Historical Figures: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best kids books about historical figures?

David McCullough, a renowned author and historian, has said, “History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” There are so many people and events in history that have shaped the world and who we are today. Many of these people are inspiring and admirable examples, and we’ve gathered up our favorite children’s books about these historical figures to inspire your little ones. After all, they are the future and will help build upon the history for those who come later.

Top 10 Books About Historical Figures

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls book
#1
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
Written by Elena Favilli and illustrated by Francesca Cavallo
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 5-10
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book! It is a bit more expensive than others, but in my opinion, it’s completely worth it to have in my library. I think everyone should read this book and learn about the amazing women who have stood up for their rights and changed the world! With each women highlighted, there’s a stunning illustration of the woman along with a short story about her, who she is/was, and what she accomplished. This book is so inspiring and I learned about so many women I hadn’t heard of before that have been so influential. I seriously cannot say enough good things about this book, it is one of my absolute favorites.

A children’s book that reinvents fairy tales, inspiring girls with the stories of 100 great women from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams.

Abe's Honest Words book
#2
Abe's Honest Words
Written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Kadir Nelson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

From the time he was a young boy roaming the forests of the unsettled Midwest, Abraham Lincoln knew in his heart that slavery was deeply wrong. A voracious reader, Lincoln spent every spare moment of his days filling his mind with knowledge, from history to literature to mathematics, preparing himself to one day lead the country he loved toward greater equality and prosperity. Despite the obstacles he faced as a self-educated man from the back woods, Lincoln persevered in his political career, and his compassion and honesty gradually earned him the trust of many Americans. As president, he guided the nation through a long and bitter civil war and penned the document that would lead to the end of slavery in the United States. The passion for humanity that defined Lincoln’s life shines through in this momentous follow-up to Martin’s Big Words and John’s Secret Dreams. Told in Doreen Rappaport’s accessible, absorbing prose, and brought to life in powerful illustrations by Kadir Nelson, Abe’s Honest Words is an epic portrait of a truly great American president. Praise for the Big Words series: Martin’s Big Words 2002 Caldecott Honor Book 2002 Coretta Scott King Honor Book Child Magazine Best Book of 2001 New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2001 “A stunning, reverent tribute.” -School Library Journal, starred review Abe’s Honest Words “Exceptional art, along with Rappaport’s and Lincoln’s words, makes this a fine celebration of a man who needs little introduction.” -Booklist, starred review Eleanor, Quiet No More “Once again Rappaport celebrates a noble, heroic life in powerful, succinct prose, with prominent, well-chosen, and judiciously placed quotes that both instruct and inspire…Celebrate women in history and in politics with this picture-book life.” -School Library Journal, starred review Helen’s Big World “Stirring and awe-inspiring.” -The Horn Book, starred review To Dare Mighty Things “[T]his lavish picture-book biography deftly captures the legendary man’s bold, exuberant nature. . . . A truly inspiring tribute to a seemingly larger-than-life U.S. president.” -Kirkus Reviews, starred review “Theodore Roosevelt’s big ideas and big personality come together in this splendid picture-book biography.” -Booklist, starred review * “Concisely written and yet poetic, this is a first purchase for every library.” -School Library Journal, starred review

This Little Trailblazer: A Girl Power Primer book
#3
This Little Trailblazer: A Girl Power Primer
Written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Daniel Roode
board book
Recommend Ages: 1-5

Learn all about influential women who changed history in this engaging and colorful board book perfect for trailblazers-in-training!

Paving the way to a future that’s bright. Helping the world with their skills, smarts, and might.

Little trailblazers cause great big changes.

In this follow up to This Little President and This Little Explorer, now even the youngest readers can learn all about great and empowering female trailblazers in history! Highlighting ten memorable women leaders who paved the way, parents and little ones alike will love this girl power primer full of fun, age-appropriate facts and bold illustrations.

Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books book
#4
Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
Thoughts from Mom of Boys

I loved this story of Abraham Lincoln and his upbringing. He had an interesting childhood full of trials and sorrow and moving from place to place. Most of all I loved learning that through all of this is how his love of books came to be.

Presents an illustrated biography of Abraham Lincoln, describing how his lifelong love for reading helped him to become the sixteenth president of the United States.

Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott book
#5
Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Written by Dee Romito and illustrated by Laura Freeman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

This stunning picture book looks into the life of Georgia Gilmore, a hidden figure of history who played a critical role in the civil rights movement and used her passion for baking to help the Montgomery Bus Boycott achieve its goal. Georgia decided to help the best way she knew how. She worked together with a group of women and together they purchased the supplies they needed-bread, lettuce, and chickens. And off they went to cook. The women brought food to the mass meetings that followed at the church. They sold sandwiches. They sold dinners in their neighborhoods. As the boycotters walked and walked, Georgia cooked and cooked. Georgia Gilmore was a cook at the National Lunch Company in Montgomery, Alabama. When the bus boycotts broke out in Montgomery after Rosa Parks was arrested, Georgia knew just what to do. She organized a group of women who cooked and baked to fund-raise for gas and cars to help sustain the boycott. Called the Club from Nowhere, Georgia was the only person who knew who baked and bought the food, and she said the money came from “nowhere” to anyone who asked. When Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for his role in the boycott, Georgia testified on his behalf, and her home became a meeting place for civil rights leaders. This picture book highlights a hidden figure of the civil rights movement who fueled the bus boycotts and demonstrated that one person can make a real change in her community and beyond. It also includes one of her delicious recipes for kids to try with the help of their parents!

She Persisted book
#6
She Persisted
Written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Bolger
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from Readerly Mom

I love reading this book to my daughters for its history and the overarching message—that they can achieve great things by being persistent in following their dreams. I also love that we have found so many different ways to read it. Sometimes, we start at the beginning and read it straight through. Usually, though, we just pick one or two individual stories, or we read just the names and quotes on each page. My pre-schooler who is learning to read likes to sound out the names (in all capital letters) on each page. I like that each page gives us a concise introduction to a historical figure, so it’s not too lengthy to read in one sitting, but it is a great starting point for learning more.

Chelsea Clinton introduces tiny feminists, mini activists and little kids who are ready to take on the world to thirteen inspirational women who never took no for an answer, and who always, inevitably and without fail, persisted.

Throughout American history, there have always been women who have spoken out for what’s right, even when they have to fight to be heard. In early 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to be silenced in the Senate inspired a spontaneous celebration of women who persevered in the face of adversity. In this book, Chelsea Clinton celebrates thirteen American women who helped shape our country through their tenacity, sometimes through speaking out, sometimes by staying seated, sometimes by captivating an audience. They all certainly persisted.

She Persisted is for everyone who has ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down, for everyone who has ever tried to reach for the stars but was told to sit down, and for everyone who has ever been made to feel unworthy or unimportant or small.

With vivid, compelling art by Alexandra Boiger, this book shows readers that no matter what obstacles may be in their paths, they shouldn’t give up on their dreams. Persistence is power.

This book features: Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor—and one special cameo.

Coco Chanel book
#7
Coco Chanel
Written by Isabel Sanchez Vegara and illustrated by Ana Albero
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I think this darling board book is a great introduction to Coco Chanel. I love that it talks about her being herself and living her dreams. It also does a good job of telling the story of her journey to becoming a fashion designer.

