May brings many opportunities for booklists, displays, and book sharing–Mother’s Day, of course, being the big one, and we all have our favorite children’s books about mothers. However, I want to use my posts to highlight nontraditional as well as traditional ideas for booklists and book sharing. While looking through Chase’s Calendar of Events during a brainstorming session for blog posts and displays, I discovered that May 16 is “Biographer’s Day.” To mark the anniversary of the first meeting between James Boswell and Samuel Johnson, Biographer’s Day is a day to “start reading or writing a biography.” I’ve been a biography fan since elementary school, so a day set aside to honor biographies is a good day in my book. These are a few of my go-to recommendations for biography interests and assignments:
It can be a challenge to find biographies for the 3rd-4th grade set that will entertain as well as educate, which is why I order the latest Who Was…? titles whenever I can. Often incorporating a touch of humor, these biographies are fast-paced and will satisfy even the most reluctant biography reader. Subjects touch on pop culture (The Beatles), technology (Steve Jobs), and classic historical figures (Benjamin Franklin, Helen Keller).
Jonah Winter’s body of work includes a multitude of interests and subjects, but his baseball books are my favorites. You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax? is a compelling look at Koufax’s career and legacy; Winter excels in writing about people who have overcome obstacles (anti-Semitism in Koufax’s case) to achieve greatness. The narrator directly addresses the reader in a Brooklynese style, which makes it a great read aloud for elementary school audiences (as is its “successor,” You Never Heard of Willie Mays?).
Candace Fleming is a master of captivating biographies; Amelia Lost is a stunning achievement. Fleming strips away the hagiography that has surrounded the lost aviator to create a portrait of a complicated woman. Earhart devotees may be disllusioned with Fleming’s depiction, but it is an honest and revealing look at a larger than life personality.
Although there are many outstanding biographies for children, it’s rare to find one that tickles the funny bone. Sid Fleischman’s Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini is one of my top recommendations for its amusing and heartfelt look at the fantastical magician/illusionist/escape artist. Fleischman adds personal insights about magic throughout the narrative, which adds entertainment value.
What are your favorite biographies for children? Let us know in the comments!