I love biographies. I wouldn’t have known that about myself except that I get to help with the annual third grade wax museum at our school. Each year every third grader chooses an important historical figure to research and then represent. My older daughter was Amelia Earhart and my younger daughter was Susan B. Anthony.
My first year at the school I was more of a bystander than a help with the project, but that year it became obvious that our list of possible figures was not very ethnically diverse. I also found kids repeatedly asking for biographies I didn’t have. Our principal gave me an extra budget to buy as many diverse biographies as possible, and I keep adding every chance I get.
Now that I have all these great biographies, I spend the entire 2nd half of the year reading them to the third graders. I try to help them look beyond the obvious choices and I just love to see their big performance night. Here are five of my favorite biographies- though there are millions more you should read. I have a giant stack set aside that I want to read too.
Elvis: the Story of the Rock and Roll King by Bonnie Christensen • this was a nice short biography that talks about how Elvis got started singing as a boy and how his music bridged the racial gaps in music.
Just Being Audrey by Margaret Cardillo • I found this book as a clearance on one of my favorite vendor’s website. I like that it shows how Audrey tried many things before finding acting. It also talks about her role as s mother and as a humanitarian. (Forgive me, but I also think she’s a far better role model for young girls than most actresses.)
Zishe the Strongman by Robert Rubinstein • Siegmund Breitbart was amazingly strong, even as a little child. He grew up to become Zishe the Strongman who performed all over the world. The thing I love most about this story is that it points out that Zishe’s promoters did not shy away from telling the world that he was Jewish. The kids then ask ‘why is that a big deal?’ And I get to explain how intolerance can limit our world. I’d love to see a student wear an old fashioned strongman suit and lift giant dumbells, but no takers so far.
Stand Straight, Ella Kate by Kate Kline • Ella Kate Ewing was a real life giantess, and that blows the kids away. Ella’s parents spend years telling her to stand up straight and be proud of herself but she’s embarrassed and sometimes ridiculed. As a young woman she gets an opportunity to use her height to earn a living and becomes quite worldly. By the end of the story she is standing straight and loving interacting with people around her. The fun thing in the book is the endpapers. They show the actual size of things like her gloves and shoes.
Anything But Ordinary Addie by Mara Rockliff • I’m shocked I’d never heard of Adelaide Herrman before reading this book. Addie is the kind of girl that I always tried to be: unafraid to be different and break society’s rules. And she was famous in her own right after her husband’s death so how did the world forget about her? This is also a book with illustrations to savor.
So there you have 5 biographies I love. I’ve already started thinking of more to share in another post!