Archive for Biography

Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama

Written by Hester Bass
Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Lest the struggles for civil rights be forgotten, it’s important to look at the conditions along the road to freedom. Admittedly, we still have a long way to go due to hatred and prejudice. Many people fought and died for the incremental freedoms we now have. Riots and bombings happened many times. But, in Huntsville, a city that also saw the development of rockets for the space program, the movement forward was not marked by violence. Segregation was so strong that blacks weren’t even allowed to try on shoes. They had to carry outlines of their feet to the shoe store. For many weeks, blacks staged sit ins at lunch counters and left when asked or went to jail, sometimes with babies. Groups circled the courthouse with signs such as, “I Ordered a Cheeseburger, They Served Me a Warrant!” Finally, citizens remembered that white merchants relied so much on the revenue provided by blacks. For Easter 1962, a Blue Jean Sunday was declared. No money was spent on new clothes. Money was spent elsewhere whenever possible. Helium-filled balloons were released in the local parks. They carried messages of love and freedom. Rallies were conducted on both sides of the issue. At long last, schools were integrated. Many whites tried to prevent blacks from entering “their” school, but several white students also enrolled in the formerly black schools.
The story is greatly enhanced by the wonderful, action-filled illustrations of E.B. Lewis. The second grade reader can almost feel like she’s there, in the 1960s. A particularly poignant drawing of a young girl with impressions of her feet is memorable.

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  • Seeds of FreedomTitle: Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama
  • Author: Hester Bass
  • Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
  • Publisher: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, biography, history, civil rights movement
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6919-5
  • Extras: Detailed explanation of the events in Huntsville, bibliography

I Am Amelia Earhart

Written by Brad Meltzer
Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

An excellent addition to the series “Ordinary People Change the World” is this new biography about Amelia Earhart. Written in the first person, it is like a comfortable conversation between two kids.

It is exciting to read about Amelia’s early experiments with ramps and roller coaster carts in her grandmother’s back yard. She tells about her first ride aboard an airplane at a county fair which is something many young readers will have seen or experienced.

She talks about all the different jobs she had to do while trying to raise enough money for her flight lessons. The illustrations are great fun as we see the small cartoon version of Amelia driving a huge truck, taking stenography notes and posing as a photographer.

The text is sparse and accessible for beginning readers. It will invite them in and encourage them to keep reading this book as well as many others in the set.

Her recollection about the flight lessons is valuable as she tells her readers that she never was the best or fastest. Instead she was the one who worked longest and hardest at her lessons.

This is an excellent inspirational book for all young readers, but especially for young girls who might think their options are limited.

Core curriculum standards in the area of history, biography and literacy can be practiced and strengthened with this book. Readers will love being able to see real photographs of Amelia at the end of the book. It adds realism to the biography experience and shows what the early airplanes looked like. These photographs may provide a springboard for further research and perhaps even career dreams.

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  • Amelia EarhartTitle: I Am Amelia Earhart
  • Author: Brad Meltzer
  • Illustrator: Christopher Eliopoulos
  • Publisher: Dial Book for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8037-4082-2
  • Genre: Biography, history, nonfiction
  • Grade level: K to 3
  • Extras: photographs

On the Slant

Written by Jane Yolen

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Jane Yolen, who has written over 300 books and won numerous awards including a Caldecott for Owl Moon, Golden Kite, two Nebula and Christopher awards, etc…gives readers an insight into how she made her passion into her career. Every one of her works can be read aloud and loved by preschoolers to second graders and up to adults.

On the Slant belongs on any reading lists for young authors to learn how to take criticism and make it into a published work or create a work space that enhances the creative juices to overflow. Jane also shares her life story from her fascinating childhood where she generated an apartment building newspaper using carbon paper with her first pink manual typewriter. The story continues as the reader learns the secret to her success starts with writing everyday whether it be ideas, stories, or poems, regardless if they ever get published.

Photographs from her past and present provide another layer of her life showing baby pictures to more current photographs taken by her son, Jason Stemple. These photos even show how she lives part of the time in Massachusetts while the rest of the year in Scotland. The most important part of her life includes her family.

On the Slant takes every age reader to a place where imagination and hard work meet. The organized format and straight forward voice keep readers turning each page to learn more about Jane. Be sure to check out her website at to email her with your questions.

  • Title: On the Slant
  • Author: Jane Yolen
  • Photographer: Jason Stemple
  • Publisher: Richard C. Owens Publishers, Inc, 2009
  • Reviewer: Julia Beiker
  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN 13: 978-1-57274-978-8
  • ISBN 10: 1-57274-978-4
  • Genre: Nonfiction biography
  • Lexile: 1090