Meet Coco Chanel, the world famous fashion designer! Now available as a board book in the Little People, Big Dreams series, this inspiring and informative little biography follows the life of the iconic first lady of fashion, from her early life in an orphanage – where she is a genius with needle and thread – to her time as a cabaret singer, hat maker and, eventually, international fashion designer. With stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, this empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful women of the world. From designers and artists to scientists, all of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. These books make the lives of these role models accessible for children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world!

The Story of Ruby Bridges book
#8
The Story of Ruby Bridges
Written by Robert Coles and illustrated by George Ford
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

For months six-year-old Ruby Bridges must confront the hostility of white parents when she becomes the first African American girl to integrate William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960.

Twenty-one Elephants and Still Standing book
#9
Twenty-one Elephants and Still Standing
Written by April Jones Prince and illustrated by Francois Roca
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7
Thoughts from The Goodfather

This story memorably presents such an inspiring moment in the history of the Brooklyn Bridge.

After fourteen years of construction, the Brooklyn Bridge was completed, much to the delight of the sister cities it connected: Brooklyn and New York City.

Fireworks and top hats filled the air in celebration when the magnificent bridge opened in 1883. But some wondered just how much weight the new bridge could hold. Was it truly safe?

One man seized the opportunity to show people in Brooklyn, New York and the world that the Brooklyn Bridge was in fact strong enough to hold even the heaviest of passengers. P. T. Barnum, creator of “The Greatest Show on Earth,” would present a show too big for the Big Top and too wondrous to forget.

I Am Helen Keller book
#10
I Am Helen Keller
Written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos and Brad Meltzer
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I thought this was a fantastic biography of the life of Helen Keller—her hardships and accomplishments. There are a lot of fun facts in the story, and it’s a little longer of a picture book, but I thought it was engaging and a fun, inspiring read.

“The story of Helen Keller, who learned to read and write despite being deaf and blind, and became an activist who fought for the rights of disabled people”

Books About Historical Figures and Famous People

This Little Trailblazer: A Girl Power Primer book
#1
This Little Trailblazer: A Girl Power Primer
Written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Daniel Roode
board book
Recommend Ages: 1-5

Learn all about influential women who changed history in this engaging and colorful board book perfect for trailblazers-in-training!

Paving the way to a future that’s bright. Helping the world with their skills, smarts, and might.

Little trailblazers cause great big changes.

In this follow up to This Little President and This Little Explorer, now even the youngest readers can learn all about great and empowering female trailblazers in history! Highlighting ten memorable women leaders who paved the way, parents and little ones alike will love this girl power primer full of fun, age-appropriate facts and bold illustrations.

Coco Chanel book
#2
Coco Chanel
Written by Isabel Sanchez Vegara and illustrated by Ana Albero
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I think this darling board book is a great introduction to Coco Chanel. I love that it talks about her being herself and living her dreams. It also does a good job of telling the story of her journey to becoming a fashion designer.

Meet Coco Chanel, the world famous fashion designer! Now available as a board book in the Little People, Big Dreams series, this inspiring and informative little biography follows the life of the iconic first lady of fashion, from her early life in an orphanage – where she is a genius with needle and thread – to her time as a cabaret singer, hat maker and, eventually, international fashion designer. With stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, this empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful women of the world. From designers and artists to scientists, all of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. These books make the lives of these role models accessible for children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world!

The Story of Ruby Bridges book
#3
The Story of Ruby Bridges
Written by Robert Coles and illustrated by George Ford
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

For months six-year-old Ruby Bridges must confront the hostility of white parents when she becomes the first African American girl to integrate William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Twenty-one Elephants and Still Standing - The Goodfather - This story memorably presents such an inspiring moment in the history of the Brooklyn Bridge.

  2. Malala's Magic Pencil - Mom of Boys - This shows magic in a whole new light. It is a true story of a young girl from Pakistan. She watched a show of a young boy that had a magic pencil. Whatever he drew with his magic pencil appeared. She wished she had one so she could draw things like a new ball for her and her brothers to play with. She wished for beautiful dresses for her mother and buildings for her father. She was very selfless in her wishes. Then one day she saw some very poor children and it changed her outlook on life. She realized how blessed she was to get to go to school. She wanted this for other children and started to write about it. This became magic to her and to others as people started listening to her story.

  3. Dream Big, Little One - This beautifully illustrated book showcases women who changed the world. Featuring 18 trailblazing black women in American history, Dream Big, Little Leader is the irresistible board book adaptation of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. Among these women, you’ll find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things - bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn’t always accept them. The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something bigand amazing, inspiring generations to come.

  4. I Am Amelia Earhart - Presents the life of the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, who mysteriously disappeared in 1937 while attempting to fly around the world.

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Books About Historical Figures and Abraham Lincoln

Abe's Honest Words book
#1
Abe's Honest Words
Written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Kadir Nelson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

From the time he was a young boy roaming the forests of the unsettled Midwest, Abraham Lincoln knew in his heart that slavery was deeply wrong. A voracious reader, Lincoln spent every spare moment of his days filling his mind with knowledge, from history to literature to mathematics, preparing himself to one day lead the country he loved toward greater equality and prosperity. Despite the obstacles he faced as a self-educated man from the back woods, Lincoln persevered in his political career, and his compassion and honesty gradually earned him the trust of many Americans. As president, he guided the nation through a long and bitter civil war and penned the document that would lead to the end of slavery in the United States. The passion for humanity that defined Lincoln’s life shines through in this momentous follow-up to Martin’s Big Words and John’s Secret Dreams. Told in Doreen Rappaport’s accessible, absorbing prose, and brought to life in powerful illustrations by Kadir Nelson, Abe’s Honest Words is an epic portrait of a truly great American president. Praise for the Big Words series: Martin’s Big Words 2002 Caldecott Honor Book 2002 Coretta Scott King Honor Book Child Magazine Best Book of 2001 New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2001 “A stunning, reverent tribute.” -School Library Journal, starred review Abe’s Honest Words “Exceptional art, along with Rappaport’s and Lincoln’s words, makes this a fine celebration of a man who needs little introduction.” -Booklist, starred review Eleanor, Quiet No More “Once again Rappaport celebrates a noble, heroic life in powerful, succinct prose, with prominent, well-chosen, and judiciously placed quotes that both instruct and inspire…Celebrate women in history and in politics with this picture-book life.” -School Library Journal, starred review Helen’s Big World “Stirring and awe-inspiring.” -The Horn Book, starred review To Dare Mighty Things “[T]his lavish picture-book biography deftly captures the legendary man’s bold, exuberant nature. . . . A truly inspiring tribute to a seemingly larger-than-life U.S. president.” -Kirkus Reviews, starred review “Theodore Roosevelt’s big ideas and big personality come together in this splendid picture-book biography.” -Booklist, starred review * “Concisely written and yet poetic, this is a first purchase for every library.” -School Library Journal, starred review

Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books book
#2
Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
Thoughts from Mom of Boys

I loved this story of Abraham Lincoln and his upbringing. He had an interesting childhood full of trials and sorrow and moving from place to place. Most of all I loved learning that through all of this is how his love of books came to be.

Presents an illustrated biography of Abraham Lincoln, describing how his lifelong love for reading helped him to become the sixteenth president of the United States.

