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Picture Book Biographies About Women Who Have Changed the World

Curated by LibraryMom
The below picture book biographies share the incredible stories of strong women who have persevered through discrimination, followed their passions, and excelled in their fields. I am so grateful for the women mentioned in these stories and for the many more unnamed heroes who have paved the way for our children to reach for their dreams and make them a reality.
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Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World book
6.3
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Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World
Thoughts from LibraryMom
This book is simply outstanding! Poems using a variety of formats accompanied by gorgeous illustrations highlight fourteen incredible women. Children may be familiar with a few such as Ruby Bridges and Malala Yousafzai, but the majority of these women ranging in age, ethnicity, and accomplishments will be new to them. Children and adults will be amazed by the impressive accomplishments of each woman, including Angela Zhang, who started working on cancer research at the age of seventeen, sisters who were secret agents during WWII, the first known female firefighter, and several human rights activists fighting for the good of many.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Every illustration is created by a different artist highlighting the uniqueness of each individual woman. While all very different, the women are united in their strong characters showing courage, determination, and perseverance making them wonderful role models for children today. This is a book that should be in every library.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

“Each poem and illustration shines with a personality all its own.” —Shelf Awareness (starred review) “This book has definitely made an impact on my life.” —Kitt Shapiro, daughter of Eartha Kitt Fresh, accessible, and inspiring, Shaking Things Up introduces fourteen revolutionary young women—each paired with a noteworthy female artist—to the next generation of activists, trail-blazers, and rabble-rousers. From the award-winning author of Ada’s Violin, Susan Hood, this is a poetic and visual celebration of persistent women throughout history. In this book of poems, you will find Mary Anning, who was just thirteen when she unearthed a prehistoric fossil. You’ll meet Ruby Bridges, the brave six year old who helped end segregation in the South. And Maya Lin, who at twenty-one won a competition to create a war memorial, and then had to appear before Congress to defend her right to create. And those are just a few of the young women included in this book. Readers will also hear about Molly Williams, Annette Kellerman, Nellie Bly, Pura Belpré, Frida Kahlo, Jacqueline and Eileen Nearne, Frances Moore Lappé, Mae Jemison, Angela Zhang, and Malala Yousafzai—all whose stories will enthrall and inspire. This poetry collection was written, illustrated, edited, and designed by women and includes an author’s note, a timeline, and additional resources. With artwork by notable artists including Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper, Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Sara Palacios, LeUyen Pham, Erin Robinson, Isabel Roxas, Shadra Strickland, and Melissa Sweet. A 2019 Bank Street Best Book of the Year Named to the 2019 Texas Topaz Nonfiction Reading List Selected for CCBC Choices Book 2019 Selected as a Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2019 Named to the Cuyahoga County Public Library’s 2018 list of Great Books for Kids

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Malala's Magic Pencil book
6.0
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Malala's Magic Pencil
Written by Malala Yousafzai & illustrated by Kerascoet
Thoughts from LibraryMom
This beautiful and awe-inspiring tale follows the true story of Malala, a young girl from Pakistan who even at a young age follows her dreams and fights for the rights of others. Even though Malala’s life is difficult and tragic, she does an admirable job of making her story accessible and inspirational to all who read this stunning book. She begins her story by describing her favorite television show in which a boy had a magic pencil that could solve any problem. At first, Malala envisions her own magic pencil that stops her brother’s childish taunts, but then dreams how she can fix larger problems in the world. When she discovers that girls are not allowed to attend school, she picks up her magic pencil and argues for children’s rights. Malala’s voice was so strong that even the Taliban tried to silence her. The book very delicately touches upon the Taliban’s attempt on her life with the words, “My voice became so powerful that the dangerous men tried to silence me. But they failed.” Malala’s story is one of bravery and resilience that all children should read. She was honored for her work by being the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize and now her story will be celebrated by audiences of all ages with this magnificent picture book told in Malala’s own words.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Malala’s first picture book will inspire young readers everywhere to find the magic all around them. As a child in Pakistan, Malala made a wish for a magic pencil. She would use it to make everyone happy, to erase the smell of garbage from her city, to sleep an extra hour in the morning. But as she grew older, Malala saw that there were more important things to wish for. She saw a world that needed fixing. And even if she never found a magic pencil, Malala realized that she could still work hard every day to make her wishes come true. This beautifully illustrated volume tells Malala’s story for a younger audience and shows them the worldview that allowed Malala to hold on to hope even in the most difficult of times.

