Inspiring People, Yesterday and Today | Biography Series Nonfiction

Whether writing reports or looking for pleasure reading on a favorite topic, readers will find compelling biographies of authors, athletes, and historical figures.

A wide array of historical figures and today’s sports celebrities are represented in this season’s biographies. Subjects include inventors, writers, athletes of today and yesterday, and little-known historical individuals with powerful stories. Some will be used by report writers, but others will provide compelling reads.



BOLTE, Mari. Rosalind Franklin. ISBN 9781684506606.
––––. Terence Tao. ISBN 9781684506590.
––––. Tim Berners-Lee. ISBN 9781684506613.
––––. Warren M. Washington. ISBN 9781684506583.
ea vol: 24p. (STEM Superstars). Rosen/Norwood House. Feb. 2024. Tr. $25.27.
K-Gr 3–Brief introductions to an eclectic mix of mathematicians and scientists are introduced in these four volumes. Rosalind Franklin employed X-ray photographs to learn more about DNA and Terence Tao was a child prodigy who was doing high school math at age seven. Tim Berners-Lee wrote the first codes for the World Wide Web, and Warren Washington developed models that predicted climate change. The language is simple, straightforward, and accompanied by photographs of the subjects. Information is scant and those thirsting for more detail will have to check other resources. However, these titles do introduce young readers to important STEM contributors who are not usually represented in biographies for those in primary grades. VERDICT These age-appropriate narratives provide readers with introductory knowledge of lesser known STEM leaders; selectors should base decisions on collection needs.

CLAYTON, Annette M. Oscar de la Renta. ISBN 9781731657725.
––––. Serena Auñón-Chancellor. ISBN 9781731657701.
ea vol: illus. by Elisa Chavarri. 24p. (Leaders Like Us). Rourke/Discovery Library. Feb. 2024. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 1-4–Two notable figures of Hispanic origin are featured in these titles. Oscar de la Renta, born in the Dominican Republic, traveled to Spain to learn to paint. He soon realized his calling as a fashion designer and developed his skills in Paris. After relocating to the United States he designed clothes for many first ladies. Serena Auñón-Chancellor is a Cuban American who majored in engineering. She subsequently became a doctor, and employing her knowledge from both fields, became an astronaut. Colorful illustrations, simple and direct narratives, and interesting information make these fine introductory biographies for young readers. Readers will find the subjects’ journeys inspiring and those whose interests are piqued will seek out more facts about their lives. VERDICT These interesting and informative biographies offer solid introductions to lesser-known but noteworthy people. Selectors should consider.

HANLON, Luke. Lisa Leslie: Basketball Legend. ISBN 9781634947909.
––––. Michael Jordan: Basketball Legend. ISBN 9781634947893.
––––. Roberto Clemente: Baseball Legend. ISBN 9781634947862.
––––. Wayne Gretzky: Hockey Legend. ISBN 9781634947879.
MCDOUGALL, Chrös. Mia Hamm: Soccer Legend. ISBN 9781634947886.
––––. Simone Biles: Gymnastics Legend. ISBN 9781634947848.
OLSON, Ethan. Jim Brown: Football Legend. ISBN 9781634947855.
––––. Muhammad Ali: Boxing Legend. ISBN 9781634947831.
ea vol: 32p. (PrimeTime: Legends). North Star Editions/Press Box Bks. Jan. 2024. Tr. $31.35.
Gr 1-4–The professional careers of eight athletes are traced in these volumes. In 2002 Lisa Leslie became the first player to dunk in a WNBA game, Michael Jordan was 1984–1985 NBA Rookie of the Year, Roberto Clemente was the first Latino player to reach 3,000 hits, and Wayne Gretzky finished his career with 2,857 points. Readers also learn that in 1998 Mia Hamm scored 20 goals in 21 games, Simone Biles was the first woman to win three consecutive all-around world titles, Jim Brown is the only NFL player to win the MVP award as a rookie, and Muhammad Ali won six regional Golden Glove championships by the age of 18. Outside brief mentions of their early years and philanthropic efforts, little is provided of their personal lives. Color and black-and-white photographs complement the narratives, which tend to be more informative than interesting. The focus is almost entirely on their careers. The volume on Brown is the most useful as it includes his recent passing. The volume on Biles will soon be dated as she is still active. VERDICT These average narratives should only be considered where collections need updating.