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek book
#3
Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek
Written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by John Hendrix
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Fun Uncle

I thought this book was really great! The illustrations are awesome, there’s fantastic historical tidbits, and it’s about President Lincoln (that’s my favorite part). There are a few times when the author chooses words like “darn” or “foolish” when I wish she hadn’t, but all in all it was a fun story. It’s a book that has potential to spark curiosity in our young readers to learn more about President Lincoln, or at least recognize and connect with him more when they learn more in school. There are lots of fun moments in this book, and Deborah is creative in involving her readers in Lincoln’s creek crossing.

In Knob Creek, Kentucky, in 1816, seven-year-old Abe Lincoln falls into a creek and is rescued by his best friend, Austin Gollaher.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Abraham Lincoln - Presents a simple biography of the sixteenth president of the United States.

  2. Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers - B is for Bookworm - This book is based on a true story, and it has copies of the real letters in the back of the book. Knowing the story is true made me like this book so much more. The illustrations aren’t my favorite, but a fun story about a little girl and how she helped Abraham Lincoln. :)

  3. Abraham Lincoln for Kids - An activity book for young readers tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s life and details the events of his era, providing a fresh perspective on one of the most beloved American presidents.

  4. Abe Lincoln at Last! - The magic tree house whisks Jack and Annie to Washington D.C. in the 1860s where they meet Abraham Lincoln and collect a feather that will help break a magic spell.

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Books About Historical Figures and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott book
#1
Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Written by Dee Romito and illustrated by Laura Freeman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

This stunning picture book looks into the life of Georgia Gilmore, a hidden figure of history who played a critical role in the civil rights movement and used her passion for baking to help the Montgomery Bus Boycott achieve its goal. Georgia decided to help the best way she knew how. She worked together with a group of women and together they purchased the supplies they needed-bread, lettuce, and chickens. And off they went to cook. The women brought food to the mass meetings that followed at the church. They sold sandwiches. They sold dinners in their neighborhoods. As the boycotters walked and walked, Georgia cooked and cooked. Georgia Gilmore was a cook at the National Lunch Company in Montgomery, Alabama. When the bus boycotts broke out in Montgomery after Rosa Parks was arrested, Georgia knew just what to do. She organized a group of women who cooked and baked to fund-raise for gas and cars to help sustain the boycott. Called the Club from Nowhere, Georgia was the only person who knew who baked and bought the food, and she said the money came from “nowhere” to anyone who asked. When Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for his role in the boycott, Georgia testified on his behalf, and her home became a meeting place for civil rights leaders. This picture book highlights a hidden figure of the civil rights movement who fueled the bus boycotts and demonstrated that one person can make a real change in her community and beyond. It also includes one of her delicious recipes for kids to try with the help of their parents!

Let the Children March book
#2
Let the Children March
Written by Monica Clark-Robinson and illustrated by Frank Morrison
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This book is so inspirational. I love that it talks about the children who march for their rights! This book is so important, as it really brought this historical event to life, especially through the different perspective of children. This is an amazing story of love, perseverance, determination, courage, bravery, and activism. Even when the children faced danger, they knew that they were helping bring about a change and that together, they could help change the world. Also, I thought the illustrations were wonderful.

Under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, children and teenagers march against segregation in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963.

I Have a Dream book
#3
I Have a Dream
Written by and illustrated by Kadir Nelson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Presents the text of the famous speech given on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. by Martin Luther King, Jr., complemented by paintings illustrating the ideals the civil rights leader described.

Honorable Mentions
  1. The Youngest Marcher - Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you’re never too little to make a difference. Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks intended to go places and do things like anybody else. So when she heard grown-ups talk about wiping out Birmingham’s segregation laws, she spoke up. As she listened to the preacher’s words, smooth as glass, she sat up tall. And when she heard the plan—picket those white stores! March to protest those unfair laws! Fill the jails!—she stepped right up and said, I’ll do it! She was going to j-a-a-il! Audrey Faye Hendricks was confident and bold and brave as can be, and hers is the remarkable and inspiring story of one child’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.

  2. A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr - A brief biography of Baptist minister and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

  3. A Sweet Smell of Roses - The Fun Uncle - I love the way Angela Johnson presents such an emotional and important piece of history in a way that conveys the importance of what was happening, while keeping it child appropriate. It’s thought provoking and is sure to help our little ones be curious about the civil rights movement, leading to great opportunities of acceptance and friendship to all. The illustrations by Eric Velazquez are so life-like and well done.

  4. Love Will See You Through - The niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. reveals six timeless and universal principles that encompass the civil rights leader’s greatest legacy: Love will see you through. Growing up as the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Farris Watkins witnessed firsthand the principles and values that “Uncle M.L.” practiced and lived by throughout his fight for equality. Drawing from experiences and episodes both personal and well-known, Dr. Watkins artfully details the guiding beliefs of one of the greatest men in history. Including “have courage” and “love your enemies,” these six hallmarks of virtue and nonviolence reinforce the truth that “the universe honors love” and will inspire readers of all ages.

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Books About Historical Figures and Activism

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark book
#1
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark
Written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
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.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History book
#2
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
Written by Vashti Harrison
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-11

A NEW YORK TIMES INSTANT BESTSELLER!A USA TODAY BESTSELLER! This beautifully illustrated book introduces readers of all ages to 40 women who changed the world. Featuring forty trailblazing black women in American history, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of breaking boundaries and achieving beyond expectations. Illuminating text paired with irresistible illustrations bring to life both iconic and lesser-known female figures of Black history such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash. Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things - bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn’t always accept them. The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come.

Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education book
#3
Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education
Written by Raphaele Frier and illustrated by Aurelia Fronty
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

Malala Yousafzai stood up to the Taliban and fought for the right for all girls to receive an education. When she was just fifteen-years old, the Taliban attempted to kill Malala, but even this did not stop her activism. At age eighteen Malala became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to ensure the education of all children around the world.

Malala’s courage and conviction will inspire young readers in this beautifully illustrated biography.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls - B is for Bookworm - I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book! It is a bit more expensive than others, but in my opinion, it’s completely worth it to have in my library. I think everyone should read this book and learn about the amazing women who have stood up for their rights and changed the world! With each women highlighted, there’s a stunning illustration of the woman along with a short story about her, who she is/was, and what she accomplished. This book is so inspiring and I learned about so many women I hadn’t heard of before that have been so influential. I seriously cannot say enough good things about this book, it is one of my absolute favorites.

  2. Herstory - Move aside history—it’s time for herstory. Celebrate fifty inspiring and powerful women who changed the world and left their mark in this lavishly illustrated biography compilation that’s perfect for fans of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls and She Persisted. Throughout history, girls have often been discussed in terms of what they couldn’t or shouldn’t do. Not anymore. It’s time for herstory—a celebration of not only what girls can do, but the remarkable things women have already accomplished, even when others tried to stop them. In this uplifting and inspiring book, follow the stories of fifty powerhouse women from around the world and across time who each managed to change the world as they knew it forever. Telling the stories of their childhood, the challenges they faced, and the impact of their achievements, each lavishly illustrated spread is a celebration of girl power in its many forms. From astronauts to activists, musicians to mathematicians, these women are sure to motivate young readers of all backgrounds to focus not on the can’ts and shouldn’ts, but on what they can do: anything!