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Before She Was Harriet book
6.0
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Before She Was Harriet
Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome & illustrated by James E. Ransome
Thoughts from LibraryMom
This powerful picture book biography uses brief, lyrical language and beautiful, bold watercolor illustrations to introduce children to an American icon. Readers will learn how Harriet Tubman went by many names and wore many hats. She was a suffragist, a general, a Union spy, a nurse, an aunt, and an ex-slave who helped others find their freedom. Her journey through life is eloquently captured in just a few pages and her courageous spirit will remain with the reader long after closing the pages of this book.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A lush and lyrical biography of Harriet Tubman, written in verse. An evocative poem and opulent watercolors come together to honor a woman of humble origins whose courage and compassion make her larger than life.

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Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles book
5.8
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Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles
Written by Patricia Valdez & illustrated by Felicita Sala
Thoughts from LibraryMom
Where many of us would squirm at the sight of a snake or lizard, Joan Procter collected and studied them. She even received a pet crocodile on her sixteenth birthday! Her love of reptiles never waned and she became the curator at the Natural History Museum and then the London Zoo at a young age. Soon she was famous for her expertise and for being the first to bring Komodo dragons to Europe. An author’s note provides additional information on her amazing life as well as the history behind Komodo dragons. Joan’s interesting story is set against charming illustrations making this a perfect choice for a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) themed storytime or for any child who enjoys learning something new.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Back in the days of long skirts and afternoon teas, young Joan Procter entertained the most unusual party guests: slithery and scaly ones, who turned over teacups and crawled past the crumpets…. While other girls played with dolls, Joan preferred the company of reptiles. She carried her favorite lizard with her everywhere—she even brought a crocodile to school!

When Joan grew older, she became the Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum. She went on to design the Reptile House at the London Zoo, including a home for the rumored-to-be-vicious komodo dragons. There, just like when she was a little girl, Joan hosted children’s tea parties—with her komodo dragon as the guest of honor.

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The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin book
5.8
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The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin
Written by Julia Finley Mosca & illustrated by Daniel Rieley
Thoughts from LibraryMom
“Each person is special- so UNIQUE are our minds. This world needs YOUR ideas. It takes brains of ALL kinds.” What an important lesson to learn! When Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism as a child, few people expected her to go far life in. Her brain worked differently and while that made traditional school and some social situations difficult for her, it is also what helped her earn three degrees and understand farms and animals better leading her to invent safer and more comfortable transportation for livestock. While Temple didn’t learn to speak until she was four, she now travels the world speaking to crowds and advocating for people with autism. Not only does this book celebrate an important woman in history, it also gives children a better understanding of how someone with autism might think and feel allowing them to see that while people with autism might be different, they are certainly not less!
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-10

If you’ve ever felt different, if you’ve ever been low, if you don’t quite fit in, there’s a name you should know… Meet Dr. Temple Grandin—one of the world’s quirkiest science heroes!

When young Temple was diagnosed with autism, no one expected her to talk, let alone become one of the most powerful voices in modern science. Yet, the determined visual thinker did just that. Her unique mind allowed her to connect with animals in a special way, helping her invent groundbreaking improvements for farms around the globe!

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin is the first book in a brand new educational series about the inspirational lives of amazing scientists. In addition to the illustrated rhyming tale, you’ll find a complete biography, fun facts, a colorful timeline of events, and even a note from Temple herself!

