Biographical Non-Fiction Picture Books

I was never much one for history, preferring even today, to live and learn vicariously through faction. Fortunately, thanks to the talents of some remarkable picture book creators, biographical accounts of famous and not so famous people literally come alive, enhancing history in the most beguiling way. I am elated to share some of the non-fiction picture book standouts available today and to admit, I am richer for them.

Little People, Big Dreams Series by Isabel Sanchez Vegara  and Various Illustrators

There are about ten books in this fascinating illustrated series spotlighting some of history’s most notable female figures in arts, science, aviation, and commerce. From Frida Kahlo and Amelia Earhart to Marie Curie and Agatha Christie, each beautifully crafted book presents the story of these women from their childhood to their most well-known achievement.   Vegara’s narratives are sincere and informative without being overtly florid or overloaded with facts and each book contains a pictorial time line of the featured woman at the end allowing readers to match their story with actual dates.  The common theme that you can be whomever you wish to be and do whatever you wish to do, is what makes this series so attractive for young readers, and older ones thirsting for a sense empowerment. An absolute inspiring joy to collect and cherish.

Quarto Group UK February 2016 – March 2018

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Boomerang Book Bites: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

This is an outstanding novel that deserves all the accolades and then some. It is so witty and cutting in it’s dissection of America’s attitude to the Vietnam War (or as the Vietnamese call it the American War). It is not just an anti-war novel but it is THE anti-Vietnam War novel bringing a perspective to the war, the conflict and it’s aftermath, that has been purposely ignored all these years.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Sympathizer/Viet-Thanh-Nguyen/book_9781472151377.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: The Life And Death Of Sophie Stark by Anna North

This is an incredible read. Mesmerizing, hypnotic, addictive it captures you from its opening lines and doesn’t let go long after you have put the book down.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Life-and-Death-of-Sophie-Stark/Anna-North/book_9781474603072.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray

This is essentially a comedy set in a Dublin investment bank post-Global Financial Crisis. While there doesn’t seem to be much to laugh about the financial crisis in Europe Paul Murray has written a witty and insightful novel that will have you in stitches. At the same time he blurs the lines between the reader and the writer with a meta storyline that doesn’t just have everything come full circle upon itself but creates an almost helix that keeps going even after you finish the book!
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Mark-and-the-Void/Paul-Murray/book_9780241146668.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: The House By The Lake by Thomas Harding

This is history writing at it’s finest. Taking a small microcosm to tell the story of a country over the last 100 years. On a trip to Berlin in 2013 author Thomas Harding visited the summer lake house his great-grandfather built. Upon discovering the house in disrepair and scheduled for demolition Harding began researching the history of the house and it’s occupants. Harding traces back the story of the small village and the estate that the house is built in and then tells the story of each occupant.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/House-by-the-Lake/Thomas-Harding/book_9780434023233.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: Touch by Claire North

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August announced the arrival of a very special talent. Claire North maybe the pseudonym for Catherine Webb (and Kate Griffin), who has already published a number of books, but Harry August was something else entirely. It was bold, intelligent, gripping and mind-blowing. Before the real identity of the pseudonym was revealed I was prepared to believe that Claire North could have been any already majorly established author, the writing was that good. With her follow-up novel, Claire North not only confirms that she is worthy of comparison with established authors, she leaves them all for dust.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Touch/Claire-North/book_9780356504568.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: Slade House by David Mitchell

What a bonus it is to have a new David Mitchell book only a year after the incredible The Bone Clocks. David Mitchell started this story on twitter but became obsessed with the story he had started and needed to see it through. The result is a ghost story in the hands and imagination of David Mitchell with is scary, compelling and amazing.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Slade-House/David-Mitchell/book_9781473616684.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: Soil by Jamie Kornegay

