People of Note: Past and Present | Biography Series Nonfiction

Musicians, scientists, leaders, and activists feature prominently in this fall’s biographies.

Musicians, scientists, leaders, and activists feature prominently in this fall’s biographies. Heroes of sports, especially female athletes, and courageous women warriors are also among those to have their stories related. Readers are provided information on people from a variety of backgrounds. While some volumes provide standard report fare, others offer informative and page-turning reads.



Alikhan, Salima. Sophie Scholl. illus. by ­Alessia Trunfio. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781666333985.
Biskup, Agnieszka. Angels of Bataan and Corregidor. illus. by Samantha Feriolla Chow. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781666333916.
Gunderson, Jessica. Nancy Wake. illus. by Alice Larson. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781666334128.
Tyner, Artika R. The Courageous Six Triple Eight. illus. by Cynthia Paul. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781666334050.
ea vol: 32p. (Women Warriors of World War II). Capstone/Capstone Press. Aug. 2022. Tr. $31.32.

Gr 3-4 –Female heroes of World War II have their stories related in these four graphic biographies. Sophie Scholl was a young ­German woman who, disillusioned with Hitler, endangered her life by campaigning against the Nazis. Army and Navy nurses bravely take care of wounded soldiers in the Philippines while enduring terrible hardships and internment by the Japanese. An Australian journalist in France takes huge risks as a spy for the French Resistance. The woman who becomes the first Black lieutenant colonel in the WACS heads a team of other Black female soldiers in sorting mail for troops in Europe while enduring racial discrimination by their white colleagues. The authors and illustrators of these graphic narratives do an excellent job of conveying suspense; readers unfamiliar with the stories about Scholl and Wake will find themselves especially eager to turn the pages. The tales of the nurses and the WACS sensitively portray the difficult circumstances the women found themselves in and how they were able to rise above their respective trials and tribulations. Tones of sepia, grays, browns, and dark green found in the frames’ backgrounds complement the stories of these remarkable women. VERDICT The excellent narratives combined with engaging drawings do a fine job of introducing readers to important players in a crucial point of history. Purchase should definitely be considered by school and public libraries.

Duling, Kaitlyn. Alvin Ailey. illus. by Arvilla Mae Morett. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781731652812.
––––. Pauli Murray. illus. by Arvilla Mae Morett. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781731652836.
––––. Sally Ride. illus. by David Wilkerson. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781731652683.
––––. Sylvia Rivera. illus. by David Wilkerson. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781731652829.
Miller, J.P. Gabby Douglas. illus. by David Wilkerson. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781731652874.
ea vol: 24p. (Leaders Like Us). Rourke/Discovery Library. Sept. 2022. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 1-4 –Lesser known but important people are featured in this eclectic mix of biographies. Readers learn of Alvin Ailey who overcame prejudice against his color and homosexuality to become the head of a dance theater and achieve a Kennedy ­Center honor. Pauli Murray was an activist for feminism and civil rights who eventually became an Episcopalian priest. Sally Ride achieved a degree in physics and became the first American woman in space. Sylvia Rivera was an early LGBTQ activist who fought for the inclusion of transgender people within the gay community and Gabby Douglas became the first American woman gymnast to win the Olympic gold medal in all around and individual events. The narratives are simple and straightforward. ­LGBTQ subjects are treated with sensitivity although the harsher circumstances of some lives, particularly Ailey, Murray, and Rivera, are omitted (appropriately for the intended audience). The accompanying pictures are serviceable if not outstanding. While there are other titles available on Ride and ­Douglas, little is out there about Ailey, ­Murray, and Rivera, thus these volumes will be of value. ­VERDICT These biographies introduce young readers to important but ­little-known leaders and should be considered for inclusion in school and public libraries.

