Three Picture Book Biographies

I feel somewhat embarrassed that I had never heard of Dr. Mary Edwards Walker before now. I’m glad that gap in my knowledge has been filled by this new book by Cheryl Harness. Mary Walker Wears the Pants: The True Story of The Doctor, Reformer, and Civil War Hero tells the tale of this pioneer, the first female recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for her work as a surgeon during the Civil War. She was also a feminist, advocate for women’s rights, prisoner of war and dress reformer. One small issue I had was that the story begins after the Civil War and then jumps back to tell how Mary Walker became a physician. The timeline however is a a little unclear as the only real clue to this “flashback” is in the illustrations. I think most kids will figure it out and it’s certainly worth overlooking to read about this remarkable woman.

For those kids interested in finding out more about women physicians, the National Library of Medicine has a very nice interactive site where you can search by speciality, name, ethnicity, or location.

If I know very little about hip-hop, I know even less about Mambo or Latin jazz, other than that one song and dance from West Side Story. I know a little bit more now thanks to Tito Puente: Mambo King by Monica Brown. It’s difficult to write a book about music that gives the reader an idea of what the music is like. Brown employs the frequent use of onomatopoeia in an attempt to help the reader to hear the sounds of the drums. I really liked that this is a bilingual book with all the text on each page completely in English and Spanish. And I loved the bold, bright, whimsical illustrations by Rafael Lopez. The book is all about how Puente’s music made people happy and the colors and graphics give off a happy cheerful vibe that seems to fit with the subject perfectly.

For those ignorant of Latin jazz, like me, you can see Tito Puente’s last live performance here. Warning, it will make your feet want to dance.

I had heard of the subject of this third biography. However, I hadn’t heard of his dog, Rufus. War Dogs by Kathryn Selbert tells the story of Winston Churchill’s time as prime minister during World War II from the perspective of his beloved poodle Rufus. Seeing a well-known leader from this kind of perspective often makes him seem more human. Selbert includes quotes from Churchill on each page. Exceptionally complete end-pages provide a WWII timeline, more information on Churchill and on his dogs and a very extensive bibliography.

These books are nominees for a Cybils Award in the Elementary and Middle Grade Non-Fiction category for which I am a Round 1 panelist. I obtained copies of the books from my library. My opinions are my own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the other panelists.

One thought on “Three Picture Book Biographies

  1. Pingback: Armchair Cybils- December Link-Up | Supratentorial

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