Herkert, Barbara. A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E.B. White. Illus.Lauren Castillo. New York: Henry Holt Co., 2017.
A quiet, fearful, sickly boy, Elwyn, or later Andy, and still later E.B., took solace in wild animals and nature. Later, in college, he wrote for a newspaper, regaled his nieces and nephews with stories, and dreamed of book characters. As an adult and family man, he moved to Maine to escape the city and create a peaceful existence. From all of this sprang his beloved stories, particularly, Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. The digital, ink, and watercolor illustrations look as if they were childlike period pieces. And the poetic short prose writing adds to the feel of his life. This picture book biography concludes with a photo of White, an author’s note of additional information, and a short bibliography. White’s story demonstrates the power of life experiences as an inspiration for writing fiction.
Harvey, Jeanne Walker. Maya Lin Artist-Architect of Light and Lines: Designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Illus. Dow Phumiruk. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2017.
Using the influence of her artist father and poet mother, and being a lover of light, space, nature, and simplicity, Chinese American Maya, decided to study architecture. Her college experience afforded her the opportunity to travel, learning all she could about design. When, in her final year of college, the contest was announced for the Viet Nam Veteran Memorial, Maya brought together all she learned about design, and the importance of names, as the names of all the fallen would be included. Her design won out of 1,421 applicants, but not without controversy. She oversaw the entire construction, crying when she found the name of her friend’s father. A final author’s note gives additional information, and the quiet digital and watercolor illustrations vary widely in layout, perspective, sometimes with added borders, adds to the power of the book. The inspiration May’s story offers could assist you in teaching design in an art class, or 20th century American history
Tavares, Matt. Crossing Niagara: The Death Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin. Candlewick Press, 2016.
This over-sized picture book biography is illustrated with stunning paintings that vary in perspective, layout, and color palette that make the story of the Great Blondin come alive. A tight rope walker as a child, Blondin later worked for a circus, but longed for a greater feat. He gained permission, prepared the ropes, and to a huge crowd’s astonishment, walked over Niagara Falls from the United States to Canada – then back again! He repeated the performance many times, each time adding new tricks, and even once balancing his manager on his shoulders. He then toured the world performing his skills. An author’s endnote gives further biographical information, including the fact that the Great Blondin perfected and performed over a sixty-five year period. A selected bibliography follows the author’s note.
Gray, Karlin. Nadia: The Girl Who couldn't Sit Still. Illus. by Christina Davenier. Houghton Mifflin Harcour, 2015.
As a little girl in the 1960's in Romania, Nadia would climb trees in the forest, rides bicycles fast, and eventually have the chance to attend a school that offered gymnastics lessons. Coached by the famous Karolyi's, she joined the 1976 Olympic gymnastics team and earned the first ever score of 10 in gymnastics, and then earned six more. She starred in the 1980 Olympics as well, as has remained in Olympic history. This light hearted, watercolor illustrated biography is completed with more information about her life, including her defection to Hungary, a time line, source notes, and selected list of books and websites. The back flap copy includes photos of a gold-medaled Nadia.