Jaycox, Jaclyn. Greta Thunberg. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781666350531.
––––. Joe Biden. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781666350548.
Jones-Radgowski, Jehan. Amanda Gorman. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781666350524.
––––. Kamala Harris. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781666350555.
ea vol: 32p. (Biographies). Capstone/Pebble. Aug. 2022. Tr. $29.32.
K-Gr 4 –These four volumes provide readers with basic information about four people currently in the news. The common thread for the subjects is their desire to help others. Greta Thunberg is a young activist who promotes taking action to fight climate change. Joe Biden is the 46th president and has spent time helping to fight cancer, Amanda Gorman is a poet who assists children learning to write, and Vice President Kamala Harris helped criminals while serving as district attorney in San Francisco. Basic information such as birth dates and careers thus far are presented. Colorful photographs accompany the simple, straightforward text. Upbeat and positive, these titles present the subjects in a positive light, appropriately enough for the targeted demographic. However, these people are covered in numerous other biographies and no new facts are featured. Also, given that the people are still living, the information will be quickly dated. ­VERDICT Most school and public libraries will already have books on these subjects, and these should only be considered where none exist, or new titles are necessary.

Loh-Hagan, Virginia. Junko Tabei. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781668908877.
––––. Kalpana Chawla. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781668908860.
––––. Queen Lili’uokalani. Bk. 6. ISBN 9781668908884.
––––. Sunisa Lee. Bk. 8. ISBN 9781668908853.
Thiele, June. Crazy Horse. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781668908921.
––––. Geronimo. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781668908914.
––––. Little Sister Lozen. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781668908891.
––––. Sitting Bull. Bk. 7. ISBN 9781668908907.
ea vol: illus. by Jeff Bane. 24p. (My Itty-Bitty Bio). Cherry Lake. Aug. 2022. Tr. $30.64.
Gr 1-3 –Introductions to important people of Asian and Native American heritages are provided in these eight volumes. In simple, first-person prose, the subjects provide the main facts of their lives in easy to understand voices. Readers learn about Native American leaders who fought for their people: Crazy Horse, Geronimo, Little ­Sister Lozen, Queen Lili’uokalani and their ­accompanying struggles. Japan’s Junko Tabei loved mountain climbing and was the first woman to ascend the tallest mountains on each continent. Kalpana Chawla migrated from India to the United States to become an astronaut; she died in the Columbia explosion. Sunisa Lee is a gymnast who ­became the first Hmong American ­Olympian. Accompanying photographs are small and poorly reproduced. Details are scant, however young readers will receive basic introductions to these outstanding figures; they will be inspired to learn more. ­ VERDICT These age-appropriate volumes relate basic information about people of note and should be considered for purchase where there is a need for books at an elementary level.

Pettiford, Rebecca. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781644877050.
––––. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781644877067.
––––. Jimmy Carter. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781644877074.
––––. Theodore Roosevelt. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781644877081.
ea vol: 24p. (American Presidents). Bellwether/Blastoff! Readers. Aug. 2022. Tr. $26.95.
Gr 1-3 –These four volumes provide ­basic overviews of four famous United States presidents. Backgrounds, favorite foods and hobbies, and highlights of their administrations are all featured. Young readers learn that Eisenhower was raised in Kansas, went to West Point, and signed a law for the national highway system. Franklin D. ­Roosevelt was an only child, his favorite sport was swimming, and he helped the economy with the New Deal. Jimmy Carter was born in ­Georgia, was in the Navy and his favorite music is country and bluegrass. Theodore Roosevelt fought in the Spanish-American War, liked horses and dogs, and was instrumental in the building of the Panama ­Canal. Nice photographs accompany the texts. These introductions contain an appropriate amount of information for the targeted audience. VERDICT Serviceable introductions to notable White House residents that should be considered for purchase where there is a need.

Proudfit, Benjamin. Alexander Graham Bell and the Telephone. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781538276471.
––––. Benjamin Franklin and the Lightning Rod. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781538276518.
––––. George Washington Carver and Peanut Products. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781538276556.
––––. Grace Hopper and the Computer. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781538276594.
––––. Thomas Edison and the Light Bulb. Bk. 6. ISBN 9781538276631.
––––. The Wright Brothers and the Airplane. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781538276679.
ea vol: 24p. (Incredible Inventors). Rosen/Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2022. Tr. $23.60.
Gr 1-3 –A brief overview of these famous innovators are provided in these short biographies. While their defining achievements are featured, other facets of their lives are also related. Alexander Graham Bell was a founder of Science magazine, Benjamin Franklin also invented bifocals, and George Washington Carver was the first Black American to attend Iowa State University. Readers learn that Grace Hopper had a doctorate in mathematics, Edison had 1093 patents, and the Wright Brothers owned a bicycle shop. Information is related in a simple, straightforward manner and pictures, usually photographs, oppose the pages of the text. Overall, these titles offer standard biographical fare on the subjects of numerous other biographies. VERDICT These are suitable enough biographies for the intended demographic but, as libraries probably have these people covered in other titles, purchase is recommended only for refreshing a collection where necessary.

