children can do to be active.  I like the overall discussion of how it is important to be physically active.
Don Tate continues to be a favorite author and illustrator.  His texts are always mentor texts (use this one to talk about author's decisions in how to go about writing when you don't have all of the information/history - being intentional) and illustrations are always stand-outs!

Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton
Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton
written by Sherri Duskey Rinker
illustrated by John Rocco
published by HMH

The Little House was a childhood favorite - I remember pouring over the illustrations as the setting around the Little House kept changing.  I remember wondering which setting I would want to live in.  I remember Burton's other books too, I didn't read them as much, but they were definite books that were well read during my childhood.
I enjoyed reading how Burton wrote these books for her sons and how they were the inspiration behind them.  Rocco's illustrations are absolutely amazing - if really makes the reader fall into the style of Burton's own illustrations.  
I wish there had been just a little more about how Burton wrote the stories and her life, but the author's note is not to be missed for some of those details.

The World Is Not a Rectangle by Jeanette Winter
The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid
by Jeanette Winter
published by 

Really interesting book about an architect and her creations, that I've never heard about!  Hadid loved shapes and colors and put that into her unique creations.  What I really loved is seeing drawings of the actual buildings and their locations around the world.
There were some questions I had as I read, I wish some more details had been added in the text to fill in holes or explain something a bit more.  An author's note with some of those details would have been helpful.

Danza! by Duncan Tonatiuh
Danza! Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México
by Duncan Tonatiuh

I love Tonatiuh's books - there is always so much to learn and appreciate in his subjects.  This time we learn about Amalia (Ami) Hernández and all that she did to bring culture and history to the dance stage.  
You've probably seen some sort of Mexican folklore dancing, maybe around Cinco de Mayo time.  Many of the dances that are performed originated with Ami's dancing - whether from her choreography or from the dancers in her studio.
As always, amazing illustrations, beautiful colors, and great end notes from Tonatiuh.

The Quest for Z by Greg Pizzoli
The Quest for Z: The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon
by Greg Pizzoli

I've owned this book for awhile but until now it's stayed in my stacks.  So glad I finally got to it - it really was fascinating learning about this man whose desire to find this mysterious and ancient city is what gave his life purpose.  It was interesting seeing his drive, but it definitely made you question his need for going on these incredibly dangerous missions.  
I think this book will fascinate young readers.  
However, after reading this for myself, I found Jillian Heise's review of this book on Goodreads.  I think it's important to read because what she is bringing up - a problematic view of the labeled "hostile tribes" - is something I did not notice on my first read.  It's certainly making me think just a bit more.

Pocket Full of Colors by Amy Guglielmo
Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire
written by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville
illustrated by Brigette Barrager

Mary Blair is my favorite Disney artist.  I'm pretty sure I admire her because of her bold use of color.  Her artwork always makes you notice - the bright colors, the bold choices - they stand out in my mind.

I can see why the authors chose to concentrate on Mary's love and passion for colors as the focus of this book.  And while I know writing a picture book is difficult and an author must think about what they want their focus to be, I just wish this book told so much more about Mary's life.  I would have loved to know more about her work with Disney.  While Mary is known for her work on "it's a small world", her work is showcased in many other areas of Walt Disney World.  Hopefully future books will share this part of her life and work!

I think Barrager was a perfect illustrator for this book.  When I first read Uni the Unicorn (also illustrated by Barrager), I remember thinking the artwork was similar to Mary Blair's!

Dangerous Jane by Suzanne Slade
Dangerous Jane
written by Suzanne Slade
illustrated by Alice Ratterree

I first learned about Jane Addams and her work in Chicago helping immigrants and the poor in Tanya Lee Stone's book The House That Jane Built.  I had never heard of Addams and this book really opened my eyes to this "hometown" hero.
In Slade's book, we learn even more about the work Addams did, not only in Chicago, but around the world.  She worked hard for peace among all nations and helping those in poverty.
Fascinating book, amazing woman.

Did you find a new biography?  Or two or three?  Lots of great ones out there to read!


  1. Wow, lots of bios to love here, Michele. I've put them all on my list, hoping to get to some soon. Thanks for sharing each one.

  2. I hadn't read three of these books but they are on my radar.

  3. I loved Long-Armed Ludy, about the woman who set the 1922 shot put record.

  4. I've read and enjoyed Big Machines and the Addams and Hadid PBs. I used to be a runner in HS, and lived near Boston for many years, so I'm really excited for The Girl Who Ran! Thanks for the rec, Michele!!