LUKIDIS, Lydia. Hiding from the Nazis in Plain Sight: A Graphic Novel Biography of Zhanna and Frina Arshanskaya. illus. by Aleksandar Sotirovski. ISBN 9781669061779.
PRYOR, Shawn. The Great Explorer of Mammoth Cave: A Graphic Novel Biography of Stephen Bishop. illus. by Alessandro Valdrighi. ISBN 9781669061762.
TURNER, Myra Faye. In Disguise on the Underground Railroad: A Graphic Novel Biography of Anna Maria Weems. illus. by Markia Jenai. ISBN 9781669061748.
YOMTOV, Nel. The Angel of Marye’s Heights: A Graphic Novel Biography of Richard Rowland Kirkland. illus. by Dante Ginevra. ISBN 9781669061755.
ea vol: 32p. (Barrier Breakers). Capstone. Jan. 2024. Tr. $36.65.
Gr 3-5–The adventures of lesser-known participants in history are recounted in these four volumes. Jewish girls Zhanna and Frina escape death and use their musical talents to survive in World War II Europe. Enslaved Stephen Bishop becomes an expert on Mammoth Caves and provides valuable information to tourists. Anna Maria Weems’s harrowing escape from slavery is chronicled. Finally, a Confederate soldier, moved by compassion, provided water to suffering Union troops on the battlefield. Presented in graphic format, the titles employ drawings to convey the stories, which include narratives and dialogue in the panels. The stories are exciting and anticipation builds with the narrative. One small error in The Angel of Marye’s Heights may confuse some—Union generals are dressed in gray uniforms on some panels. These subjects neatly convey individual experiences in grim times. Those preferring the graphic format will find these books entertaining as informative. VERDICT Selectors might feel constrained to limit nonfiction to report topics, but they should consider these volumes to reach those otherwise disinterested in history.

MARKOVICS, Joyce. Alice Walker. ISBN 9781684506736.
––––. Lorraine Hansberry. ISBN 9781684506682.
––––. Maya Angelou. ISBN 9781684506705.
––––. Octavia E. Butler. ISBN 9781684506699.
––––. Toni Morrison. ISBN 9781684506712.
––––. Zora Neale Hurston. ISBN 9781684506729.
ea vol: 24p. (Power of the Pen). Rosen/Norwood House. Feb. 2024. Tr. $25.27.
Gr 2-5–The lives of six brilliant Black female authors are presented in these volumes. Readers learn that Alice Walker was born in 1944 to Georgia sharecroppers, playwright Lorraine Hansberry was the first Black woman to have a play on Broadway, and Maya Angelou was a successful dancer and actress as well as author. Octavia E. Butler won the Hugo award for best science fiction story, Toni Morrison wrote Beloved to share the truths of slavery, and Zora Neale Hurston was prominent in the Harlem Renaissance. The chronological narratives are informative as well as interesting and are complemented with photographs. Personal lives and professional achievements are equally featured, making these volumes fairly comprehensive. The authors are honest in the content and address difficult situations in a delicate manner. For instance, in the volume on Angelou, “the boyfriend touched and hurt private parts of Maya’s body.” While report writers will employ these volumes, those interested in the subjects will find them to be engaging reads. VERDICT These biographies present above average narratives on the lives of important 20th-century female writers and should be considered for purchase in both school and public libraries.

PHILLIPS-BARTLETT, Rebecca. Food Inventors. ISBN 9798889163565.
––––. Inventors by Mistake. ISBN 9798889163572.
––––. Technology Inventors. ISBN 9798889163589.
––––. Transportation Inventors. ISBN 9798889163596.
ea vol: 24p. (Brilliant People, Big Ideas). Bearport/Fusion. Jan. 2024. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 1-3–Brief introductions to various inventions and their inventors. It took Nicholas Appert 14 years to perfect his idea of canning. Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin when he left mold in a dish. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Mary Anderson produced the windshield wiper. Colorful illustrations of the subjects and their inventions accompany the texts. Some inventors often left out of other age-appropriate tomes are featured, including Alice H. Parker (inventor of central gas heating) and Garrett Morgan (created yellow light used in traffic signals). The information provided is scant, including only names, dates, and inventions, but enough to be intriguing—young readers will find themselves wanting to seek out more information. VERDICT Colorful illustrations combined with interesting facts make these volumes attractive to browsers, and selectors should consider.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

