Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Picture Book Biographies

My favorite kind of illustrated books are picture book biographies. The ones I adore most are of unsung heroes like Walter Anderson. "He may be the most famous American artist you've never heard of."

Picture book biographies have a rhythm when read out loud. They summarize a person's entire life in usually under 1500 words. One of the key challenges in writing them is finding a focus, determining what to put in, and what to leave out.

Usually these books have an author's note and other material in the back for teachers and librarians. Writing them can take up to a year due to the amount of research required and the arduous task of making every word sing.

There are lots of wonderful picture book biographies out there. My personal library includes: Audubon Painter of Birds in the Wild Frontier, I Could do That! Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote, Patience Wright America's First Sculptor and Revolutionary Spy, Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers, and many more. Have you read a good picture book biography lately?


  1. I haven't been reading many picture books lately, but I love biographies! I'll have to get back into picture books and check out some of your favorite titles.

  2. These books have all the lyricism of a picture book, but manage to convey a person's life story. There is a real art to writing them.

  3. How about a picture book biography in verse? I'm sure there are some.

  4. Lots of them do read like poetry. Try ABE LINCOLN: THE BOY WHO LOVED BOOKS by Kay Winters.