This one’s about the guy, Edwin Binney, who invented Crayola crayons, and his cousin, C. Harold Smith. So fun! Now I know where the business name “Binney and Smith” came from.
This one above is a fascinating look into colonial times. It features the story of a real young woman, Amelia Simmons, who learned how to cook as an indentured servant for a family of little boys in the late 1700s. She determined to make the first American cookbook, using local New England ingredients, like cornmeal and squash. I always thought Fanny Farmer was the first person to write an American cookbook, but according to author Deborah Hopkinson, it was Amelia. This story shows how she received the honor to bake Independence Cakes (one for each colony) to serve at George Washington’s inauguration in New York City, and includes the recipe to make 13 cakes, including 20 lbs of flour! Thanks to Amelia, who introduced the word “cookie” to American readers. The word cookie came from “koejke” which Dutch settlers used.
What would it be like not to know how to read until you learn at age 116? This is the amazing true story of Mary Walker, who lived to be 121. She was born into slavery and lived until 1969. When she felt lonely, she read from her Bible.
A very sweet book about a very sweet man. Who doesn’t like him these days? My third book that I’ve read about him.
I love this book because it shows how to be inquisitive. Which we need some modeling of because as we grow up in this screenful, pre-programmed world we sometimes lose it. 🙂
This is my favorite picture book on George Washington because of Cheryl Harness’ gorgeous watercolor, outlined in ink, illustrations. I also love all the classic, great stories of George that show his noble character. But if you are reading this to kids under 12, don’t bother to read every single word. It’s too much for them. All the words and all the details on the maps are for adults. Check out Cheryl’s other picture book biographies, of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. They are all fabulous.
This one is cute for introducing kids to the amazing, inventive life of Ben Franklin. you might need to clarify that Ben didn’t really have a talking mouse. 🙂
I heard about the story of Emily Roebling from Ramona Zabriskie’s Wife for Life book, which I read over a year ago. Emily is an example of a “Wife for Life,” because of how she helped her husband in his quest to build the Brooklyn Bridge, a feat of engineering, which in turn helped build their marriage. Fascinating! I enjoyed reading this book to my 9-year-old. I love picture books about real people that tell real stories in a short amount of time and leave me feeling so good. It’s just inspiring and amazing and wonderful to think that someone, especially a woman in the 1800s, could just decide that she can study something and be an expert on it, without going to formal school and getting a degree in that subject. Emily’s father-in-law, John Roebling, who started the Brooklyn Bridge, died, after getting tetanus while working on the bridge. Then her husband, who was left with the task of finishing the bridge, got ill and bedridden. So she took over the monumental task of being the liaison between her husband and the crew, communicating his vision and instructions, getting the bridge finished! Amazing! I’m going to get the book about them by David McCollough in Audible to get more details.
Is there such a thing as a biography of an animal? This is another true story. It shows the power of people to cause change. I love it!
This book, by the author of Snowflake Bentley, is such a fun celebration of the life of Alice Waters, the founder of Chez Panisse, a famous restaurant, and her passion for uniting people with wholesome food. I love Alice’s idea of the Edible Schoolyard.
I love this picture book story of the life of Booker T. Washington. He was an amazing man. I didn’t know he was so visionary that he literally built the school that he founded brick by brick, even making the bricks himself, after intense study. In this age of easily accessible tutorials, he leaves us no excuse for not accomplishing our dreams. The watercolor illustrations are just lovely.
Here are more. I don’t have time to comment about them, just go get them. You will love every one!
(The rest of these below aren’t picture books. Just so you know that I know.)
The Faithful Spy is a graphic novel, not a picture book, about a theologian turned spy who felt duty bound to assist in the plot to kill Hitler. The mesh of words and illustration by the author/illustrator John Hendrix is amazing. I wish I could have learned history in my youth reading books like this and Nathan Hales’ books, along with picture books.
Here’s one about an underrated hero in American history: Nathaniel Bowditch. He was a mathematician who wrote a guide for ocean navigation, The Practical Navigator. According to this site, he “made seamanship a science and left all mariners in his debt.” Why I didn’t learn about him in public school, I don’t know. It was only until I homeschooled my own children that I discovered the man and this book.
So this one below is not a picture book, or for children, but I’m including it here as I transition to talk about biographies for adults. It’s not a biography per se but the story of three famous men and their life with food, so that’s sort of biographical right?
I saw the book above in the gift shop at Colonial Williamsburg and so hunted it down at my local public library as soon as I got home. I didn’t know that Washington was such the fisherman. It includes recipes for such things as Jefferson’s ice cream (with a copy of it written in his own hand!) and Boston Baked Beans. If you are like me and don’t drink alcohol you may want to skip all those parts about their fascination with spirits.
The rest of these aren’t particularly for children either. I’m listening to these in Audible as “treats” every Thursday when I take my long drive home from my homeschool group meetup (90 minutes one way) after the kids fall asleep in the car:
Last but not least I have to mention Louisa May Alcott and her mother. This one is actually a children’s biography of Louisa that I read aloud to my kiddos a few years ago…
and then a “bio” of sorts of Louisa and Abigail May, her mother, and their mother-daughter relationship, for adults.
You can read more about the book here! It is a gem! If you want to go deeper, read the compilation of Abigail’s letters and diary entries in this book below, by the same author as above. She is actually a grand niece of Louisa.
I hope you can enjoy all these great books!