Rose, Rachel. Amanda Gorman: Groundbreaking Poet. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781636917153.
––––. Eva Longoria: Actor and Social Activist. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781636917160.
––––. Jennifer Garner: Actor and Child Activist. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781636917177.
––––. Ketanji Brown Jackson: Supreme Court Justice. Bk. 4. 9798885098014
––––. President Biden: 46th U.S. President. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781636917184.
––––. Simone Biles: Gymnastics Superstar. Bk. 6. ISBN 9781636917191.
––––. Yo-Yo Ma: Legendary Cello Player. Bk. 7. ISBN 9781636917207.
ea vol: 24p. (Bearcub Bios). Bearport/Bearcub Books. Aug. 2022. Tr. $26.99.
Gr 1-3 –An eclectic mix of famous people are the subjects of these basic beginner biographies for the youngest readers. Facts presented to readers include Amanda ­Gorman, who was the first top youth poet in the United States; Eva Longoria, an ­actor who helps people with disabilities; and Jennifer Garner, who raises money to help children go to good schools. ­Readers learn that Kentanji Brown Jackson is a judge who advocates for immigrants’ rights, President Biden was one of the youngest senators, Simone Biles has won several Olympic medals and Yo-Yo Ma, a cellist, was a child prodigy. Upbeat and positive, much of the emphasis is placed on why the individuals are famous and the good causes they support. Little about their personal lives is mentioned outside passing reference to parents and siblings. Also, there are many other biographies on the same people. However, the targeted audience will have heard of several of these people given their current fame, and children interested in them will appreciate even the briefest facts along with the color photographs that complement the text. VERDICT These biographies provide rudimentary introductions to celebrities with whom youngsters may be familiar and are neither better nor worse than the many other biographies on the same people. Purchase should be considered based on need.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Bach, Greg. Adele. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781422246917.
––––. Billie Eilish. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781422246849.
––––. Harry Styles. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781422246856.
––––. Lady Gaga. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781422246863.
––––. Lil Nas X. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781422246870.
ea vol: 80p. (Pop Music Stars). National Highlights/Mason Crest. Aug. 2022. Tr. $26.95.
Gr 4-7 –Five popular Grammy Award winning artists are the subjects of these informative volumes. Readers learn of their breakthrough and significant moments: Adele was the first artist to top the Billboard charts in several genres and Harry Styles’s flubbed performance on X-factor led to the formation of his band New Direction. Struggles are also addressed: Lady Gaga was bullied in school and Lil Nas X was a loner due to his homosexuality. Big moments in their careers are highlighted such as their Grammy wins, appearances on Saturday Night Live, and their chart-topping albums. The ­accompanying photographs will entice fans as will the tidbits about their homes and lifestyles. However, those looking for intimate details about relationships and controversies will be greatly disappointed. The author comes across more as a gushing fan than a serious biographer. Phrases such as “a portrait of kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity” ( Adele) and “has done more charity work and good deeds than most others in a lifetime” (Eilish) frequently ­appear and there is much emphasis on their charitable works. Still, these volumes will appeal to die-hard fans craving anything on their favorite artists. VERDICT While there is nothing outstanding about any of these titles, purchasers should consider based on demands of the subjects’ fans.

