True Stories About Real People
Here are a half dozen new picture book biographies
Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: a Tall, Thin Tale (Introducing His Forgotten Frontier Friend) / Deborah Hopkinson ; pictures by John Hendrix
When he was seven Abraham Lincoln fell into Knob Creek near his home in Kentucky. He might have drowned. Luckily for him his friend Austin got him out of the water in time. What would it be like to be there then? Would you fish him out with a fishing pole, or jump in after him?
Jerry Siegel loved adventure stories. As a teenager he wrote his own, but when he showed some of them to his high school teacher she called them trash. Jerry’s friend Joe Shuster loved to draw. Together they worked on comic strips. One night Jerry had an idea. What if an alien came to earth, not as an invader but as a friend? He would become a hero, strong and powerful who would right wrongs and fight for justice. The first thing in the morning Jerry rushed over to Joe’s home to tell him about the idea. Joe began sketching. A few years later they sold their strips to a publisher who put them in a comic book. It was an instant success, and soon eager readers were pestering shopkeepers for more comics with Superman in them.
Wangari Maathai grew up on a farm in Kenya where the trees were green and the streams were clear. But when she came back from college in the United States, she found that most of the trees had been cut down. Instead of small farms there were large plantations growing tea to export. But without the trees and their roots the soil was blown away and washed into muddy streams. So she organized women to plant trees. Soon the rest of the family joined in the work and Wangari was giving away seedling trees to schoolchildren and soldiers to plant. She had started the Green Belt Movement.
A River of Words: the Story of William Carlos Williams / written by Jen Bryant ; illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Willie Williams was a very energetic boy. After playing with his friends, he would roam though the New Jersey countryside until he fell asleep by the river. Inspired by the poetry that his teacher read aloud in class, he would stay up late to write his own poems. It’s a good thing he had a lot of energy. He grew up to be a doctor and a poet. By the end of his life he had written 48 books and helped deliver over 3,000 babies.
Growing up in Minnesota Wanda Gág (rhymes with jog, not bag) loved to draw, paint and listen to stories and then act them out. When she was fifteen her father died, and Wanda began to sell her art to help feed her family. She won scholarships to attend art schools in St. Paul and New York. In New York a book editor at a show of her painting asked Wanda if she might like to write and illustrate a book for children. In fact, she had one already written, inspired by the German folktales that she loved as a child. It was called Millions of Cats.
What To Do About Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy! / by Barbara Kerley ; illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “I can be president of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.” While his oldest daughter loved reading the books in her father’s library, she also loved to run through the parks in Washington pretending to be a horse. She roamed over the capital city at all hours of the day and night. She welcomed visitors to the White House draped by her pet snake, Emily Spinach, “named for its color and its resemblance to a very thin aunt.” She played cards, bet on the horses, and danced the hula on a visit to Hawaii. The newspapers loved her.