Picture Book Biographies Booklist!

Picture Book Biographies = Fantastic, Diverse Resources

Picture book biographies are one of the best ways to introduce a person from history. Why? They bring interesting people to life in a short, succinct, satisfying manner.

Illustrations can add tremendously to the information, enabling readers to get a “feel” for the subject.

Additionally, the subjects chosen for picture book biographies are so broad! Presidents and other famous historical figures such as Helen Keller or the Wright Brothers are obvious choices. But picture book biographies also tackle Noah Webster, the inventors of neon paint, the woman who first mapped the ocean, and the man behind the Macy’s Day Parade puppets! No matter what person, topic, or time period, there is sure to be a relevant picture book biography out there.

Picture Book Biographies are Not Just For Kids!

Even teens and grown ups can learn from picture book biographies. For instance, read one of the Shakespeare biographies listed below before tackling Hamlet. Marvel at the man who photographed snowflakes before a series on weather, the seasons, or microscopy. Supplement a history class with a look at a minority figure or a Christian hero that the history textbook might have glossed over; Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library and Simonetta Carr’s biographies are good examples that are certainly robust enough for middle and high school students.  Or take a look at River of Words before diving into William Carlos Williams’s poetry. The possibilities are endless.

Related Resources on Redeemed Reader

  • Picture Book Biographies (by Betsy; includes tips on evaluating picture book biographies)
  • The Real George Washington (by Janie; includes a great description of features to look for in biographies of any sort along with a nice list of George Washington biographies)

Picture Book Biographies Booklist!

The sub-headings below reflect those listed in our 2018 Reading Challenge–picture books count! As usual, titles are linked to Redeemed Reader reviews.

Political and Famous Historical Figures
  • Diane Stanley’s biographies are excellent for older kids (ages 8 and up): Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Peter the Great, Good Queen Bess….
  • Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by John O’Brien. A focused look at Jefferson’s bibliophile tendencies. Ages 6-10
  • To Dare Mighty Things: the Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by C. F. Payne. The larger-than-life president comes alive in this vigorous biography. Ages 6-10.
  • Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by Robert Byrd. Intricate drawings and a lengthy text make this a good one for older readers. Ages 8-12 (and up!)
  • George Washington by Cheryl Harness. A bit longer than some, but very nicely done. Ages 8 and up. See also her many other picture book biographies–some are quite lengthy with timelines across the bottom while others are more traditional “picture book” style.
  • Columbus by the D’Aulaires. See also Abraham Lincoln and others. The D’Aulaires wrote large format, lushly illustrated, substantial biographies for children; notably, they often include details about the childhood of these famous people, so children tremendously enjoy them. Highly recommended. Ages 6 and up.
Artists, Writers, and Musicians
Scientists and Inventors
  • Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor by Emily Arnold McCully. The lady who invented the flat-bottomed paper grocery bag!
  • The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand New Colors by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tony Persiani. The invention of fluorescent colors! Ages 8-12.
  • Starry Messenger by Peter Sis. Galileo’s story comes to life in this large picture book. Ages 6-12.
  • John Deere, That’s Who! Tracy Nelson Maurer and illustrated by Tim Zeltner. The man behind the “John Deere” tractor logo. Ages 6-10.
  • Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Boris Kulikov. An imaginative look at what Braille’s childhood was like. Ages 4-10.
  • On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky. Bringing Einstein down to a level for children. Ages 4-10
  • Lines, Bars and Circles: How William Playfair Invented Graphs by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Marie-Eve Tremblay. Fascinating reminder that someone, somewhere had to invent the infographics we take for granted. Ages 8 and up.
  • Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Raul Colon. The daughter of a map maker  goes on to map the ocean floor. Ages 6-10.
  • Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Mary Azarian. About the man who painstakingly photographed snowflakes. Ages 6-12.
  • Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming. A fictionalized account of an eccentric inventor. Ages 6-10.
  • To Fly: The Story of the Wright Brothers by Wendie Old and illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker. Each page is a “chapter” coupled with a full page illustration in this well written biography of the famous flying duo. Ages 8 and up (younger as a read aloud)
Church History and Famous Christians

This list is by no means exhaustive! What are YOUR favorite picture book biographies?

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Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Northwest.


  1. […] Source: Picture Book Biographies Booklist! – Redeemed Reader […]

  2. Katie on May 28, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    Wow, what a wonderful list!
    Thank you for your reviews.

  3. Alene on June 14, 2018 at 10:43 pm

    Our family loves picture book biographies. They are a great intro to a person, and if there’s interest, the reader can then find something a little more complex or thorough. Some are better written than others. Here are a few that we enjoyed this year:
    Joan Proctor Dragon Doctor
    Sholom’s Treasure
    Who Says Women Can’t be Programmers (Ada Lovelace)
    Write to Me (by Cynthia Grady)
    The Hiding Game
    The Stone Thrower
    When Harriet Met Sojourner
    Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code
    The World is not a Rectangle (Zaha Hadid)
    The Boy Who Drew Birds
    Twenty-two Cents
    Shark Lady
    Anybody’s Game (Kathryn Johnston)
    Stormy Seas (Stories of young boat refugees)
    Lighter Than Air (Sophie Blanchard)
    The Perfect Wizard (Han Christian Andersen)
    There are also at least two series that document stories of refugees coming from different countries: Juliane’s Story and A Refugee’s Journey From Yemen are examples.

    • Betsy on June 15, 2018 at 8:11 am

      Wow! Thanks for adding such wealth to our list! I’m especially intrigued by When Harriet Met Sojourner–I’ll have to track that one down. I’ve read Stormy Seas–but it appears I never reviewed it. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Hannah on July 3, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    One of our favorites is Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World
    We also enjoyed Small Wonders: Jean-Henri Fabre and His World of Insects.

    • Betsy on July 5, 2018 at 7:32 am

      Electrical Wizard is great! I also enjoyed Small Wonders….

  5. Monsieur Marceau by Leda Schubert – Semicolon on February 13, 2019 at 11:39 am

    […] suggestions, check out the following: Read Aloud Revival: Picture Book Biographies We Love Redeemed Reader: Picture Book Biographies Booklist I have my own list of more than 100 picture book biographies that I am willing to share with you […]

  6. […] suggestions, check out the following: Read Aloud Revival: Picture Book Biographies We Love Redeemed Reader: Picture Book Biographies Booklist I have my own list of more than 100 picture book biographies that I am willing to share with you […]

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