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Best & Brightest Children's Biographies of 2020


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

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Lizzie Demands A Seat!: Elizabeth Jennings Fights For Streetcar Rights
Anderson, Beth, 1954- author.
Kindergarten-3rd grade. “One hundred years before Rosa Parks took her stand, Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Jennings tried to board a streetcar in New York City on her way to church. Though there were plenty of empty seats, she was denied entry, assaulted and threatened all because of her race--even though New York was a free state at that time. Lizzie decided to fight back. She told her story, took her case to court--where future president Chester Arthur represented her--and won! Her victory was the first recorded in the fight for equal rights on public transportation, and Lizzie's case set a precedent.” --From the publisher. This timely book is a forthright retelling of an early fight for social justice. The evocative, detailed, double-spread watercolor illustrations drop readers vividly into the historical setting and immerse them in the action, and edifying back matter including an author's note, reading suggestions and bibliography provide context and depth.
On Wings Of Words: The Extraordinary Life Of Emily Dickinson
Berne, Jennifer, author.
3rd-5th grade. “Emily Dickinson, who famously wrote ‘Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul,’ is brought to life in this moving story. In a small New England town lives Emily Dickinson, a girl in love with small things—a flower petal, a bird, a ray of light, a word. In those small things, her brilliant imagination can see the wide world—and in her words, she takes wing.” --From the publisher. Stadtlander’s evocative gouache and watercolor illustrations make for a perfect companion to Berne’s text interlaced with selections from Dickinson’s poems. Appendices include author and illustrator notes along with tips for reading, writing and sharing poetry.
Drawing On Walls: A Story Of Keith Haring
Burgess, Matthew, author.
Kindergarten-3rd grade. "Truly devoted to the idea of public art, Haring drew wherever he went: from the Berlin Wall to the unused advertising space in New York’s subway. Haring’s iconic pop art and graffiti-like style transformed the New York City underground art scene in the 1980s. A member of the LGBTQ community, Haring died tragically at the age of thirty-one from AIDS-related complications. This inspiring, celebratory book honors Haring’s life and art, along with his very special connection with kids.” --From the publisher. Cochran’s joyful illustrations use bold, colorful lines that mirror Haring’s own style in this large format picture book biography. Additional author and illustrator notes and a list of sources offer readers opportunities to further explore the life, art and times of this influential LGBTQ artist.
Finish The Fight!: The Brave And Revolutionary Women Who Fought For The Right To Vote
Chambers, Veronica, author.
4th-6th grade. “Who was at the forefront of women's right to vote? We know a few famous names, like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but what about so many others from diverse backgrounds—black, Asian, Latinx, Native American, and more—who helped lead the fight for suffrage? On the hundredth anniversary of the historic win for women's rights, it's time to celebrate the names and stories of the women whose stories have yet to be told.” --From the publisher. This #ownvoices collection of short, straightforward and accessible biographies highlights the lesser recognized, though equally important, contributions of BIPOC and LGBTQ women on the way to suffrage and overall women’s rights. Comic book illustrations and compelling primary source material make this book an appealing choice for a wide range of readers.
Shirley Chisholm Is A Verb!
Chambers, Veronica, author.
Kindergarten-3rd grade. “A timely picture book biography about Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman in Congress, who sought the Democratic nomination to be the president of the United States. Shirley Chisholm famously said, ‘If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.’ This dynamic biography illuminates how Chisholm was a doer, an active and vocal participant in our nation's democracy and a force to be reckoned with. Now young readers will learn about her early years, her time in Congress, her presidential bid and how her actions left a lasting legacy that continues to inspire, uplift and instruct.” --From the publisher. Action verbs provide theme and structure to this #ownvoices book that takes readers through Chisholm’s dynamic career. Bold, clean-lined digital illustrations and clear text bring this fascinating story to life, while the emphasized verbs are called out with color and font to support comprehension.
Itzhak: A Boy Who Loved The Violin
Newman, Tracy, 1971- author.
Kindergarten-3rd grade. “Raised by a poor immigrant family in a tiny Tel Aviv apartment, Itzhak Perlman was transformed by the sounds from his family’s kitchen radio—graceful classical symphonies, lively klezmer tunes, and soulful cantorial chants. After begging his parents for an instrument, Itzhak threw his heart and soul into playing the violin. Despite enormous obstacles—including a near-fatal bout of polio that left him crippled for life—Itzhak persevered, honing his extraordinary gift. When he performed on the Ed Sullivan Show at only 13, audiences around the world were mesmerized by the warmth, joy and passion in every note.” --From the publisher. Vibrant, colorful watercolor and colored pencil illustrations and uplifting, expressive text bring Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman’s childhood to life in this well-designed picture book biography. Mesmerizing musical notes and quotes from Perlman are woven through the illustrations and text, creating continuity, and notes, links and other back matter add additional background.
Nacho's Nachos: The Story Behind The World's Favorite Snack
Nickel, Sandra, author.
Kindergarten-3rd grade. “The delicious true story of an inventive chef and the serendipitous events that led to the creation of the world's favorite snack--nachos! Ignacio Anaya was born in Mexico in 1895, and like a lot of Ignacios, he was nicknamed Nacho. Young Nacho loved to eat and cook, and when he grew up, he found a job in a restaurant. Little did Nacho know that his name would one day be a household word around the globe!” --From the publisher. An excellent choice for a nonfiction read aloud, this fascinating story comes beautifully to life with the sprawling, detail-rich and realistic artwork and straightforward text. The book is well-researched and approachable, sharing a new story with a wide audience, and features high-quality back matter, including sources, an afterword and a delicious recipe for nachos!
Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story Of The Oldest Person To Ever Run A Marathon
Singh, Simran Jeet, author.
Kindergarten-3rd grade. “Fauja Singh was born determined. He was also born with legs that wouldn’t allow him to play cricket with his friends or carry him to school miles from his village in Punjab. But that didn’t stop him. Working on his family’s farm, Fauja grew stronger to meet his own full potential. He never stopped striving. At the age of 81, after a lifetime of making his body, mind and heart stronger, Fauja decided to run his first marathon. He went on to break records all around the world and became the first person over 100 to complete the grueling long-distance race.” --From the publisher. From the endpapers to the two-page victory portrait, Kaur’s illustrations radiate the joy and perseverance of the life of Fauja Singh.The illustrations, combined with Singh’s lively text and additional back matter information on Sikhism, make this #ownvoices book a welcome and much-needed addition to the picture book biography genre.

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