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Find more Top 10 Biographies for Youth
Visual storytelling—for all ages—dominates the field in this list of the best biographies and memoirs reviewed in Booklist between June 1, 2019, and May 15, 2020.
All in a Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World. By Lori Alexander. Illus. by Vivien Mildenberger. 2019. HMH, $17.99 (9781328884206). Gr. 3–5.
Alexander tells the story of Antony van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch merchant who ground his own lenses, built his own microscopes, and discovered tiny living creatures in lake water, leading to the study of microbiology.
Almost American Girl. By Robin Ha. Illus. by the author. 2020. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $22.99 (9780062685100). Gr. 9–12.
With unblinking honesty, Ha’s graphic memoir captures her excruciating move, as a teen, from Seoul to Alabama. Her energetic art mirrors the constant motion of her adolescent self as she navigates toward adulthood.
The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity: A Tale of the Genius Ramanujan. By Amy Alznauer. Illus. by Daniel Miyares. 2020. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763690489). K–Gr. 3.
In this picture-book biography of mathematician Ramanujan, Alznauer portrays him as a driven genius who produced work of lasting value, with Miyares’ colored inks creating vivid, imaginative scenes.
It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way. By Kyo Maclear. Illus. by Julie Morstad. 2019. Harper, $17.99 (9780062447623). K–Gr. 3.
This thoughtful biography introduces Japanese American illustrator Gyo Fujikawa, who overcame life in an internment camp before going on to create inclusive picture books, beloved for generations.
The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read. By Rita Lorraine Hubbard. Illus. by Oge Mora. 2020. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (9781524768287). Gr. 1–3.
Hubbard tells of Mary Walker, who at age 116—after surviving enslavement and witnessing the civil rights movement—learned to read. Mora’s cut-paper art adds meaning, layering in squiggles that, over time, morph into words.
Ordinary Hazards. By Nikki Grimes. 2019. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $19.99 (9781629798813). Gr. 9–12.
Grimes’ raw, potent memoir in verse tackles surviving childhood abuse, foster care, and mental illness and discovering lifelines in writing, reading, and loving relationships.
A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation. By Barry Wittenstein. Illus. by Jerry Pinkney. 2019. Holiday/Neal Porter, $18.99 (9780823443314). Gr. 2–5.
The civil rights movement is magnified through Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as he wrestles with what to say. Pinkney’s poignant collage artwork includes powerful portraits of several important African American figures.
The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh. By Candace Fleming. 2020. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $18.99 (9780525646549). Gr. 9–12.
In an accessible, thrilling, and occasionally disturbing biography, Fleming maps the complicated life of American hero/villain Charles Lindbergh. Included dialogue, taken from journals and letters, propels the narrative.
Troublemaker for Justice: The Story of Bayard Rustin, the Man behind the March on Washington. By Jacqueline Houtman and others. 2019. City Lights, $13.95 (9780872867659). Gr. 6–9.
Here the inspiring yet largely unsung life of Bayard Rustin, a Black, openly gay civil rights activist, is brought into focus, amplified by a generous collection of black-and-white pictures and sidebar features.
When Stars Are Scattered. By Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed. Illus. by Victoria Jamieson and Iman Geddy. 2020. Dial, $20.99 (9780525553915). Gr. 6–8.
In this graphic memoir, respectfully rendered by Jamieson, Mohamed lays bare his and his disabled brother’s turbulent childhood in Somalia and their escape to a refugee camp in Kenya.
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