Michelle's Real Reads: Children's Nonfiction Book Recommendations

Stop by the Children's Library to check out some of these new picture book biographies!


Dorothy the Brave by Meghan P. Browne, illustrated by Brooke Smart 

Dorothy Lucas yearned to discover all that she was capable of. After the devastating news of Pearl Harbor, her brothers joined the World War II war effort, but Dorothy wanted to do her part, too. So, she enlisted to serve as a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP). After hours of flight school and roaring engines, Dorothy and her fellow WASPs risked their lives towing targets in the air for the male fighter pilots in training. Through many mechanical scares and smoke-filled cockpits, Dorothy remained brave and committed to her job--defying gravity and defying the odds. 


The Gardener of Alcatraz: A True Story by Emma Bland Smith, illustrated by Jenn Ely 

A prisoner gardens his way to freedom in this inspiring picture-book biography. When Elliott Michener was locked away in Alcatraz for counterfeiting, he was determined to defy the odds and bust out. But when he got a job tending the prison garden, a funny thing happened. He found new interests and skills--and a sense of dignity and fulfillment. Elliott transformed Alcatraz Island, and the island transformed him. Back matter about the history of Alcatraz and the US prison system today invites meaningful discussion. 


Jackie and the Mona Lisa by Debbie Rovin Murphy, illustrated by Jen Bricking 

Jackie Kennedy loved the arts. And America loved Jackie Kennedy. The first lady knew she had the country's attention--what would she do with it? Encourage Americans to appreciate art, of course! She turned the White House into a historical site filled with some of America's most treasured artifacts and pieces of art. She brought Shakespearean theater to the White House and ballerinas to the South Lawn. And most epically, she brought the Mona Lisa to the states.  


I Am Malala Yousafzai by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos 

Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of seventeen for speaking out against injustice even when it was terrifying to do so. She was an ordinary Muslim girl who wanted to attend school, and she refused to stop protesting for her rights even after being attacked by a powerful group in Pakistan who wanted women to remain in the shadows. She continues to fight for women's rights and free education for children all over the world. 


I Am Mozart, Too: The Lost Genius of Maria Anna Mozart by Audrey Ades, illustrated by Adelina Lirius 

Like any older sibling, Nannerl Mozart got to do things first and her younger brother, Wolfgang, wanted to be just like her. She played harpsichord, composed music, and even toured Europe to play concerts. Once Wolfie joined them, and she grew into her teens, her father insisted she stay home and become a wife--married to a man with no love of music. 


Parks for the People: How Frederick Law Olmsted Designed America by Elizabeth Partridge, illustrations by Becca Stadtlander 

Nobody could get Frederick Law Olmsted to sit still. He was filled with energy, adventure, and dreams of changing the world. As a boy, he found refuge in the peace and calm of nature, and later as an adult, he dreamed of designing and creating access to parks for a growing and changing America. When New York City held a contest for the best park design for what would become Central Park, Olmsted won and became the father of landscape architecture. He went on to design parks across America, including Yosemite National Park and even the grounds for the United States Capitol. 


A Perfect Fit: How Lena “Lane” Bryant Changed the Shape of Fashion by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal 

Lena came to America with nothing but a dream--and an exceptional ability to drape and snip and stitch. She never used a pattern or a tape measure, but every dress she sewed turned out to be a perfect fit. Then, one day, a customer presented her with a new challenge. Could she design a stylish, comfortable gown for a body shape that did not meet the current standards of fashion. Lena took the challenge. Under the company name Lane Bryant, she became famous for flattering and modish clothing designed for all different shapes and sizes. The world of fashion would never be the same. 


The Rise (and Falls) of Jackie Chan by Kristen Mai Giang, illustrated by Alina Chau 

Pow! Bam! Wow! Jackie Chan has been making movies and amazing audiences with his original and comedic stunts for decades. Pow! Bam! Ow! But before he was an international star, Jackie grew up in relative poverty in China, studied martial arts at the grueling China Drama Academy, and worked for years trying to find his way in film. Pow! Bam! How? Twist, tumble, and train alongside martial arts hero Jackie Chan in this picture book biography. Discover how Jackie used his goofball acrobatics to make a name and a style all his own. 


To the Front! Clara Barton Braves the Battle of Antietam by Claudia Friddell, illustrated by Christopher Cyr 

This powerful tribute to Civil War nurse Clara Barton and her heroic efforts during the Battle of Antietam reveals how she came to be called "The Angel of the Battlefield," and recounts her journey to become one of our country's greatest humanitarians and the founder of the American Red Cross.