Why I love picture book biographies : a librarian’s tale

This year, my daughter grabbed a book off the shelf in the children’s non-fiction section that I was sure was too old for her — and I was completely wrong. The book my daughter fell in love with is the first one pictured below — Shark Lady, about scientist Eugenie Clark.

One of the wonderful (and special) things about picture book biographies, is how approachable they make their subjects. The protagonists in the books below start as girls a bit older than my daughter — and that’s how she imagines them, not as fully formed women who’ve done amazing things (which would be much more intimidating). These stories are approachable and aspirational, and hopeful — and I love them for it, and hope you have a happy time sharing them too!

For more book recommendations about inspirational girls in many different fields (including many picture book biographies), the website A Mighty Girl is a great place to visit.

This is the book my daughter loves — she still talks about Eugenie, and the illustrations are beautiful:

Syndetics book coverShark lady : the true story of how Eugenie Clark became the ocean’s most fearless scientist / written by Jess Keating ; illustrations by Marta Álvarez Miguéns.
“This is the story of a woman who dared to dive, defy, discover, and inspire. This is the story of Shark Lady. Eugenie Clark fell in love with sharks from the first moment she saw them at the aquarium. She couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than studying these graceful creatures. But Eugenie quickly discovered that many people believed sharks to be ugly and scary–and they didn’t think women should be scientists. Determined to prove them wrong, Eugenie devoted her life to learning about sharks. After earning several college degrees and making countless discoveries, Eugenie wrote herself into the history of science, earning the nickname “Shark Lady.” Through her accomplishments, she taught the world that sharks were to be admired rather than feared and that women can do anything they set their minds to.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLittle dreamers. Visionary women around the world / Vashti Harrison.
“Meet the little leaders. They’re brave. They’re bold. They changed the world. Featuring the true stories of 40 inspirational women creators – from writers to inventors, artists to scientists – this book is as inspirational as it is educational. Readers will meet trailblazing women such as revolutionary architect, Zaha Hadid, actor/inventor Hedy Lamarr, environmental activist Wangari Maathai, modernist painter and animator Mary Blair and physicist Chien-Shiung Wu. Some names will be familiar, some will not – but all these women had a lasting impact on their fields.” (Syndetics summary)

Below is a book I hope to share soon with my daughter — find out more about Margaret Hamilton here. The fact that this is illustrated by graphic novelist Lucy Knisley is just icing on the cake:

Syndetics book coverMargaret and the Moon : how Margaret Hamilton saved the first Lunar Landing / by Dean Robbins ; illustrated by Lucy Knisley.
“Margaret Hamilton loved numbers as a young girl. She knew how many miles it was to the moon (and how many back). She loved studying algebra and geometry and calculus and using math to solve problems in the outside world. Soon math led her to MIT and then to helping NASA put a man on the moon! She handwrote code that would allow the spacecraft’s computer to solve any problems it might encounter. Apollo 8. Apollo 9. Apollo 10. Apollo 11. Without her code, none of those missions could have been completed. Dean Robbins and Lucy Knisley deliver a lovely portrayal of a pioneer in her field who never stopped reaching for the stars.” (Syndetics summary)

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