Wonderful children’s biographies are being published this fall, and even adults may discover new heroes and heroines! Here are a few that I’ve read recently.
Banksy Graffitied Walls and Wasn’t Sorry, by Fausto Gilberti
This small book is a cartoon-style, speculative biography of an artist that no one knows. Banksy started leaving his graffiti art in public places in England in the 1990s, and he has since placed random works of art in various museums, waiting to see when people would notice. He has never been caught, so there is a great deal of buzz over the mystery of his true identity, or whether he is actually a woman or even a group of artists. Italian writer Gilberti created all of the artwork for this book, with just one photo of a Banksy piece in the back, so this volume is best used as a jumping-off point to create curiosity in children for further research online. Very fun.
Einstein: The Fantastic Journey of a Mouse Through Space and Time, by Torben Kuhlmann
Okay, this is not technically a biography of Einstein, since it is told through the point of view of a mouse, but it will introduce children to the life and scientific theories of the great man. A little mouse wants to attend a cheese festival, but he arrives a day late, and somehow ends up in Einstein’s former workshop, trying to figure out how to go back in time. He goes too far back, though, and lands in Einstein’s lifetime, leaving the scientist notes that lead to his discovery of the theory of relativity. The real star of this thick picture book is Kuhlmann’s artwork, which is luminous and fascinating. If you and your children have not discovered this artist’s work in the past, do yourselves a favor and get all his books. Your kids will spend hours poring over all the tiny details, and they might even learn something!
J.R.R. Tolkien for Kids: His Life and Writings with 21 Activities, by Simonetta Carr
This large paperback is part of the Chicago Review Press series that relates easy projects to the subject of the book. If your children are of an age to read The Hobbit, this biography would be the perfect accompaniment. From his birth and the early death of his parents, through World War I and his romance with his beloved wife, to his professorship and famous works of literature, this volume chronicles Tolkien’s long life on an upper elementary or middle school level. Although all of the activities are simple to accomplish at home, some reinforce the narrative more appropriately than others. There is an annoyingly large number of typographical errors, but the content is worth it. Tolkien’s works will enrich every child’s life.
Osnat and Her Dove: The True Story of the World’s First Female Rabbi, by Sigal Samuel and Vali Mintzi
Osnat was born in Mosul about 500 years ago. Her father was a rabbi, and even though he didn’t think girls needed to read, he didn’t have any sons, so he taught her. When he died, Osnat’s husband took over the yeshiva—or school—where he taught boys about Hebrew and their Jewish faith. Since he was busy, Osnat began teaching Torah, so that when her husband also passed away, she was the natural choice to lead the yeshiva herself. She went on to perform miracles, along with her beloved pet dove. Mintzi filled this picture book with vivid paintings in red, deep blue, and gold that recall the colors of ancient Iraq. A beautiful volume to introduce your children to a rich culture.
Unbound: The Life + Art of Judith Scott, by Joyce Scott, with Brie Spangler and Melissa Sweet
Joyce and Judith Scott were twin sisters and best friends throughout their early childhood in the 1940s. One day, Joyce came home from school to find that her beloved sister had been confined in an institution because she was deaf and had Down Syndrome, and at that time, doctors had no alternatives for parents. When Joyce grew up, she petitioned to have her sister come to live in her house, and each day, she would take Judith to the Creative Growth Art Center. At first, Judith seemed uninterested, but one day, the staff brought out yarn, ribbons, and fabric scraps. Judith began gathering up pieces of wood and various objects and creating sculptures with the materials. She hid things inside the layers of material, excitedly bringing meaning to her art. Eventually, people began to appreciate her creativity, and her work was displayed in art shows, written about in books, and honored in documentaries. Judith died in 2005, but her sister continues to spread the word about the value of creativity for all people. The body of the book is illustrated with Melissa Sweet’s lovely, childlike drawings, followed by photographs, a timeline, and other explanatory backmatter.
Disclaimer: I read library copies of all of these books. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.