DOEDEN, Matt. Meet Jalen Hurts. ISBN 9798765610466.
––––. Meet Micah Parsons. ISBN 9798765610497.
GOLDSTEIN, Margaret J. Meet Sarah Nurse. ISBN 9798765610503.
––––. Meet Sophia Smith. ISBN 9798765610510.
STABLER, David. Meet Connor McDavid. ISBN 9798765624098.
––––. Meet Nikola Jokić. ISBN 9798765624104.
––––. Meet Travis Kelce. ISBN 9798765610473.
––––. Meet Trevor Lawrence. ISBN 9798765610480.
ea vol: 32p. (Sports VIPs (Lerner Sports)). Lerner. Jan. 2024. Tr. $30.65.
Gr 4-6 –The careers of popular, active athletes are presented in these eight informative volumes. Readers learn that Jalen Hurts was NFC Offensive Player of the Month in 2020, linebacker Micah Parsons led Penn State in tackles in 2018, hockey player Sarah Nurse helped Canada win gold at the Olympics, Connor David competed for the Erie Otters at age 15. Serbian national Nikola Joki ’s basketball skills got him drafted by the Denver Nuggets whom he led to the NBA championship, Sophia Smith was the first Black woman named National Women’s Soccer League’s player of the year, Travis Kelce helped the Chiefs win multiple Super Bowls, and Trevor Lawrence was instrumental in the Jaguars’ winning the AFC South division title in 2022. Color photographs of the players in action complement the texts, which will delight their fans. Little information on their private lives is provided, except for parents, siblings, and charitable causes. For instance, there is no mention of Kelce’s relationship with singer Taylor Swift. This will not deter fans’ interest in these people. One major problem is all these volumes will be quickly dated as the athletes are still in the prime of their careers. VERDICT These are suitable titles for young fans craving information about their favorite athletes and should be considered where there is a heavy demand.

NNACHI, Ngeri. Changemakers in Music. ISBN 9798765608852.
––––. Changemakers in Sports. ISBN 9798765608890.
SHEPHERD, Crown. Changemakers in Space. ISBN 9798765608883.
––––. Changemakers in the Arts and Literature. ISBN 9798765608869.
TYNER, Artika R. Changemakers in Activism. ISBN 9798765608838.
––––. Changemakers in Business. ISBN 9798765608845.
––––. Changemakers in Government. ISBN 9798765608876.
––––. Changemakers in STEM. ISBN 9798765608906.
ea vol: 32p. (The Future Is Female (Alternator Books)). Lerner. Jan. 2024. Tr. $30.65.
Gr 3-6–Contributions by women in a variety of fields are the subjects of these eight volumes. Among the changemakers readers are introduced to are Billboard’s Woman of the Decade Taylor Swift; tennis great Serena Williams; Nicole Mann, who was the first Native American woman in space; and Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Each woman receives a one-to-two-page overview of their respective achievements, but the information provided is limited; personal details are omitted. Diversity is a key component of these volumes and some noteworthy women who might not appear in similar works, such as Elaine Chao and Janice Bryant Howroyd, are introduced. The inclusion of lesser-known women of achievement may make these titles valuable, however that must be balanced by the lack of significant personal information. VERDICT Though readers are introduced to an array of accomplished women, the scant information means these volumes will be of limited use; selectors should consider based on need.

The graphic format and intriguing stories included in “Barrier Breakers” (Capstone) will be attractive to readers. Colorful illustrations and interesting narratives make “Brilliant People, Big Ideas” (Bearport/Fusion) and “Leaders Like Us” (Rourke/Discovery Library) fine introductions to their respective subjects. Fans of the athletes in “Sports VIPs” (Lerner) will appreciate the information and photographs. Those researching the authors featured in “Power of the Pen” (Rosen/Norwood House) will be pleasantly surprised to find them absorbing reads as well.


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