Bolte, Mari. Volodymyr Zelensky: Heroic Leader of Ukraine. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781728487830.
Holleran, Leslie. Dolly Parton: Diamond in a Rhinestone World. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781728441832.
Martinez, Matthew J. & Jill Doerfler. Deb Haaland: First Native American Cabinet Secretary. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781728458458.
Schwartz, Heather E. Simone Biles: Greatest of All Time. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781728458489.
ea vol: 48p. (Gateway Biographies). Lerner. Aug. 2022. Tr. $31.99.
Gr 4-8 –An eclectic mix of four living celebrities is represented in these biographies. In Volodymyr Zelensky, readers learn about Zelensky’s time as an entertainer who then became president of the troubled eastern European country Ukraine, and includes facts about the current war with Russia. Dolly Parton chronicles the singer’s life from her childhood poverty through her outstanding career including her hit records and movie ventures. Deb Haaland introduces readers to the newest Secretary of the Interior and relates her Native American background and political career. Simone Biles explores Biles’s gymnastics career including her Olympic competitions and mental health issues. All of these titles portray their subjects in a positive light as the focus is on their achievements and motivation. The books on Zelensky and Haaland are timely given the recency of their fame and current events. There are several similar biographies already on Parton and Biles, however these are more current. None of the narratives provide much information on personal lives; Biles’s fiancé and pending nuptials are completely omitted. Given that these people are living and still active in their fields, and the subjects appear in many other juvenile biographies (excepting the one on Haaland), these titles may not be considered necessary. VERDICT Even though the information provided is good, all these subjects except Haaland, are featured in other biographies and these would at best be supplemental purchases. The title on Haaland should be considered as there is little on her and her position makes her a unique figure.

Cannons, Helen Cox. What You Never Knew About Demi Lovato. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781666356908.
––––. What You Never Knew About Simone Biles. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781666356809.
Marx, Mandy R. What You Never Knew About Taylor Swift. Bk. 6. ISBN 9781666356755.
Rustad, Martha E. H. What You Never Knew About BTS. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781666357004.
––––. What You Never Knew About Cristiano Ronaldo. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781666356953.
––––. What You Never Knew About Patrick Mahomes. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781666356854.
ea vol: 32p. (Behind the Scenes Biographies). Capstone/Capstone Press. Aug. 2022. Tr. $29.32.
Gr 4-7 –Celebrities in the field of music and sports are featured in these volumes. Facts and photographs are the primary attractions to this series’s mix of these singers and athletes. Readers will learn interesting tidbits such as Demi Lovato’s dogs once stopped a robbery, Simone Biles’s favorite color is purple, Taylor Swift loves cats, one member of BTS learned English by watching “Friends,” Cristiano Ronaldo owns 20 sports cars and Patrick Mahomes puts ketchup on his Thanksgiving turkey. Of course, some space is provided for their careers - Swift has changed from country music to pop and Ronaldo has scored over 800 career goals. But the purpose is to let fans know the little-known facts, hence the title “What You Never Knew About.” There are many other biographies on these individuals, many of which are more comprehensive. Also, given the fact these are living, active people, much of the information is dated (or will be) by the time they make it to the shelves. For instance, emphasis is placed on Lovato’s preference for nonbinary gender identification; she has recently added the female pronouns. Mahomes will have had two children. The photographs are clear if not large or outstanding. ­VERDICT Because there are several biographies on these subjects already available, many of which provide more information, purchasers should consider whether the subjects’ local fan base is large enough to justify purchase.

Doeden, Matt. Trailblazing Women in Tennis. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781684507528.
Ford, Jeanne Marie. Trailblazing Women in ­Surfing. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781684507535.
Lawrence, Blythe. Trailblazing Women in ­Gymnastics. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781684507559.
Mattern, Joanne. Trailblazing Women in Soccer. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781684507542.
Rosen, Karen. Trailblazing Women in Track and Field. Bk. 6. ISBN 9781684507511.
Wilson, Libby. Trailblazing Women in Cycling. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781684507566.
ea vol: 48p. (Trailblazing Female Athletes). Norwood House. Aug. 2022. Tr. $30.60.
Gr 4-6 –In these six volumes readers are provided brief introductions to female athletes in the fields of tennis, surfing, gymnastics, soccer, track and field, and ­cycling. Some athletes are well-known: Billie Jean King, Simone Biles, and Mia Hamm. Others, especially in surfing and cycling, are less f­amous including Margo Godfrey Oberg and Kittie Knox. Careers are the primary focus as each athlete’s progression and achievements are chronicled. Betty Robinson won the one hundred meter dash at the 1928 Olympics, Sun Wen was awarded the Golden Ball at the 1999 World Cup, and Layne Beachley won six consecutive world titles in surfing. While the narratives are straightforward and informative, they lack depth: little information is provided on personal lives and relationships. Nonetheless, readers will learn about important women in the respective sports and may be inspired to learn more. Photographs accompany the texts. VERDICT The volumes will be of value where there is little information about women in various sports, especially in surfing and cycling, and purchase should be considered based on need.