  3. She Persisted - Readerly Mom - I love reading this book to my daughters for its history and the overarching message—that they can achieve great things by being persistent in following their dreams. I also love that we have found so many different ways to read it. Sometimes, we start at the beginning and read it straight through. Usually, though, we just pick one or two individual stories, or we read just the names and quotes on each page. My pre-schooler who is learning to read likes to sound out the names (in all capital letters) on each page. I like that each page gives us a concise introduction to a historical figure, so it’s not too lengthy to read in one sitting, but it is a great starting point for learning more.

  4. I Am Helen Keller - B is for Bookworm - I thought this was a fantastic biography of the life of Helen Keller—her hardships and accomplishments. There are a lot of fun facts in the story, and it’s a little longer of a picture book, but I thought it was engaging and a fun, inspiring read.

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Books About Historical Figures and Female Scientists

This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer book
#1
This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer
Written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Daniel Roode
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

The whole “This Little…” series so far has been excellent, and this is no exception. Jam-packed with famous scientists and innovators, This Little Scientist does a great job of featuring a broad spectrum of great minds of diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise all throughout history. One of my favorite things about this book is that it teaches real science and history with cadence and rhyme that makes it easy to learn and since it’s enjoyable to read again and again… it starts to stick! Another big plus of this book for me is that depending on a child’s current attention level you can choose to read just the left-hand pages, just the right-hand pages, or both, and the flow is great any way you do it!

Learn all about scientists who changed history in this engaging and colorful board book perfect for inventors-in-training! Asking why. Then making a guess. Asking how. Then proving with tests. Little scientists make great big discoveries. In this follow up to This Little President, This Little Explorer, and This Little Trailblazer now even the youngest readers can learn all about great and empowering scientists in history! Highlighting ten memorable scientists who paved the way, parents and little ones alike will love this discovery primer full of fun, age-appropriate facts and bold illustrations.

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine book
#2
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine
Written by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by April Chu and Laurie Wallmark
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Offers an illustrated telling of the story of Ada Byron Lovelace, from her early creative fascination with mathematics and science and her devastating bout with measles, to the ground-breaking algorithm she wrote for Charles Babbage’s analytical engine.

I am Jane Goodall book
#3
I am Jane Goodall
Written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Learn all about Jane Goodall, the chimpanzee scientist.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Scientist, Scientist, Who Do You See? - Full of scientific rhyming fun, Scientist, Scientist, Who Do You See? features appearances by some of the world’s greatest scientists! From Albert Einstein to Marie Curie and Ahmed Zewail, and from Charles Darwin to Chien-Shiung Wu and Grace Hopper…and more! Scientist, Scientist, Who do you see? I see Marie Curie in her laboratory! Young readers will delight at taking a familiar text and poking fun at it all while learning about scientists and how they changed the world. Back matter includes brief biographical information of the featured scientists. This sweet parody is the perfect inspiration for scientists of all ages!

  2. Marie Curie - Celebrated author and artist Demi beautifully portrays the life and story of Marie Curie, the revolutionary scientist and winner of two Nobel Prizes. Maria Salomea Sklodowaska was born on November 7, 1867. Her family called her Manya, but the world would remember her by another name: Marie Curie, one of the greatest scientists who ever lived. In a time when few women attended college, Marie earned degrees in physics and mathematics and went on to discover two elements: radium and polonium. She also invented a new word along the way: radioactive. This book celebrates her momentous achievements while also educating its readers about her scientific accomplishments and their implications.

  3. Pocket Bios: Marie Curie - A colorfully illustrated, pocket-size picture book biography of influential physicist and chemist Marie Curie. Marie Curie, the first woman ever to win a Nobel Prize and only person to win it in two different scientific fields, was a physicist and chemist. As she conducted pioneering research, Marie Curie coined the term “radioactivity,” developed some of the first techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes. She also discovered two elements: polonium and radium, and developed mobile X-ray units for use in field hospitals during World War I. In 1934, at the age of sixty-six, she died of complications from long-term exposure to radiation. Pocket Bios are full of personality, introducing readers to fascinating figures from history with simple storytelling and cheerful illustrations. Titles include men and women from history, exploration, the sciences, the arts, the ancient world, and more.

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Books About Historical Figures and Civil Rights Movement

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race book
#1
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
Written by Margot Lee Shetterly and illustrated by Laura Freeman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This is a great introduction for little readers to the four true stories of how African American women helped the space program, overcoming gender and racial biases. I like how it exposes civil rights and women’s rights issues at a level that is appropriate and understandable for children and focuses on how each of these four women worked hard and persevered to overcome those challenges.

Based on the New York Times bestselling book and the Academy Award–nominated movie, author Margot Lee Shetterly and illustrator Laura Freeman bring the incredibly inspiring true story of four black women who helped NASA launch men into space to picture book readers! Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good. They participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America’s first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world. In this beautifully illustrated picture book edition, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, known as “colored computers,” and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career. “Finally, the extraordinary lives of four African American women who helped NASA put the first men in space is available for picture book readers,” proclaims Brightly in their article “18 Must-Read Picture Books of 2018.” “Will inspire girls and boys alike to love math, believe in themselves, and reach for the stars.”

Josephine book
#2
Josephine
Written by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Christian Robinson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

In exuberant verse and stirring pictures, Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson create an extraordinary portrait for young people of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker, the woman who worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world. Meticulously researched by both author and artist, Josephine’s powerful story of struggle and triumph is an inspiration and a spectacle, just like the legend herself.

Who was Martin Luther King, Jr.? book
#3
Who was Martin Luther King, Jr.?
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

An introduction to the life Martin Luther King, Jr. Including how he organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott and African American people across the country in support of the right to vote, desegregation, and other basic civil rights.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Be a King - You can be a King. Stamp out hatred. Put your foot down and walk tall. You can be a King. Beat the drum for justice. March to your own conscience. Featuring a dual narrative of the key moments of Dr. King’s life alongside a modern class as the students learn about him, Carole Weatherford’s poetic text encapsulates the moments that readers today can reenact in their own lives. See a class of young students as they begin a school project inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and learn to follow his example, as he dealt with adversity and never lost hope that a future of equality and justice would soon be a reality. As times change, Dr. King’s example remains, encouraging a new generation of children to take charge and change the world . . . to be a King.

  2. My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - What was it like growing up as a son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? This picture book memoir, My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III, provides insight into one of history’s most fascinating families and into a special bond between father and son. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Martin Luther King III was one of those four little children mentioned in Martin Luther King’s groundbreaking “I Have a Dream” speech. In this memoir, Martin Luther King Jr.’s son gives an intimate look at the man and the father behind the civil rights leader. Mr. King’s remembrances show both his warm, loving family and a momentous time in American history. AG Ford is the illustrator of several other books for children, including the New York Times bestselling Barack. He is the recipient of an NAACP Image Award.

