I feel like I’m spending a lot of time in the children’s biographies section lately. It used to be a rather dry place, with series of books about historical figures whose stories were told as if there’d be a multiple choice test at the end of it. But the last few years have brought a boatload of reading options for kids (and adults) who want to read about important people and little guys (and girls) who made a difference in the world. More hit my stack this week.
Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop: Slave-Explorer by Heather Henson and Bryan Collier. Who knew that there were slave guides showing tourists around Mammoth Caves, now a national park, in the 1830s? Not me. It’s a weird and uncomfortable thing to think about – a tourist spot with slave-led tours? Apparently Stephen Bishop was known to the Queen of England and was a science enthusiast. He also discovered two new species and created the first extensive map of the caves, even though he was not supposed to learn to read and was sold along with the caves at least once. What? Call this one “eye-opening” in many ways. The art is wonderful, too, with a combination of photo-like illustration and collage.
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe. It’s a wild, bright messy life — the life of an artist like Jean-Michel Basquiat. The illustrations are so loud and vibrant, with bits of collage and bits of graffiti, and Basquiat’s life story is equally bold.
Esquivel! Space Age Sound Artist by Susan Wood and Duncan Tonatiuh. If Duncan Tonatiuh has illustrated it, I’ll read it. Seriously. Just sign me up for whatever he’s got in print. I’ll read any text on the page with his illustrations, and as it turns out, that’s meant learning more about the Day of the Dead (Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras) and school discrimination (Separate is Never Equal) in addition to Esquivel. Tonatiuh explains in the author notes that his art, like Esquivel’s creative use of traditional music, is inspired by ancient Mexican art and the Mixtec codex. And there’s an interesting story here, too. Bonus!
Preaching to the Chickens: the story of the young John Lewis. John Lewis is amazing, as I have noted in earlier posts on his graphic novels, the March series. (You can read more about them here.) This picture book is about his childhood, his love for his chickens, his growing sense of responsibility, and his powerful public speaking — even at a young age, even to chickens.
Funny thing. (To me, at least.) I’ve had to edit this post twice before even getting it up, because I keep finding new things to add, which tells me life is at least a little good. Yes, a little bit.