This Best & Brightest list was created by Denver Public Library librarians to celebrate our favorite recently published children's biographies. Enjoy!
Someone Like Me : How One Undocumented Girl Fought For Her American Dream
4th-6th grade. The Dream Act of 2017 gave a pathway to citizenship for over one million young undocumented immigrants who spent almost their entire lives in the United States. Julissa Arce was one of these young people, bringing new depth to a timely and important topic through fast paced and engaging narration. As a child, she was left with her sisters and grandmother in Taxco, Mexico, for months at a time while her parents worked at trade shows in the U.S., until one day they brought her to Texas with them. After enrolling in a private school that did not require her to have a Social Security number, Arce lived as an undocumented immigrant in secret. With stories of joining the cheer squad, friendships, bullies, crushes and family struggles, this book not only is relatable for readers, but serves as an inspiration to DREAMers everywhere.
Mary, Who Wrote Frankenstein
2nd-5th grade. This picture book biography focuses on Mary Shelley’s lonely early life and the important events that inspired her to write Frankenstein, including the death of her mother, her strict father and her exile to Scotland. Throughout the book, the author emphasizes Shelley’s wandering, daydreaming and vivid imagination. The artwork is moody and gothic, creating a perfectly creepy atmosphere with lots of patterns, dark earth tones and liberal use of black. Author’s notes at the end provide more background information about Shelley and details of her later life. It’s a versatile biography that would provide students with a nice introduction to Frankenstein (now celebrating its 200th anniversary), or a great read aloud to launch a unit on horror or science fiction.
Nothing Stopped Sophie : The Story Of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain
1st-4th grade. Sophie Germain’s story would be remarkable in any time period, but when the reader learns that most girls in 18th century France didn’t even go to school, Germain’s accomplishments become truly extraordinary. The realistic illustrations, created with pen and ink, watercolor and collage, are overlaid with numbers and mathematical equations, providing a visual window into Sophie’s ability to see math everywhere. Resilient and dedicated, Germain was a self-taught mathematician who overcame all odds to become the first woman to win a prize from the Paris Academy of Science for her work with vibration patterns, much to the surprise and dismay of the all-male profession.
No Truth Without Ruth : The Life Of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
2nd-5th grade. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s intelligence, resilience and determination shine through in this picture book biography. The large, mixed media pictures illustrate the challenges Ginsburg faced in a time when women were discouraged from showing their intelligence and talents. The author makes complex court cases accessible to readers and conveys how important the trailblazing Ginsburg has been, not only for women’s rights but the rights of all humans. This empowering early elementary biography includes a timeline, a compilation of ten landmark court cases in which Ginsburg participated and a list of sources
The Vast Wonder Of The World : Biologist Ernest Everett Just
1st-4th grade. This picture book biography highlights the brilliance of the biologist who was the world’s authority on cell fertilization. From the introductory illustration featuring Just eagerly skimming a pond for worms then rushing home to inspect them, readers get a strong sense of this inquisitive and driven individual. As an African American in the early 1900s, Just’s determination and resilience was vital to overcoming the injustice and inequality that followed him throughout his life. In addition to his work as a scientist, Just wrote poetry and was also an English professor and, later, the head of the biology department at Howard University. Back matter includes additional information about Just, as well as a timeline, glossary and resource list.
Lights! Camera! Alice! : The Thrilling True Adventures Of The First Woman Filmmaker
Kindergarten-3rd grade. Although her name may not be as synonymous with filmmaking as Georges Méliès or Charlie Chaplin, Alice Guy-Blaché’s pioneering work is celebrated in this much needed picture book introduction. An innovator of the French and U.S. film industry, Alice experimented with audio, color and special effects to develop new narratives, camera angles and techniques. Although Alice was often overshadowed and squeezed out by male filmmakers, this biography focuses on her talents, experience and hard work. Energetic illustrations, created with dry media on white paper, are presented like full color film stills. The buoyant text compliments the illustrations, driving the story forward. An afterword (“Director’s Cut”) at the end of the book delves deeper into Alice’s life and celebrates a late-in-life rediscovery of her groundbreaking work.
The Girl Who Drew Butterflies : How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science
3rd-6th grade. Would you be willing to follow your dreams even if it meant you could be hanged as a witch? Artist and entomologist Maria Merian did just that, even though she was aware that in nearby villages people had been accused of witchcraft for their interests in insects. (In the 17th century, people commonly viewed most insects as vermin.) But Maria knew there was a connection between cocoons, caterpillars and butterflies, and she spent many years studying, painting and drawing her subjects both in the wild and in her artist studio/lab. Mirroring the metamorphosis of a butterfly, each chapter is introduced with a photograph showing a stage of a butterfly’s transformation and short poem that touches on both Merian’s life, as well as the butterfly’s. This smartly designed book, featuring call out boxes and helpful visual supports, is a fascinating look at a woman whose vision and drive could not be diminished by societal pressures or expectations.