Picture book biographies offer gateways to learning more about significant individuals. Their brief yet exciting contents share the most important details, and they allow us a starting point to learning more about someone who made an important contribution in our history.
The following five picture books are amazing biographies about female writers and librarians. Each tells the story of a noteworthy woman and features talented artwork. Enjoy!
Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston
Written by Alicia D. Williams
Illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara
This is my definitive favorite picture book biography. I simply adore the narrative voice which frequently employs figurative language and distinct dialect to immerse the reader in the culture and environment of Zora’s upbringing. Moreover, Zora’s story is truly admirable, and this book deftly summarizes her life jumping at the sun and becoming a writer and anthropologist. The illustrations are colorful, stylized, and full of details. I highly recommend!
Rise!: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou
Written by Bethany Hegedus
Illustrated by Tonya Engel
Written in verse, this picture book chronicles Maya’s entire life, touching on moments of trauma as well as emphasizing triumph. It handles the tougher topics with grace, and the illustrations are highly expressive. At the back of the book, there’s also a timeline of her life as well as some real photographs, and I learned a lot about her from reading this. It’s a very powerful reflection on a magnificent woman.
On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson
Written by Jennifer Berne
Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
Weaving in excerpts from Emily’s poetry, this picture book biography provides an overview of Emily’s experience growing up. It contextualizes her emotional complexities, offering compassionate insight as to how she felt deeply and different from others, as well as how she began to isolate herself from society and focus on nature. The bits of her poetry included very well complement the narrative thread, and the illustrations are gentle and fitting. Spectacular book!
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré
Written by Anika Aldamuy Denise
Illustrated by Paola Escobar
Earlier this month, I wrote a book review on this particular picture biography.
This book recounts the life of New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian Pura Belpré, who wrote and translated many Spanish works to make stories accessible to Spanish-speaking immigrants. With eye-catching and lovely accompanying drawings, this book succinctly tells Pura’s tale of planting stories among the people of her community, and beyond. You’ll definitely want to check this one out!
She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein
Written by Lynn Fulton
Illustrated by Felicita Sala
Focused on the period during which Mary Shelley conceptualized the story of Frankenstein, this picture book describes the cultural and personal catalysts that led her to this idea, including her relationships with friend Lord Byron and to-be-husband Percy Shelley, scientific breakthroughs of the era, and her own imagination. The illustrations are truly creepy, and this is a very spooky and atmospheric read!
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