Kim, Carol. Mary Anning Breaks New Ground. illus. by Mark Simmons. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781666334289.
Turner, Myra Faye. The Little Rock Nine Challenge Segregation. illus. by Dolo Okecki. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781666334425.
––––. Ruby Bridges Takes Her Seat. ­illus. by Dante Ginevra. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781666334340.
Vilardi, Debbie. Anne Frank Writes Words of Hope. illus. by Christian Papazoglakis. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781666334197.
ea vol: 32p. (Courageous Kids). Capstone/Capstone Press. Aug. 2022. Tr. $31.32.
Gr 3-6 –These four graphic novels tell the stories of outstanding young people of the past. In Mary Anning Breaks New Ground, readers learn of Anning’s discoveries of prehistoric fossils along the English coast, her research, and her struggles to be recognized by the male-dominated Geologic Society. Ruby Bridges Takes Her Seat details the struggles of the six-year-old girl who broke school racial barriers in 1960 New Orleans. The Little Rock Nine Challenge Segregation provides a suspenseful account of the events surrounding the integration of Little Rock, Arkansas’s Central High School. Anne Frank Writes Words of Hope provides readers with a look at her life inside the annex while hiding from the Nazis. Colorful drawings tell the story as much as the text and will attract visual learners. The information provided is good and the detailed narratives in Ruby Bridges and The Little Rock Nine are engrossing; readers will anxiously turn the pages to see how events unfold. Dinosaur fans will appreciate Anning’s opportunity to find and research so many fossils. Those unfamiliar with Frank’s story will find her an inspiration as someone who managed living in a constant state of fear and uncertainty. VERDICT Given the graphic form of these books along with perennial classroom topics, these books should do well in libraries and attract those who like the pictures to inform as well as the text.


Upper Middle School to High School

Bach, Greg. Keith Urban. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781422244890.
Dronsfield, Alyeska. Blake Shelton. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781422244883.
Stewart, Kate. Carrie Underwood. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781422244876.
Whitaker, Chelsea. Chris Stapleton. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781422244913.
––––. Kacey Musgraves. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781422244906.
ea vol: 80p. (Country Music Stars). National Highlights/Mason Crest. Aug. 2022. Tr. $26.95.
Gr 4-9 –Fans of these country music stars will appreciate the career facts and photographs featured in these volumes. Each book opens with a description of a poignant moment in the subject’s career, usually the performance or recording of their first big hit. Then, lists of their accomplishments are presented: Shelton was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, Underwood was the CMA Entertainer of the Year in 2009, Stapleton’s debut album went platinum, Musgraves performed on Saturday Night Live, and ­Urbran won his first Grammy in 2004. Little information is provided about their personal lives outside brief mentions of their childhoods and personal relationships, and those do not appear before the middle of each book. However, readers do learn about their hobbies, brand affiliations and charitable activities; Underwood created her own fashion line, Stapleton collects pocketknives, Shelton supports cancer research, Urban advertises for Peloton, and Musgraves is a staunch supporter of LGBTQ rights. Such details will be appreciated by their followers. Colorful photographs accompany the narratives. Unfortunately, the dense text and lack of chronological order will turn off some readers. VERDICT Ultimately, these titles will only be checked-out by diehard fans of the singers and selectors should consider the size of their county music fan base when making selection decisions.

The drawings and text in “Courageous Kids”(Capstone) and “Women Warriors of World War II” (Capstone) are compelling and will bring enjoyment to readers. “My Itty Bitty Bio” (Cherry Lake) will introduce very young readers to noted individuals of the past while “Leaders Like Us” (Rourke) will enlighten older readers to important but less well-known people of note. “American Presidents” (Bellwether) and “Bearcub Biographies” (Bearport) will help report writers. Diehard music fans will appreciate “Country Music Stars” (National Highlights) and “Pop Music Stars” (National Highlights) for the photos and information on their favorite subjects.

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