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  • Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré - LibraryMom -

    Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré shares the fascinating story of Pura Belpré who enriched children’s literature with her enchanting Puerto Rican folktales. She was a pioneer, creating the first mainstream Latinx storybooks in America. Her dream of planting seeds of stories across the United States is beautifully embodied by the gorgeous illustrations adorned with flowers. The vivid pictures paired with the engaging text that effortlessly weaves in Spanish vocabulary makes this an excellent read aloud. Pura’s legacy continues with the Pura Belpré award given each year by the American Library Association for the most outstanding work of literature by a Latinx author and illustrator.

  • Mae Among the Stars - LibraryMom -

    This beautiful picture book biography uses simple text and child-friendly illustrations to show how one little girl achieved her dreams through dedication and determination. Mae Jemison always wanted to be an astronaut. When she shares her aspiration with her teacher, however, she is deterred and encouraged to be a nurse instead. Mae is shattered by this dismissal. Luckily her supportive parents encourage her by advising, “You must always repeat to yourself: If I can dream it, if I can believe in it, and if I work hard for it; anything is possible.” Mae Jemison kept these words close to her heart and worked fiercely to achieve her goal. She became both a doctor and the first African American woman in space.

  • Ready to Fly: How Sylvia Townsend Became the Bookmobile Ballerina - LibraryMom -

    With her determination, grit, and ability to overcome obstacles, Sylvia Townsend is an incredible role model. The back matter provides additional information on Sylvia’s life and the history of bookmobiles. Children will relish in learning more about this astonishing woman and how she helped pave the way for dancers of color.

  • Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? - LibraryMom -

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist book
5.5
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Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist
Written by Jess Keating & illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens and Jess Keating
Thoughts from LibraryMom
My science-oriented son loves this interesting story about a determined female scientist who overcame criticism to become one of the leading zoologists to study sharks. This colorful picture book biography, introduces children to Eugenie Clark, who discovered new species of fish, published several books on sharks, and was the first to train sharks proving their intelligence. A “Shark Bite” section in the back educates readers on additional facts about sharks while a timeline shares highlights of Eugenie’s impressive life.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A beautifully illustrated biography of Eugenie Clark, a scientist as impressive as the sharks she studied At nine years old, Eugenie Clark developed an unexpected passion for sharks after a visit to the Battery Park Aquarium in New York City. At the time, sharks were seen as mindless killing machines, but Eugenie knew better and set out to prove it. Despite many obstacles in her path, including trying to break into the scientific field as a woman, Eugenie was able to study the creatures she loved so much. From her many discoveries to the shark-related myths she dispelled, Eugenie’s wide scientific contributions led to the well-earned nickname “Shark Lady,” as she become a fixture in the world of ocean conservation and shark research.

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I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark book
5.5
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I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark
Written by Debbie Levy & illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
Thoughts from LibraryMom
This phenomenal picture book biography does an incredible job capturing Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s courageous spirit. Even at a young age, she stood up for what she believed in and challenged policies she considered to be erroneous. She overcame bias and became a successful lawyer who earned a seat as a Supreme Court Judge. She fights hard for the rights of the underprivileged and when she disagrees with the legal views of the other judges, she writes compelling arguments, one of which was so persuasive, it convinced Congress and the president to undo the court’s rulings. Filled with stirring artwork and fascinating facts about Ruther Bader Ginsburg, this is an inspiring picture book biography that should not be missed! There is also a detailed author’s note and bibliography that provides additional information about this remarkable woman.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Get to know celebrated Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—in the first picture book about her life—as she proves that disagreeing does not make you disagreeable! Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent a lifetime disagreeing: disagreeing with inequality, arguing against unfair treatment, and standing up for what’s right for people everywhere. This biographical picture book about the Notorious RBG, tells the justice’s story through the lens of her many famous dissents, or disagreements.

