“Made you look!” Made you care…

In celebration of SEPTEMBER as National Literacy Month, I’ve created a

talk on biography basics.

“I was once asked what was the one story I most wanted to publish. This is it.”

biographer Hester Bass, author of The Secret World of Walter Anderson


PICTURE BOOK BIOGRAPHY BASICS or  Is THIS  One the Story for the 978 Shelf?

An incomplete CHECK LIST

_____EXEMPLAR  young readers can identify with/emulate/learn from this person

_____ILLUSTRATION       story will “pop” off the pages in pictures – in original photographs& documents.   Or with artist-created illustrations.  Or both.

_____ ORIGINAL  introducing an undiscovered achiever?  Star-struck by a famous name? If your subject is the history-making Cleopatra, will your book illuminate exciting & less-known aspects of her story ? See Cleopatra Rules! by Vicky Schecter.

_______ MULTISOURCED  are significant primary & secondary references & resources included in the back copy?  Key specialists/players brought onboard as listed consultants to the project? See Bylines by Sue Macy.

________CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS  teachers may apply the book to important school subjects/study areas; be alert for tie-ins.

________STORYTELLING   conflicts/obstacles, structure, setting, hook, narrative, mechanics & all the usual

_________HEARTBEAT  your heart beats fast for this person? Is the subject someone to enthusiastically present to the world- indefinitely?

websites to explore

Library of Congress “Today in History” & much more

Florida Memory Florida’s version of the Library of Congress

Interesting Non-Fiction for Kids, with award-winning books & their creators

American Library Association has the page,  “Great Web Sites for Kids” From it,  see: Biographies

National Inventors Hall of Fame

fun site

Create a Voki , a moving avatar of yourself – like your own visual/audio mini-biography. Vox + Loki = Voki “Vox” is Latin for voice. “Loki” is a prankster character in Norse Mythology.

some p.b. biography titles

The SCBWI co-founder, author Lin Oliver, has said writers should read at least 100 books in the genre in which we hope to publish.

Writers & illustrators have brought to young readers the stories of lesser- known folks whose paths in the world make me pause. Here are just 8 to know, along with opening lines. (SCBWI = Society of Chilrens’ Book Writers & Illustrators)

Walter Anderson    The Secret World of Walter Anderson

There was once a man whose love of nature was as wide as the world.

Roy Chapman Andrews      Dragon Bones and Dinosaur Eggs

A lifetime of adventure began calmly enough for Roy Chapman Andrews when he was born January 26, 1884 in  Beloit, Wisconsin.

Claudette Colvin     Twice Toward Justice

If like Claudette Colvin, you grew up black in central Alabama during the 1940s and 1950s,  Jim Crow controlled your life from womb to tomb.

Betty Mae Jumper    She Sang Promise

Spring breezes tickle cabbage palm spikes in a woman’s birth camp of the proud Tiger Family in the powerful Snake Clan.

Manjiro     The Boy Who Risked His Life for Two Countries

In 1841 a boy named Manjiro lived with his widowed mother and sisters and brothers in a village called Nakanohama in the province of Tosa in Japan.

Jackie Mitchell     Mighty Jackie

It was April 2, 1941, and something amazing was about to happen.

Esther Morris    When Ester Morris Headed West

Her name was Esther Mae Hobart McQuigg Slack Morris, and in 1869 she headed out to South Pass City in the Wyoming Territory.

Thomas Moran    Yellowstone Moran

Tom Moran had dreams as big as the Montana sky.

more titles

Here, select honors are listed, for a few of the hundreds, of picture book biographies.

When Marian Sang Sibert Honor Book

Story Painter Carter G. Woodson Book Award

Harvesting Hope Pura Belpre Honor Book

Dragon Bones and Dinosaur Eggs 2001 Books for the Teen Age List

Eleanor, Quiet No More Amelia Bloomer Award

Snowflake Bentley Caldecott Award (for illustrator Mary Azarian)

Claudette Colvin National Book Award/Jane Addams Honor

My writing credo is simple, a  6-word artistic statement & writing lesson: “Made you look!” Made you care…

Many thanks.


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