I spy children’s biography picture books! All of these are interesting to read.
“Creeeeak!” goes the screen door to self-taught artist Elijah Pierce’s barbershop art studio. A young boy walks in for an ordinary haircut and walks out having discovered a lifetime of art.
Mr. Pierce’s wood carvings are in every corner of the small studio. There are animals, scenes from his life, and those detailing the socio-political world around him. It’s this collection of work that will eventually win Elijah the National Heritage Fellowship in 1982 just two years before his death. But the young boy visiting the shop in the 1970s doesn’t know that yet. All he knows is: “You gotta meet Mr. Pierce!”
Based on the true story of Elijah Pierce and his community barber shop in Columbus, Ohio, this picture book includes cleverly collaged museum-sourced photos of his art and informative backmatter about his life. With engaging text by Pierce to the Soul! playwright Chiquita Mullins-Lee and Christopher Award-winning author Carmella Van Vleet, it’s illustrated with striking Japanese woodblock by Jennifer Mack-Watkins. A new addition to vital Black art history!
Augustus Jackson was born in 1808 in Philadelphia. While most African Americans were enslaved at that time, in Pennsylvania, slavery was against the law. But while Augustus and his family were free, they were poor, and they depended on their garden and their chickens for food. Augustus enjoyed helping his mom prepare meals for their family. He dreamed of becoming a professional cook, and when his mom suggested he may be able to make meals for the president one day, Augustus didn’t waste any time in making that dream a reality. In 1820, when he was only twelve years old, he set off for Washington, DC. He applied to work in the White House, where the head cook offered him a job as a kitchen helper. After five years of working hard, Augustus, or Gus, was promoted to cook. He went on to serve presidents James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson.
During his time at the White House, Augustus became an expert at making a popular egg-based dessert. He soon made an eggless version—known to us today as ice cream—and left the White House determined to make and sell the frozen treat to everyone, not just the wealthy. Gus headed back home to Philadelphia, and in 1830, he opened his very own ice cream parlor. He devised a way to keep the ice cream frozen so that it could be shipped and sold to other businesses. Gus also began adding rock salt to the ice that he used to make his ice cream, which made the mixture freeze more quickly. This allowed him to speed up his production process. He created more ice cream with new flavors, and soon he was shipping product via train to places like New York City, which was 100 miles away. Gus’s dream had come true, and better yet, he had brought smiles to many faces.
Shining a light on a little-known visionary, this inspiring picture-book biography includes an afterword, a list of sources, and an easy-to-follow recipe so readers can make their own delicious ice cream!
Hershey’s milk chocolate is the quintessential American chocolate bar. But in Milton Hershey’s time, chocolate was mostly a special treat for the very wealthy. Milton grew up poor and was no stranger to going hungry. When he got a job washing dishes in an ice cream parlor, he realized how happy sweets made people–and how much he liked making people happy.
Over the course of his career, Hershey failed to make many businesses profitable, yet ultimately cracked the formula on milk chocolate. Here was a chocolate that was delicious, didn’t spoil, and could be sold at an affordable price in communities across America and the world. And here was a business that could provide good lives in a welcoming town and an education for those who couldn’t afford it.
Perfect for the chocolate lover, inventor, and science-experiment-obsessed childhood reader, this biography shows that perseverance and persistence can lead to sweet success.
A picture book biography about M.S. Subbulakshmi, a powerful Indian singer who advocated for justice and peace through song.
Before M.S. Subbulakshmi was a famous Carnatic singer and the first Indian woman to perform at the United Nations, she was a young girl with a prodigious voice.
But Subbulakshmi was not free to sing everywhere. In early 1900s India, girls were not allowed to perform for the public. So Subbulakshmi busted barriers to sing at small festivals. Eventually, she broke tradition to record her first album. She did not stop here. At Gandhi’s request, Subbulakshmi sang for India’s freedom. Her fascinating odyssey stretched across borders, and soon she was no longer just a young prodigy. She was a woman who changed the world.
As Lieutenant Uhura on the iconic prime-time television show Star Trek, Nichelle Nichols played the first Black female astronaut anyone had ever seen on screen. A smart, strong, independent Black woman aboard the starship Enterprise was revolutionary in the 1960s when only white men had traveled to outer space in real life and most Black characters on TV were servants.
Nichelle not only inspired a generation to pursue their dreams, but also opened the door for the real-life pioneering astronaut Sally Ride, Dr. Mae Jemison, and more.
This empowering tribute to the trailblazing pop culture icon reminds us of the importance of perseverance and the power of representation in storytelling. You just might be inspired to boldly go where no one like you has ever gone before!
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