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Important Historical Figures: Books For Kids

This list of the best kids books about important historical figures is sure to include a new favorite for the voracious young reader in your life! From Rosa Parks to Pocket Bios: Marie Curie there's something here for everyone's tastes. Do you have a favorite book about important historical figures? Let us know!

Rosa Parks book
#1
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!

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.

Martin's Big Words book
#3
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.

Inventors Who Changed the World book
#4
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.

Abraham Lincoln book
#5
Abraham Lincoln
Written by Ingri D'Aulaire and illustrated by Edgar Parin D'Aulaire
picture book
Recommend Ages: 9-11

Text and illustrations present the life of the boy born on the Kentucky frontier who became the sixteenth president of the United States.

  1. 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.

  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. 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.

  4. Martin Luther King, Jr. - Introduces the life and legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Who was Martin Luther King, Jr.? book
#10
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.

The Cart That Carried Martin book
#11
The Cart That Carried Martin
Written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Don Tate
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

A unique retelling of Martin Luther King Jr.s funeral, focusing on the cart used to transport his coffin through the streets of Atlanta, Georgia, from Ebenezer Baptist Church to Morehouse College. The text also features the large number of people who walked the funeral route and were buoyed by MLKs positive influence, as well as Ada and Belle, the mules that pulled the cart.

The Eye That Never Sleeps book
#12
The Eye That Never Sleeps
Written by Marissa Moss and illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

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.

Struttin' With Some Barbeque book
#13
Struttin' With Some Barbeque
Written by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Rachel Himes
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

This is the true story of Lil Hardin Armstrong: pianist, composer, and bandleader in the early days of jazz. Ahead of her time, Lil made a career for herself--and for Louis Armstrong, her modest, unassuming husband. Louis might never have become the groundbreaking jazz player he was, if it hadn't been for Lil. Scat-inspired verse celebrates how Lil overcame race and gender barriers to become the first lady of the Chicago jazz scene.

Be a King book
#14
Be a King
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by James Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

  1. National Geographic Readers: Rosa Parks - Find out about the life of Rosa Parks and how her actions in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955 helped end racial segregation in America. This book follows the same standards as other National Geographic Readers with the same careful text, brilliant photographs, and fun approach that kids love. The life story of Rosa Parks has enduring lessons to teach us and this biography should appeal to kids, parents, and teachers.

  2. Jefferson's Sons - 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.

  3. 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.

  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.

After Gandhi book
#19
After Gandhi
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

"Reissued for today's turbulent times, this updated paperback edition lays out the how, why, and when of nonviolent resistance throughout history. Newly updated for 2018 to include modern nonviolent movements such as Black Lives Matter and NoDAPL. In 1908 Mohandas Gandhi and a crowd of 3,000 protested without guns or rioting against unjust laws. They made a difference peacefully. Gandhi has influenced countless others to work toward freedom and justice through peaceful methods. Mother-and-son team Anne Sibley O'Brien and Perry Edmond O'Brien highlight people and events inspired by Gandhi. From Rosa Parks to the students at Tiananmen Square to Wangari Maathai, people have made the world sit up and take notice. Provocative graphics and beautiful portraits accompany the stories and inspire a sense of civic responsibility"--

Elvis Is King! book
#20
Elvis Is King!
Written by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Red Nose Studio
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Here's the perfect book for anyone who wants to introduce rock 'n' roll and its king to the child in their lives. In single- page "chapters" with titles like "The First Cheeseburger Ever Eaten by Elvis" and "Shazam! A Blond Boy Turns into a Black-Haired Teenager," readers can follow key moments in Presley's life, from his birth on the wrong side of the railroad tracks in the Deep South, to playing his first guitar in grade school, to being so nervous during a performance as a teenager that he starts shaking . . . and changes the world! Jonah Winter and Red Nose Studio have created a tour-de-force that captures a boy's loneliness and longing, along with the energy and excitement, passion, and raw talent that was Elvis Presley.

Elizabeth Warren book
#21
Elizabeth Warren
Written by Susan Wood and illustrated by Sarah Green
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

"This picture book biography will outline the incredible history of Elizabeth Warren, the first female senator from Massachusetts. Elizabeth came from a struggling middle-class family in Oklahoma City. After a heart attack put Elizabeth's father out of work, Elizabeth helped out by babysitting, waitressing, and sewing dresses, all while skipping a grade and shining in her school's debate team. Debate taught Elizabeth how to fight with her words, a skill that eventually won her a state championship and a college scholarship. As a lawyer and law professor, Elizabeth learned why it was so difficult for working-class families like her own to advance economically, and today she continues to fight (with her words) for the poor and middle-class in her role as a politician. The text focuses on the importance of being outspoken--of fighting with words both for yourself and for those that need your help. The backmatter will include an author's note and resources list. Nevertheless, She Persisted is sure to appeal to members of the "resist-erhood" looking for stories of strong female leaders"--

Pocket Bios: Marie Curie book
#22
Pocket Bios: Marie Curie
Written and illustrated by Al Berenger
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

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.

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