  3. Preaching to the Chickens - Critically acclaimed author Jabari Asim and Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator E. B. Lewis give readers a fascinating glimpse into the boyhood of Civil Rights leader John Lewis. John wants to be a preacher when he grows up—a leader whose words stir hearts to change, minds to think, and bodies to take action. But why wait? When John is put in charge of the family farm’s flock of chickens, he discovers that they make a wonderful congregation! So he preaches to his flock, and they listen, content under his watchful care, riveted by the rhythm of his voice. Celebrating ingenuity and dreaming big, this inspirational story, featuring Jabari Asim’s stirring prose and E. B. Lewis’s stunning, light-filled impressionistic watercolor paintings, includes an author’s note about John Lewis, who grew up to be a member of the Freedom Riders, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and demonstrator on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. John Lewis is now a Georgia congressman, who is still an activist today, recently holding a sit-in on the House floor of the U.S. Capitol to try to force a vote on gun violence. His March: Book Three recently won the National Book Award, as well as the American Library Association’s Coretta Scott King Author Award, Printz Award, and Sibert Award.

  4. Lincoln and Kennedy - President Abraham Lincoln grew up in a one-room log cabin. President John F. Kennedy was raised in the lap of luxury. One was a Republican and one a Democrat. They lived and served a hundred years apart. Yet they had a number of things in common. Some were coincidental: having seven letters in their last names. Some were monumental: Lincoln’s support for the abolitionist movement and Kennedy’s support for the civil rights movement. They both lost a son while in office. And, of course, both were assassinated. In this illuminating book, Gene Barretta offers an insightful portrait of two of our country’s most famous presidents.

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Books About Historical Figures and Inventions

I Am Albert Einstein book
#1
I Am Albert Einstein
Written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Presents the life of the world-renowned German scientist, describing how his life-long curiosity and ability to question accepted theories led him to develop his famous theory of relatvitiy and win the Noble Prize for Physics.

Electric Ben book
#2
Electric Ben
Written and illustrated by Robert Byrd
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

A true Renaissance man, Benjamin Franklin was the first American celebrity. In pictures and text, master artist Robert Byrd documents Franklin’s numerous and diverse accomplishments, from framing the Constitution to creating bifocals. The witty, wise, and endlessly curious Franklin is the perfect subject for Byrd’s lively style and vibrant art. The pages pulse with facts, quotes, and captions, while the inventive design and intricately detailed illustrations make a striking tribute to the brilliant American.

Inventors Who Changed the World book
#3
Inventors Who Changed the World
Written by Heidi Poelman and illustrated by Kyle Kershner
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

From the ranging curiosity of Leonardo da Vinci to the dedication and sacrifice of Marie Curie, Little Heroes: Inventors Who Changed the World is a young child’s first introduction to the brilliant people who taught us the meaning of perseverance and innovation. Simple text and adorable illustrations tell the contributions of nine renowned inventors from around the world: Cai Lun, Leonardo da Vinci, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Grace Hopper, Mary Sherman Morgan, and Nikola Tesla. Inspire your own little inventor with the words of these inventive heroes who changed the world.

Honorable Mentions
  1. When Bill Gates Memorized an Encyclopedia - Bill Gates is known as the richest man in the world. But do you know what he was like as a child? From selling peanuts to memorizing entire encyclopedias, Bill used his brain. This playful story of his childhood will help young readers connect with a historic figure and will inspire them to want to achieve greatness.

  2. Chilly da Vinci - While others do “penguin” things, Chilly da Vinci—self-declared inventor penguin, builds machines that don’t work…yet! Chilly ties into the popular “maker” movement with humor and imagination. While others do “penguin” things, Chilly da Vinci—self-declared inventor penguin, builds machines that don’t work…yet!

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Books About Historical Figures and Female Role Models

Rad American Women A-Z book
#1
Rad American Women A-Z
Written by Kate Schatz and illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-16

“Profiled are 26 American women from the 18th through 21st centuries, who have made-or are still making—history as artists, writers, teachers, lawyers, or athletes. The women come from a variety of economic and ethnic backgrounds and many had to overcome extreme hardships. One woman represents each alphabetical letter beginning with Angela Davis, an activist, teacher, and writer, and concludes with Zora Neale Hurston, an anthropologist and writer.”—Publisher.

My Name is Not Isabella book
#2
My Name is Not Isabella
Written by Jennifer Fosberry and illustrated by Mike Litwin
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Isabella imagines she is a variety of prominent women throughout history, including Sally Ride, Annie Oakley, Rosa Parks, and Marie Curie.

Rosa Parks book
#3
Rosa Parks
Written by Lisbeth Kaiser and illustrated by Marta Antelo
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

New in the Little People, Big Dreams series, discover the incredible life of Rosa Parks, ‘ The Mother of the Freedom Movement’, in this inspiring story. In this true story of an inspiring civil rights activist, Rosa Parks grew up during segregation in Alabama, but she was taught to respect herself and stand up for her rights. In 1955, Rosa refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Her decision had a huge impact on civil rights, eventually leading to the end of segregation on public transport. With stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, this empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful women of the world. From designers and artists to scientists, all of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. These books make the lives of these role models accessible for children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world!

Honorable Mentions
  1. I Am Sonia Sotomayor - Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, is the subject of the sixteenth picture book in the New York Times bestselling series of biographies about heroes. This friendly, fun biography series focuses on the traits that made our heroes great—the traits that kids can aspire to in order to live heroically themselves. Each book tells the story of one of America’s icons in a lively, conversational way that works well for the youngest nonfiction readers and that always includes the hero’s childhood influences. At the back are an excellent timeline and photos. This volume features Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice.

  2. I Am Lucille Ball - A first-person presentation of the life and career of comedian and studio head Lucille Ball.

  3. Library on Wheels - If you can’t bring the man to the books, bring the books to the man. Mary Lemist Titcomb (1852-1932) was always looking for ways to improve her library. As librarian at the Washington County Free Library in Maryland, Titcomb was concerned that the library was not reaching all the people it could. She was determined that everyone should have access to the library—not just adults and those who lived in town. Realizing its limitations and inability to reach the county’s 25,000 rural residents, including farmers and their families, Titcomb set about to change the library system forever with the introduction of book-deposit stations throughout the country, a children’s room in the library, and her most revolutionary idea of all—a horse-drawn Book Wagon. Soon book wagons were appearing in other parts of the country, and by 1922, the book wagon idea had received widespread support. The bookmobile was born!

  4. An Apple for Harriet Tubman - Biography of a little slave girl whipped for eating an apple, who later grew up to become a famous “conductor” for the underground railroad.

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Books About Historical Figures and Jesus Christ

The Nativity book
#1
The Nativity
Written by and illustrated by Julie Vivas
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

The biblical story of the Nativity is one about faith, love—and a miracle. With illustrations that are enchanting and unexpected, Julie Vivas reveals the human side to Mary’s story, beautifully imagining the Angel Gabriel delivering the news to her, the exhausting journey with Joseph to Bethlehem, and at last the deliverance of the baby Jesus.

The Tale of Three Trees book
#2
The Tale of Three Trees
Written by Angela Elwell Hunt and illustrated by Tim Jonke
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

Once upon a mountaintop, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. Each of their dreams come true in an unexpected way in this lovely retelling of an old folk tale. This Lion classic, beloved by young and old, is now retold in simpler text for younger readers.