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Wangari's Trees of Peace book
5.5
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Wangari's Trees of Peace
Written & illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Thoughts from LibraryMom
Wangari Maathai’s story aptly demonstrates how one person can make an important impact on others’ lives. After returning from a scholarship to America, Wangari finds her homeland of Kenya barren. Trees have been cut down everywhere leaving little shade to protect the crops and the women in her village must walk miles for firewood. Wangari takes action by planting trees in her backyard and encouraging her friends and neighbors to do the same. Wangari becomes an activist for the trees and even when she is imprisoned for preventing the cutting of more trees, the other women continue planting until there are over 30 million trees in Kenya and the movement has spread to thirty other African countries. Simple text and bold illustrations make this a good choice for a read aloud to a group of children. An author’s note further discusses how Wangari inspired a nation and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

A paperback picture book based on the true story of Wangari Maathai, an environmental and political activist in Kenya and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. As a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari was surrounded by trees. But years later when she returns home, she is shocked to see whole forests being cut down, and she knows that soon all the trees will be destroyed. So Wangari decides to do something–and starts by planting nine seedlings in her own backyard. And as they grow, so do her plans . . . This true story of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a shining example of how one woman’s passion, vision, and determination inspired great change. Includes an author’s note.

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Sisters book
5.5
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Sisters
Written & illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Thoughts from LibraryMom
Our family absolutely adores this book. The Williams’ sisters focus and determination is nothing short of remarkable and we really enjoyed reading about these tennis powerhouses.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8

Celebrated picture book biographer Jeanette Winter shares the story of champion tennis players—and sisters—Venus and Serena Williams. Before they were famous tennis stars, Venus and Serena Williams were sisters with big dreams growing up in Compton, California. In the early mornings, they head to the tennis courts, clean up debris, and practice. They compete in their first tournament and they both win. From there, the girls’ trophy collection grows and grows. Despite adversity and health challenges, the sisters become two of the greatest tennis players of all time. This inspiring story of sisterhood, hard work, and determination is perfect for budding athletes or any young reader with a big dream.

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The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath (Amazing Scientists) book
5.5
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The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath (Amazing Scientists)
Written by Julia Finley Mosca & illustrated by Daniel Rieley
Thoughts from LibraryMom
Bouncy rhymes inform readers how Patricia Bath followed her love of medicine to become a pioneer in the field of optometry and invent a new laser probe that could help blind people see again. The energetic text and appealing artwork bring Patricia’s story alive and children will not only be impressed with her determination to achieve her goals, but also her remarkable leadership and ability to help a large number of people.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

If you like to think big, but some say you’re too small, or they say you’re too young or too slow or too tall… Meet Dr. Bath―the scientist who never lost sight of her dreams! As a girl coming of age during the Civil Rights Movement, Patricia Bath made it her mission to become a doctor. When obstacles like racism, poverty, and sexism threatened this goal, she persevered―brightening the world with a game-changing treatment for blindness! The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath is the second book in a brand new educational series about the inspirational lives of amazing scientists! In addition to the illustrated rhyming tale, you’ll find a complete biography, fun facts, a colorful timeline of events, and even a note from Dr. Bath herself!

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  • The Girl with a Mind for Math - LibraryMom -

    In The Girl With A Mind for Math, readers learn about Raye Montague who diligently worked to become an exceptional engineer despite being discriminated against for being a black female. Full of brains, humor, and grit, she held her head up high and worked tirelessly until she was finally awarded the title of engineer and created groundbreaking ship designs for the U.S. Navy.

  • She Persisted - LibraryMom -

    In this beautiful book, Chelsea Clinton introduces children to thirteen amazing women who overcame obstacles to make a difference in America. Readers may recognize some of the women such as Harriet Tubman and Helen Keller, but others may be new to children such as union activist Clara Lemlich, physician Virginia Apgar, and Nellie Bly, a female reporter who exposed several injustices. Each trailblazer is presented in a two-page spread with a short paragraph describing how they persisted through a difficulty in their life and went on to accomplish something remarkable. Gorgeous watercolors capture the strength of the women and are enhanced by an inspiring quote. Hopefully the brief blurbs will peak children’s interest to learn more about these important people from history as well as other groundbreakers.