There is something about stories set in the American south, particularly those in and around the Mississippi. Whether they are classic American Southern Gothic, contemporary fiction, crime mystery or a combination the confluence of history, atmosphere and long-held beliefs makes for rich, dark, fertile storytelling. Jamie Kornegay digs into this tapestry with a debut about the environment, end-of-the-world paranoia and a family in break down.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Soil/Jamie-Kornegay/book_9781444782950.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall

Rachel Caine is an expert on wolves. For the past ten years she has been working in Idaho studying wolf populations on the reservations. Keeping as far from home and her upbringing as she can manage. She is also distant from her colleagues, forging as little close relationships as possible. However she is drawn home by an ambitious plan to reintroduce the grey wolf to Britain. The plan is not without controversy, opposed by the local population.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Wolf-Border/Sarah-J-E-Hall/book_9780571299553.htm
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Boomerang Book BItes: Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

On the surface this appears to be a cyber-thriller about hacking. But in the hands of Chuck Wendig it goes somewhere quite different. The book opens and we are introduced to five different hackers; an activist, a professional troller, an old-school hacker, a money skimmer and an amateur hacker completely out of his depth. They have all come to the Government’s attention in their various ways, for various crimes, and each of them is rounded up and offered a deal: come and work for the Government for a year or spend the next ten years in jail. They each take the deal.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Zeroes/Chuck-Wendig/book_9780062351555.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: Where My Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks

Sebastian Faulks’ new novel is quite simply superb. Tackling themes he has explored before Faulks delivers an original novel that is haunting, beautiful and profound that will resonate all the way through you.

http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Where-My-Heart-Used-to-Beat/Sebastian-Faulks/book_9780091936846.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: Some Luck by Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley’s writing is fantastic. She eases you into the family she has created and before you know it you are completely sucked into the story. You will fall in love with each character in a different way and share in the highs and lows of their lives. The big historical events, that are so familiar to us, effect each character in a different way, some small and some big. In telling the story from different perspectives she subtly fleshes out the context of each event showing both its importance and significance as well as its unimportance and insignificance. A rare thing to be able to pull off and pull off well.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Some-Luck/Jane-Smiley/book_9781447275602.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: Sweet Caress by William Boyd

The new William Boyd is simply sublime.Sweet Caress tells the story of photographer Amory Clay and her tumultuous life over the course of a tumultuous century. Interspersed with photos from key periods in Amory Clay’s life Boyd will have you almost convinced that his novel’s protagonist and narrator is real and existed.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Sweet-Caress/William-Boyd/book_9781408867983.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt

Patrick deWitt’s follow up to the brilliant The Sisters Brothers is just as described by the publisher on my advanced reading copy, “incredible”. Continuing on with the subversiveness that made The Sisters Brothers such a magnificent and unique take on The Western, deWitt turns his hand to another genre to create a darkly comic romp that blends a sense of humour, a sense of the absurd and a sense of the surreal in a way that would make even Wes Anderson envious.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Undermajordomo-Minor/Patrick-deWitt/book_9781847088697.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt (illustrated by Oliver Jeffers)

Following on from the phenomenally brilliant The Day The Crayons Quit comes the sequel. The crayons are back…and they are still not happy. This time around Duncan has to deal with the lost and forgotten crayons. The broken, chewed and melted crayons. And they are all, quite rightly, even more upset!
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Day-the-Crayons-Came-Home/Drew-Daywalt/book_9780008124434.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: The Dust That Falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernieres

Louis de Bernieres adds to the pantheon of First World War novels with his latest book. Inspired by his own family history de Bernieres explores the devastation and changes the war wrought upon British lives and society following four daughters of the McCosh family. At it’s it is a centre a love story; about love lost, love found and love that needs to be discovered.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Dust-That-Falls-from-Dreams/Louis-de-Bernieres/book_9781846558771.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

I totally loved this book. This sucked me in from the opening sentence and still has not let me go. The moment I finished I started missing all the characters straight away and want to get back to this universe as quickly as possible. This is science fiction at its best; expansive, alien, full of worlds, peoples and technology to explore but at the same time containing an essence and humanity (not really the right word considering all the different types of life out there) that captures perfectly what we all strive for in our lives.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Long-Way-to-a-Small-Angry-Planet/Becky-Chambers/book_9781473619807.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale

I have been meaning to read Joe Lansdale for ages. Ever since The Bottoms came out in 2000, which my Dad begged me to read. Having finally gotten around to reading his latest book I am of course kicking myself for waiting so long. I am a sucker for a good Western and a massive fan of Deadwood so when I saw that Joe Lansdale’s new book was partly set in Deadwood I was in.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Paradise-Sky/Joe-R-Lansdale/book_9781444787184.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: Stealing People by Robert Wilson

Two years after the events of You Will Never Find Me Charlie Boxer’s life is nearing some normalcy. Normal for a kidnap consultant whose services offer a little bit extra revenge on the side. His relationships with his ex-wife Mercy and daughter Amy are back on track and his relationship with Isabel is blossoming. However things are about to get very complicated, very fast.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Stealing-People/Robert-Wilson/book_9781409148203.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

I fell instantly in love with this book though. Having done a re-read of To Kill A Mockingbird in preparation I instantly fell into step with the voice of Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch. At 26 years old the character we already know is all there, which makes sense because this is the same character, at the same point, who narrates To Kill a Mockingbird. Jean Louise is returning home from New York for her annual trip to Maycomb County. A lot has changed since we were last in Maycomb.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Go-Set-a-Watchman/Harper-Lee/book_9781785150289.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: The Cartel by Don Winslow

Ten years ago Don Winslow wrote the thriller of the decade. The Power of the Dog was an epic thriller that detailed America’s thirty year war on drugs on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. Ten years later he has done it again. Winslow blows The Power of the Dog away detailing the next ten years of the so-called “war” on drugs taking everything that was groundbreaking, epic and mind-blowing to a whole new level.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Cartel/Don-Winslow/book_9780434023554.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: Hush Hush by Laura Lippman

This novel is everything Laura Lippman has been doing so well in her standalone novels but this time with Tess Monaghan. Lippman takes a confronting but tragically all too familiar crime and explores the fallout, years later, for all those involved. Combined with the ups and downs of parenthood this is not only a page-turning addictive mystery but an exploration of motherhood and the lengths, good and bad, mothers will go to for their children.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Hush-Hush/book_9780571321407.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: Ardennes 1944 by Antony Beevor

Antony Beevor’s latest book completes his histories of the Eastern and Western Fronts of the Second World War. Beginning with the award winning Stalingrad then Berlin and concluding with D-Day and now Ardennes, Beevor takes his comprehensive eye for detail to Hitler’s last ditch gamble of the war in what became known as The Battle of the Bulge.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Ardennes-1944/Antony-Beevor/book_9780670918645.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: Preparation For The Next Life by Atticus Lish

This is one of those books that immediately after you start reading you know you are in the hands of a wonderful writer. Atticus Lish has delivered a delicately savage critique on post-9/11 America and the so-called American Dream in a beautiful love story of an illegal immigrant and an American soldier recently returned from Iraq.

http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Preparation-for-the-Next-Life/Atticus-Lish/book_9781780747774.htm

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Boomerang Book Bites: Girl At War by Sara Novic

Sara Novic’s writing is incredible and she completely shattered me a quarter of the way into the book. She also structures her story perfectly jumping backward and forward from the war in 1991 to ten years later and its lasting aftereffects. This is a coming-of-age story which happens far too early. It is about how history defines us and haunts us. It is about trying to make sense of an unexplainable conflict and how in war innocence is so easily lost.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Girl-At-War/Sara-Novic/book_9781408706558.htm
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Boomerang Book Bites: A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson has written an extraordinary companion novel to her previous masterpiece returning us to the world of the Todd family and Fox Corner. This time to tell us Ursula’s brother Teddy’s story.
http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/God-in-Ruins/Kate-Atkinson/book_9780385618717.htm
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