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Best & Brightest Biographies of 2016

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This Best & Brightest list was created by Denver Public Library librarians to celebrate our favorite recently published children's biographies. Enjoy!

More of the Best & Brightest Books of 2016

Whoosh! : Lonnie Johnson's Super-soaking Stream Of Inventions
Barton, Chris, author.
Recommended by Ann. As a kid growing up in Mobile, Alabama, Lonnie Johnson was always tinkering. Rockets, rubber-band guns, robots—you name it, Lonnie built it. Lonnie dreamed of being an engineer and went to college at Tuskegee Institute where in addition to studying, he threw dance parties featuring his custom-built sound system complete with a synchronized light show. After college, Lonnie worked at NASA by day and continued to tinker in his home workshop at night. While trying to create an environmentally friendly refrigerator cooling system, Lonnie stumbled upon the idea for what would become the Super Soaker. Tate’s bold illustrations, complete with a pull-out spread showing a glorious burst of Super Soaker power, complement Barton’s engaging text in this accessible introduction to a pioneering African American inventor and engineer.
Just A Lucky So And So : The Story Of Louis Armstrong
Cline-Ransome, Lesa, author.
Recommended by Ann. The grandson of slaves, Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans in 1901. From a young age, Armstrong took odd jobs to earn money for his family. He did everything from selling newspapers to hauling coal and everywhere he went, he was surrounded by music. Armstrong left school at 14 and apprenticed himself to trumpeter Joe “King” Oliver. He was soon playing in bands on riverboats and heading north to the Windy City, Chicago. Cline-Ransome’s narrative is interwoven with direct quotations from Armstrong giving the book a personal, intimate feel. Ransome’s watercolor illustrations extend a warm welcome to readers to linger and explore how little Louis Armstrong became Satchmo, one of the most innovative jazz musicians of all time.
Fannie Never Flinched : One Woman's Courage In The Struggle For American Labor Union Rights
Farrell, Mary Cronk, author.
Recommended by Amy. In the early 1900's widowed Fannie Sellins was struggling to support her children as a seamstress in a textile sweatshop. Fannie was fed up with working long hours in dangerous conditions for very little pay. So she united forces with her fellow seamstresses to launch Ladies' Local 67 of the United Garment Workers of America. This was the start of Fannie's passionate career as a union activist. Until her untimely death, Fannie advocated for better wages and working conditions for factory workers, laborers and miners all over the United States. Well-researched and thoughtfully designed, this inspiring biography features photographs, newspaper articles and other visuals that bring Fannie's struggle to life. Backmatter includes an author's note, glossary, a time line of select events in the American labor struggle, as well as sources, websites and books.
I Dissent : Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark
Levy, Debbie, author.
Recommended by Rachel, Carrie and Amy. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born in a time when women were expected to marry, keep house and raise children. Instead, Ruth’s mother raised her with the idea that girls can do anything. Ruth proved her mother right by becoming a lawyer, then a professor of law and finally a Supreme Court justice, all while raising a family. This short, lively biography gives an introduction to Ginsburg's life and her work fighting oppression throughout her career.
Miss Mary Reporting : The True Story Of Sportswriter Mary Garber
Macy, Sue.
Recommended by Carrie and Ann. Mary Garber became a sports writer in an era when women weren't expected to play sports, let alone report on them. Small in stature but fiercely determined, Mary's career spanned half a century and broke ground not only for covering sporting events, but for reporting on social issues impacting them, like segregation. Macy's excellent narrative vividly portrays Mary's precociousness and the sports stories she brought to light. Tougher issues likes sexism and racism are addressed upfront with a deft hand that steers clear of pedantry. The illustrations are stylized yet painterly and beautifully convey the drama and power of athletes in motion, as well as key figures in sports and journalism. With strong "kid appeal" this book is a terrific choice to bring diverse nonfiction to older storytimes, reader advisory and classrooms.
Cloth Lullaby : The Woven Life Of Louise Bourgeois
Novesky, Amy, author.
Recommended by Liesel, Rachel and Jennifer. Stunning illustrations and gorgeous writing illuminate the childhood of artist Louise Bourgeois and examines the way early experiences can shape a unique perspective.
A Poem For Peter : The Story Of Ezra Jack Keats And The Creation Of The Snowy Day
Pinkney, Andrea Davis, author.
Recommended by Ann. This biography-in-verse captures the vivid story of children’s author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats and his most beloved character Peter from The Snowy Day. From his early days as the child of Polish immigrants to his work painting murals for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and serving in the Air Force during WWII, Pinkney seamlessly weaves facts from Keats’ life into her “collage verse”. Facing discrimination when he returned from the war (“No Jews Need Apply”), Jacob Ezra Katz changed his name and it was this experience of being different that eventually led to the creation of Peter. Fancher and Johnson’s illustrations both incorporate some of Keats’ original work and reflect his style by using collage, paint and pencil in their original contributions. Text and illustration work together to remind us that “Brown sugar child, / when you and your hue / burst onto the scene / all of us came out to play.”
Anything But Ordinary Addie : The True Story Of Adelaide Herrmann, Queen Of Magic
Rockliff, Mara, author.
Recommended by Liesel and Rachel. Adelaide Hermann never wanted to be ordinary. She always stood out in a crowd—as the illustrations in this lavishly illustrated biography demonstrate. Text and illustrations complement each other, telling the story of a bold woman who became a magician at a time when women rarely took center stage.
Ada Lovelace, Poet Of Science : The First Computer Programmer
Stanley, Diane, author.
Recommended by Amy. Using bright gouache illustrations and a concise, friendly narrative, this picture book biography focuses on the perspicacious and creative Ada Lovelace. This introductory book will inspire readers to seek more information about Lovelace, a woman whose intelligence and inventive imagination helped her write the first ever computer program.
Some Writer! : The Story Of E. B. White
Sweet, Melissa, 1956- author, illustrator.
Recommended by Amy, Jennifer and Rachel. Interweaving text, quotations and mixed media collage illustrations, the sincere and humble writer is brought to life. Expertly paced and wonderfully concise, this book follows White's life from his childhood as the youngest of a large brood, through his discovery of nature, his work at The New Yorker, writing his three children's book and sadly, yet simply, to his death. The extensive backmatter includes quotation citations, an afterword by White's granddaughter, an author's note and further reading. Equally fascinating and inspiring for avid fans of Charlotte, Wilbur, and Stuart, as well as readers new to White's wonderful stories.
Esquivel! : Space-age Sound Artist
Wood, Susan, 1965-
Recommended by Rachel. Born in Tampico, Mexico, Juan Garcia Esquivel was fascinated by music and sounds at a young age. He turned that fascination into inspiration for his "out-of-this-world" music, which received great acclaim. The illustrations are a digitized blend of photographed textures, hand written text and drawings inspired by ancient Mexican art. Text and illustrations come together to capture Esquivel's unique and imaginative style of music in this introduction to the musician's life and work.