The First Christmas Night book
#3
The First Christmas Night
Written by Keith Christopher and illustrated by Christine Kornacki
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A lyrical retelling of the birth of Christ, told as an adaptation of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” follows the arrival of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus, the angels’ appearance to the shepherds and the visit by the Wise Men.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Star Bright - This perfectly angelic—and perfectly charming—Christmas story offers a creative twist on the classic tale of the nativity, from the #1 New York Times bestselling creators of Someday. The angels are aflutter: a baby is soon to be born! One small angel can tell this baby is especially special by the way the other angels are dashing and fussing about. And holy moly, are their presents extraordinary. The little angel wants to give a present too, but, what could she possibly offer that is as worthy as the others’ gifts? At a loss for original ideas, she peeks over the side of her platform and spies something going on in the desert—a caravan of kings on camels, lost in the dark. And suddenly she knows she must do something, and does the only thing she can. Because the greatest gift of all? It can’t be wrapped. It can’t be bought. It can only be selflessly, joyfully given. And it ends up being the perfect gift for that little baby…the shiningest gift at all.

  2. Prayer for a Child - This is a prayer written for one little girl, but it is a prayer for boys and girls all over the world. It is full of the intimate gentleness for familiar things, the love of friends and family, and the kindly protection of God. It carries a universal appeal for all ages and races, and brings to our hearts and minds the deep responsibility of preserving for all times the faith and hopes of little children.

  3. There Was No Snow on Christmas Eve - There was no snow on Christmas Eve. Instead, a desert zephyr blew And palm fronds sang a rustling tune To welcome the awaited birth. There was no snow, no fireplace, no need for woolen caps and gloves on that very first Christmas. Instead there was a humble stable, and weary travelers with light robes and sandals on a desert night.

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Books About Historical Figures and America

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg Chewed 100 Sticks of Gum book
#1
When Ruth Bader Ginsburg Chewed 100 Sticks of Gum
Written by Mark Andrew Weakland and illustrated by Daniela Volpari
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-11

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the second woman justice to serve on the Supreme Court. But do you know what she was like as a child? Strong role models and encouragement to be herself led Ruth to speak her mind and to stand up for equality. This playful story of her childhood will help young readers connect with a historic figure and will inspire them to want to achieve greatness.

Maya Angelou book
#2
Maya Angelou
Written by Lisbeth Kaiser and illustrated by Leire Salaberria
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

In the Little People, Big Dreams series, discover the lives of outstanding people from designers and artists to scientists. All of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. The book follows Maya Angelou, from her early traumatic childhood to her time as a singer, actress, civil rights campaigner and, eventually, one of America’s most beloved writers. This inspiring and informative little biography comes with extra facts about Maya’s life at the back.

I Am George Washington book
#3
I Am George Washington
Written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

We can all be heroes. That’s the inspiring message of this New York Times Bestselling picture book biography series from historian and author Brad Meltzer. Learn all about George Washington, America’s first president. George Washington was one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. He was never afraid to be the first to try something, from exploring the woods around his childhood home to founding a brand new nation, the United States of America. With his faith in the American people and tremendous bravery, he helped win the Revolutionary War and became the country’s first president. Each picture book in this series is a biography of a significant historical figure, told in a simple, conversational, vivacious way, and always focusing on a character trait that makes the person a role model for kids. The heroes are depicted as children throughout, telling their life stories in first-person present tense, which keeps the books playful and accessible to young children. And each book ends with a line of encouragement, a direct quote, photos, a timeline, and a source list.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Our Flag Was Still There - “So much to like about this, including the folk art–style artwork with childlike appeal, the emphasis on the women who constructed the flag, and the important ways a symbol can influence a country for generations.” —Booklist (starred review) From beloved author-illustrator Jessie Hartland comes a whimsical nonfiction picture book that tells the story of the American flag that inspired the poem and our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” If you go to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, you can see a massive American flag: thirty feet tall and forty-two feet long. That’s huge! But how did it get there? And where did it come from? Well… The story of this giant flag begins in 1812 and stars a major on the eve of battle, a seamstress and her mighty helpers, and a poet named Francis Scott Key. This isn’t just the story of one flag. It’s the story of “The Star Spangled-Banner,” a poem that became our national anthem, too. Dynamically told and stunningly illustrated, Jessie Hartland brings this fascinating and true story to life.

  2. Ruth Bader Ginsburg - To become the first female Jewish Supreme Court Justice, the unsinkable Ruth Bader Ginsburg had to overcome countless injustices. Growing up in Brooklyn in the 1930s and ‘40s, Ginsburg was discouraged from working by her father, who thought a woman’s place was in the home. Regardless, she went to Cornell University, where men outnumbered women four to one. There, she met her husband, Martin Ginsburg, and found her calling as a lawyer. Despite discrimination against Jews, females, and working mothers, Ginsburg went on to become Columbia Law School’s first tenured female professor, a judge for the US Court of Appeals, and finally, a Supreme Court Justice. Structured as a court case in which the reader is presented with evidence of the injustice that Ginsburg faced, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the true story of how one of America’s most “notorious” women bravely persevered to become the remarkable symbol of justice she is today.

  3. Guts & Glory: The American Revolution - From George Washington crossing the icy Delaware, to Molly Pitcher fearlessly firing her cannon, the people of the American Revolution were some of the bravest and most inspiring of all time. Jump into a riot in the streets of Boston, join the Culper Spy Ring as they steal secrets in the dead of night, and watch the signing of the Declaration of Independence in this accessible, illustrated guide to the birth of the United States. History buff and popular blogger Ben Thompson’s extensive research and irresistible storytelling make history come alive in this fourth book in the unforgettable Guts & Glory series.

  4. The Eye That Never Sleeps - From award-winning author Marissa Moss comes the first children’s book about Allan Pinkerton, one of America’s greatest detectives. Everyone knows the story of Abraham Lincoln, but few know anything about the spy who saved him! Allan Pinkerton’s life changed when he helped the Chicago Police Department track down a group of counterfeiters. From there, he became the first police detective in Chicago and established the country’s most successful detective agency. He went on to solve more than 300 murders and recover millions of dollars in stolen money. However, his greatest contribution was protecting Abraham Lincoln on the way to his 1861 inauguration. Though assassins attempted to murder Lincoln en route, Pinkerton foiled their plot and brought the president safely to the capital. The Eye That Never Sleeps is illustrated with a contemporary cartoon style, mixing art and text in a way that appeals to readers of all ages. The book includes a bibliography and a timeline.

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Books About Historical Figures and Slavery

Looking at Lincoln book
#1
Looking at Lincoln
Written and illustrated by Maira Kalman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Abraham Lincoln is one of the first giants of history children are introduced to, and now Maira Kalman brings him to life with her trademark style and enthusiasm. Lincoln’s legacy is everywhere – there he is on your penny and five-dollar bill. And we are still the United States because Lincoln helped hold them together.

But who was he, really? The little girl in this book wants to find out. Among the many other things, she discovers our sixteenth president was a man who believed in freedom for all, had a dog named Fido, loved Mozart, apples, and his wife’s vanilla cake, and kept his notes in his hat. From his boyhood in a log cabin to his famous presidency and untimely death, Kalman shares Lincoln’s remarkable life with young readers in a fresh and exciting way.

I Am Abraham Lincoln book
#2
I Am Abraham Lincoln
Written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Follows Abraham Lincoln from his childhood to the presidency, showing how he spoke up about fairness and eventually led the country to abolish slavery.

