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News in Youth Services

Monday, April 15, 2019

Picture Book Biographies

In the past few years, the world of biographies has blossomed with the addition of picture books.  These books provide a wonderful introduction to important figures in our history.  The art in the books bring their stories to life, adding detail not found in the narrative.

As I was strolling down our biography aisle recently, I came across some wonderful picture book biographies that I'd like to share with you.

Danza!  Amalia Hernández and el Ballet Folklórico de México by Duncan Tonatiuh, tells the story of Amalia Hernández who was enthralled with the dancing on the streets of Mexico City as a child.  Amalia convinced her parents to let her study ballet and modern dance.  She became a choreographer and dance teacher whose inspiration of the traditional folk dances of Mexico were highlighted in her performances.

Mama Africa!:  How Miriam Makeba Spread hope With Her Song by
Kathryn Erskine is the story of Miriam Makeba, who grew up in South Africa during a time when nonwhite people lived in the oppressive conditions of apartheid.  She was encouraged by singers Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday and she sang songs of protest in other African languages to disguise the lyrics.  In 1959, Makeba left South Africa and was forbidden to return, which sparked her thirty-year campaign to draw worldwide attention to apartheid.  The bright paintings depict her powerful voice, while more somber colors depict the oppressive conditions of apartheid.

Pocket Full of Colors:  the Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire by Amy Guglielmo describes the life of Mary Blair, who lived her life in color when the world wasn't quite ready to be as colorful.  Mary was an imaginative child who become an illustrator, designer and an animator for Walt Disney.  At the time, movie studios only wanted to hire men and produced in black and white.  Mary did not want to conform to those rules and painted twinkling emerald skies, peach giraffes with tangerine spots and magenta horses that could fly.  She was just what Walt Disney was looking for to change the world of animation.

The world of picture book biographies offer children a look into the lives of real people and offer countless inspirations.  Some books remind us of a forgotten hero.  Others help us appreciate an iconic figure even more.  Writers and illustrators of picture book biographies shine a light on both the picture book and biography genres and allow us the opportunity to appreciate their creative cooperation.

Picture book biographies

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