Best Kids Books About Historical figures

66 Kids Books About Historical figures

Updated Apr. 4, 2019
The Story of Ruby Bridges book
#1
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.

She Persisted book
#2
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.

Malala's Magic Pencil book
#3
Malala's Magic Pencil
Written by Malala Yousafzai and illustrated by Kerascoet
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from 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.

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.

I Am Helen Keller book
#4
I Am Helen Keller
Written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos, 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"

Twenty-one Elephants and Still Standing book
#5
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 Dissent book
#6
I Dissent
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.

Hidden Figures book
#7
Hidden Figures
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."

I Am Amelia Earhart book
#8
I Am Amelia Earhart
Written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

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.

Henri's Scissors book
#9
Henri's Scissors
Written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

An introduction to the life and paper-cutout art of Henri Matisse describes his early sketching hobby, famous paintings and the illness that confined him to a wheelchair and inspired his sophisticated paper-cutout masterworks.

I Am Albert Einstein book
#10
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.

I Am Jim Henson book
#11
I Am Jim Henson
Written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

This volume focuses on Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets and Sesame Street.

Looking at Lincoln book
#12
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.

Rosa's Animals book
#13
Rosa's Animals
Written and illustrated by Maryann Macdonald
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Painter and sculptor Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899) led a highly nontraditional life, especially for a woman in the nineteenth century. She kept lions as pets, was awarded the Legion of Honor by Empress Eug�nie, and befriended "Buffalo Bill" Cody. She became a painter at a time when women were often only reluctantly educated as artists. Her unconventional artistic work habits, including visiting slaughterhouses to sketch an animal's anatomy and wearing men's clothing to gain access to places like a horse fair, where women were not allowed, helped her become one of the most beloved female painters of her time. Among the artworks discussed are The Horse Fair and Ploughing in the Nivernais. Along with her life story are a list of museums that house her work, a bibliography, and an index.

Electric Ben book
#14
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.

Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education book
#15
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.

Melvin the Mouth book
#16
Melvin the Mouth
Written by Katherine Blanc and illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Meet young Melvin (the future Mel Blanc of Looney Tunes fame) as he drives everyone a little nuts with the noisy soundtrack to his day-to-day life. Melvin is an imaginative and noisy little boy who grows up to be Mel Blanc, Looney Tunes cartoon character pioneer and the voice behind Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Woody Woodpecker, the Tasmanian Devil, and so many more familiar personalities. Readers are treated to a typical day for young Melvin, when ordinary tasks like getting ready for school, riding the bus, and completing his chores are charged with sound effects and accompanied by his own personal soundtrack. His knack for making funny noises and using the versatility of his voice was like no other–much to the relief of his teachers. Penned by Blanc’s daughter-in-law, this first-person fiction-based-in-reality story is a fun romp and is sure to inspire young readers to turn trouble into triumph!

The Extraordinary Suzy Wright book
#17
The Extraordinary Suzy Wright
Written and illustrated by Teri Kanefield
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Children are taught much about the men who shaped early America, but history-shaping colonial women remain largely unknown and undiscussed. The Extraordinary Suzy Wright sets about to change that, telling the little-known story of Quaker Susanna (Suzy) Wright (1697-1784), a renowned poet and political activist. Suzy helped settle the Pennsylvania frontier, where she acted as legal counselor to her less literate neighbors, preparing wills, deeds, indentures, and other contracts. Surviving documents and correspondence between Suzy and a host of her contemporaries--including Benjamin Franklin; James Logan, Pennsylvania's governor and chief justice; and a few signers of the Declaration of Independence--reveal that Suzy, from her home on the frontier, exerted considerable influence in the highest circles of Pennsylvania government. This fascinating and inspiring story includes an author's note, bibliography, and index.

Nurse, Soldier, Spy book
#18
Nurse, Soldier, Spy
Written by Marissa Moss and illustrated by John Hendrix
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

This is the incredible true story of Sarah Emma Edmonds, who dressed as a man and fought in the Civil War. When she was 19, Sarah cut her hair, donned her brother's clothes, and fled from Canada, where her father wanted her to marry an elderly gentleman. In the U.S., she went by the name Frank Thompson and joined the Army to fight the Confederates. She was a nurse working on the battlefield when, because of her heroism, she was asked to serve as a spy. At her death, Edmonds was buried in a military cemetery, in a plot reserved for Civil War veterans--the only woman to have this honor.

I Am Jackie Robinson book
#19
I Am Jackie Robinson
Written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

A Black History Month-timed entry in the best-selling series follows the heroic story of baseball star Jackie Robinson, describing, in text and comic thought bubbles, his childhood, early ambitions and barrier-breaking achievements. By the best-selling author of Heroes for My Son.

Preaching to the Chickens book
#20
Preaching to the Chickens
Written by Jabari Asim and illustrated by E.B. Lewis
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

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.

I Am Sacagawea book
#21
I Am Sacagawea
Written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

"A biography of Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who served as a translator for the Lewis and Clark Expedition."

I Am Billie Jean King book
#22
I Am Billie Jean King
Written and illustrated by Brad Meltzer
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Billie Jean King is one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Read about this amazing woman athlete in the seventeenth 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 Billie Jean King, the world champion tennis player who fought successfully for women's rights.

I Am Abraham Lincoln book
#23
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.

The Quest for Z book
#24
The Quest for Z
Written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

From an award-winning author comes a picture book biography that feels like Indiana Jones for kids! British explorer Percy Fawcett believed that hidden deep within the Amazon rainforest was an ancient city, lost for the ages. Most people didn’t even believe this city existed. But if Fawcett could find it, he would be rich and famous forever. This is the true story of one man’s thrilling, dangerous journey into the jungle, and what he found on his quest for the lost city of Z.

Library on Wheels book
#25
Library on Wheels
Written and illustrated by Sharlee Glenn
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

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!

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected] with your book and list suggestion.