Jefferson's Sons book
#3
Jefferson's Sons
Written and illustrated by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A fictionalized look at the last twenty years of Thomas Jefferson’s life at Monticello through the eyes of three of his slaves, two of whom were his sons by his slave, Sally Hemings.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Never Caught, The Story Of Ona Judge - A National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction, Never Caught is the eye-opening narrative of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s runaway slave, who risked everything for a better life—now available as a young reader’s edition! In this incredible narrative, Erica Armstrong Dunbar reveals a fascinating and heartbreaking behind-the-scenes look at the Washingtons’ when they were the First Family—and an in-depth look at their slave, Ona Judge, who dared to escape from one of the nation’s Founding Fathers. Born into a life of slavery, Ona Judge eventually grew up to be George and Martha Washington’s “favored” dower slave. When she was told that she was going to be given as a wedding gift to Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Ona made the bold and brave decision to flee to the north, where she would be a fugitive. From her childhood, to her time with the Washingtons and living in the slave quarters, to her escape to New Hampshire, Erica Armstrong Dunbar (along with Kathleen Van Cleve), shares an intimate glimpse into the life of a little-known, but powerful figure in history, and her brave journey as she fled the most powerful couple in the country.

  2. Climbing Lincoln's Steps - Interweaves the story of black Americans’ struggle for equality with important moments in African-American history that have occurred at the Lincoln Memorial, including Marian Anderson’s concert in 1939; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech in 1963; and a visit from the first African-American president and his family in 2009.

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Books About Historical Figures and African Americans

Words Set Me Free book
#1
Words Set Me Free
Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

“Words Set Me Free is the inspiring story of young Frederick Douglass’s path to freedom through reading”—

Martin's Big Words book
#2
Martin's Big Words
Written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

This picture-book biography is an excellent and accessible introduction for young readers to learn about one of the world’s most influential leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Doreen Rappaport weaves the immortal words of Dr. King into a captivating narrative to tell the story of his life. With stunning art by acclaimed illustrator Bryan Collier, Martin’s Big Words is an unforgettable portrait of a man whose dream changed America—and the world—forever.

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne book
#3
The Legendary Miss Lena Horne
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Celebrate the life of Lena Horne, the pioneering African American actress and civil rights activist, with this inspiring and powerful picture book from award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford.

You have to be taught to be second class; you’re not born that way.

Lena Horne was born into the freedom struggle, to a family of teachers and activists. Her mother dreamed of being an actress, so Lena followed in her footsteps as she chased small parts in vaudeville, living out of a suitcase until MGM offered Lena something more—the first ever studio contract for a black actress.

But the roles she was considered for were maids and mammies, stereotypes that Lena refused to play. Still, she never gave up. “Stormy Weather” became her theme song, and when she sang “This Little Light of Mine” at a civil rights rally, she found not only her voice, but her calling.

Honorable Mentions
  1. I Am Martin Luther King, Jr - “A biography of Martin Luther King Jr. that tells the story of how he used nonviolence to lead the civil rights movement”—

  2. Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 - The bold story of an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA during the space race and was depicted in the film “Hidden Figures, “ and how she made sure that the crew of Apollo 13 returned home. Full color.

  3. I Am Harriet Tubman - “A biography of Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist leader who played a key role in helping enslaved people escape via the Underground Railroad.”

  4. Young, Gifted and Black - Meet 52 icons of color from the past and present in this celebration of inspirational achievement - from figureheads, leaders and pioneers such as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks, to cultural trailblazers and sporting heroes, including Stevie Wonder, Oprah Winfrey and Serena Williams. Strong, courageous, talented and diverse, these extraordinary men and women’s achievements will inspire a new generation to chase their dream … whatever it may be.

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Epilogue

27 books that are just too good to leave off of our historical figures list.

  1. Mr. Ferris and His Wheel - B is for Bookworm - In this beautifully-illustrated book, you learn all about George Ferris, the inventor of the Ferris Wheel. I found his story so interesting and it was fun to hear about his perseverance and creativity in building the wheel and how it changed the world. I loved learning that Walt Disney’s father worked on the crew building the first Ferris Wheel, and that he told stories to Walt about the inspiring, magical attraction.

  2. As Good As Anybody - A Baptist preacher from Atlanta. A rabbi born in Poland. Their names came to stand for the struggle for justice and equality. Martin Luther King Jr. grew up in a loving family in the American South, at a time when many of this country’s doors were closed to African Americans. He aimed to open those doors. He became a minister like his daddy, and he preached and marched for his cause. Abraham Joshua Heschel grew up in a loving family in a Europe that did not welcome Jews. He found a new home in America, where he was a rabbi like his father, carrying a message of peace and acceptance. Martin put out a call for others to join him. Abraham knew he must answer Martin’s call. Here is the story of how two men formed a remarkable friendship and turned their personal experiences of discrimination into a message of love and equality for all.

  3. This Is the Rope - A rope passed down through the generations frames an African-American family’s story as they journey north to New York City from the rural south during the time of the Great Migration. Full color.

  4. I Am Gandhi - As a young man in India, Gandhi saw firsthand how people were treated unfairly. Refusing to accept injustice, he came up with a brilliant way to fight back through quiet, peaceful protest. He used his methods in South Africa and India, where he led a nonviolent revolution that freed his country from British rule. Through his calm, steady heroism, Gandhi changed the lives of millions and inspired civil rights movements all over the world, proving that the smallest of us can be the most powerful.

  1. Martin Rising - In a rich embroidery of visions, musical cadence, and deep emotion, Andrea and Brian Pinkney convey the final months of Martin Luther King’s life — and of his assassination — through metaphor, spirituality, and multi-layers of meaning. Andrea’s stunning poetic requiem, illustrated with Brian’s lyrical and colorful artwork — brings a fresh perspective to Martin Luther King, the Gandhi-like, peace-loving activist whose dream of equality — and whose courage to make it happen — changed the course of American history. And even in his death, he continues to transform and inspire all of us who share his dream. Wonderful classroom plays of Martin Rising can be performed by using the “Now Is the Time” history, and the 1968 timeline at the back of the book as narration — and adding selected poems to tell the story!

  2. Voice of Freedom - A collage-illustrated collection of poems and spirituals inspired by the life and work of civil rights advocate Fannie Lou Hamer.

  3. Who Was Anne Frank? - Looks closely at Anne Frank’s life before the secret annex, what life was like in hiding from the Nazis, and the legacy of her diary.

  4. Stories for boys who dare to be different - Boys can be anything they want to be! This timely book joins and expands the gender-role conversation and gives middle-grade boys a welcome alternative message: that masculinity can mean many things. You won’t find any stories of slaying dragons or saving princesses here. In Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different, author Ben Brooks-with the help of Quinton Wintor’s striking full-color illustrations-offers a welcome alternative narrative: one that celebrates introverts and innovators, sensitivity and resilience, individuality and expression. It’s an accessible compilation of 75 famous and not-so-famous men from the past to the present day, every single one of them a rule-breaker and stereotype-smasher in his own way. Entries include Frank Ocean, Salvador Dali, Beethoven, Barack Obama, Ai Weiwei, Jesse Owens, and so many more-heroes from all walks of life and from all over the world.

  1. Who Was Babe Ruth - Just in time for baseball season! Babe Ruth came from a poor Baltimore family and, as a kid, he was a handful. It was at a reform school that Babe discovered his talent for baseball, and by the age of nineteen, he was on his way to becoming a sports legend. Babe was often out of shape and even more often out on the town, but he had a big heart and an even bigger swing! Kids will learn all about the Home Run King in this rags-to- riches sports biography. With black-and-white illustrations throughout, a true sports legend is brought to life.

  2. Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song - They were each born with the gift of gospel. Martin’s voice kept people in their seats, but also sent their praises soaring. Mahalia’s voice was brass-and-butter - strong and smooth at the same time. With Martin’s sermons and Mahalia’s songs, folks were free to shout, to sing their joy. On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and his strong voice and powerful message were joined and lifted in song by world-renowned gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. It was a moment that changed the course of history and is imprinted in minds forever. Told through Andrea Davis Pinkney’s poetic prose and Brian Pinkney’s evocative illustration, the stories of these two powerful voices and lives are told side-by-side — as they would one day walk — following the journey from their youth to a culmination at this historical event when they united as one and inspiring kids to find their own voices and speak up for what is right.

  3. Who was Abraham Lincoln? - Highlights the life and achievements of the sixteenth president of the United States, discussing his childhood years, his rise through politics, and the major decisions he made as president during the Civil War.

  4. Abe Lincoln's Hat - Because of his absentmindedness, Abraham Lincoln begins to carry important things—letters, legal documents, his checkbook—in his trademark top hat. Simultaneous.

  1. Lincoln and His Boys - Historians claim him as one of America’s most revered presidents. But to his rambunctious sons, Abraham Lincoln was above all a playful and loving father. Here is Lincoln as seen by two of his boys: Willie, thrilled to be on his first train trip when Lincoln was deciding to run for president; Willie and Tad barging into Cabinet meetings to lift Lincoln’s spirits in the early days of the Civil War, Tad accompanying him to Richmond just after the South’s defeat. With the war raging and the Union under siege, we see history unfolding through Willie’s eyes and then through Tad’s — and we see Lincoln rising above his own inborn sadness and personal tragedy through his devotion to his sons. With evocative and engaging illustrations by P.J. Lynch, Rosemary Wells offers a carefully researched biography that gives us a Lincoln not frozen in time but accessible and utterly real. Back matter includes an author’s note.

  2. Finding Lincoln - In segregated 1950s Alabama, Louis cannot use the public library to research a class assignment, but one of the librarians lets him in after hours and helps him find the book that he needs. Includes an author’s note with historical information about library segregation in the South.

  3. Nelson Mandela - One day when Nelson Mandela was nine years old, his father died and he was sent from his village to a school far away from home, to another part of South Africa. In Johannesburg, the country’s capital, Mandela saw fellow Africans who were poor and powerless. He decided then that he would work to protect them. When the government began to keep people apart based on the color of their skin, Mandela spoke out against the law and vowed to fight hard in order to make his country a place that belonged to all South Africans. Kadir Nelson tells the story of Mandela, a global icon, in poignant verse and glorious illustrations. It is the story of a young boy’s determination to change South Africa and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country by believing in equality for people of all colors. Readers will be inspired by Mandela’s triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world.

  4. I am Kind - This friendly, fun biography series focuses on the traits that made our heroes great—the traits that kids can aspire to in order to live heroically themselves. In this new board book format, the very youngest readers can learn about one of America’s icons in the series’s signature lively, conversational style. The short text focuses on drawing inspiration from these iconic heroes, and includes an interactive element and factual tidbits that young kids will be able to connect with. This volume tells the story of Abraham Lincoln, America’s sixteenth president.

  1. A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln - Follows the life of the popular president, from his childhood on the frontier to his assassination after the end of the Civil War.

  2. Abraham Lincoln Comes Home - When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, the country grieved for the courageous president who had guided them through the Civil War. Over the course of thirteen somber days, people paid homage as Lincoln’s funeral train made its way from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Illinois. In moving prose and stunning paintings, a young boy experiences the deep feelings evoked by the assassination and death of a major historical figure, during a time of great change in the country.

  3. A. Lincoln and Me - With the help of his teacher, a young boy realizes that he not only shares his birthday and similar physical appearance with Abraham Lincoln, but that he is like him in other ways as well.

  4. Lincoln Tells a Joke - Poor Abraham Lincoln! His life was hardly fun at all. A country torn in two by war, citizens who didn’t like him as president, the loss of two young sons, a homely appearance—what could there possibly be to laugh about? And yet he did laugh. Lincoln wasn’t just one of our greatest presidents. He was a comic storyteller, a lover of jokes, someone who could lighten a grim situation with a clever quip. What better way to deal with a hard life than to find the humor in it?

  1. Abe Lincoln Remembers - A man of wisdom and courage. President Abraham Lincoln sits alone in the White House one evening in 1865. The war between the states is over at last, and the slaves are free. This man has come a long way from his small log cabin in Kentucky. What is he thinking about? What memories run through his mind? Powerful text and stunning, historically accurate paintings combine to present a unique portrait of one of the greatest presidents in American history.

  2. Stand Tall, Abe Lincoln - A look at the early years of our sixteenth president.

  3. Meet Abraham Lincoln - Highlights the life of the man who was President during the Civil War and who was responsible for ending slavery in America—forever. Reissue.

  4. Abraham Lincoln: Great Emancipator - Recounts the childhood of the man who was President during the Civil War.

  1. An Inconvenient Alphabet - Do you ever wish English was eez-ee-yer to spell? Ben Franklin and Noah Webster did! Debut author Beth Anderson and the New York Times bestselling illustrator of I Dissent, Elizabeth Baddeley, tell the story of two patriots and their attempt to revolutionize the English alphabet. Once upon a revolutionary time, two great American patriots tried to make life easier. They knew how hard it was to spell words in English. They knew that sounds didn’t match letters. They knew that the problem was an inconvenient English alphabet. In 1786, Ben Franklin, at age eighty, and Noah Webster, twenty-eight, teamed up. Their goal? Make English easier to read and write. But even for great thinkers, what seems easy can turn out to be hard. Children today will be delighted to learn that when they “sound out” words, they are doing eg-zakt-lee what Ben and Noah wanted.

  2. George vs George - There are two sides to every story. Rosalyn Schanzer’s engaging and wonderfully illustrated book brings to life both sides of the American Revolution. The narrative introduces anew the two enemies, both named George: George Washington, the man who freed the American colonies from the British, and George III, the British king who lost them. Two leaders on different sides of the Atlantic, yet with more in common than we sometimes acknowledge. We are lead through their story, and the story of their times, and see both sides of the arguments that divided the colonies from the Kingdom. Was King George a “Royal Brute” as American patriots claimed? Or was he, as others believed, “the father of the people?” Was George Washington a scurrilous traitor, as all the king’s supporters claimed? Or should we remember and celebrate him as “the father of his country?” Who was right? History teaches us that there are two sides to every story.

  3. Courageous People Who Changed the World - From the intrepid efforts of Susan B. Anthony to the quiet courage of Rosa Parks, Little Heroes: Courageous People Who Changed the World is a young child’s first introduction to the brave people who fought to make the world a better place. Simple text and adorable illustrations tell the contributions of eight champions of freedom: Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Malala Yousafzai, Harriet Tubman, William Wilberforce, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. A quote from each individual is included on each spread along with colorful, delightful artwork.

Did you enjoy our historical figures book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!

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