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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I Don’t Believe it’s a Picture Book! Astonishing reads for all ages Part 1

Picture books are a unique marriage of art and words. Occasionally, not even the words are needed. A picture book can evoke emotions so intense, you’ll wonder how so few images and words managed to resonate such an immense amount of feeling in such a short space of time. This is what I find so utterly attractive and astonishing in well-written picture books. Today, we reveal a few that not only take my breath away, but also astound me with their cleverness, humanity and sheer depth. Enjoy. Continue reading I Don’t Believe it’s a Picture Book! Astonishing reads for all ages Part 1

Robin Hood and His Merry Band of Contemporaries (Eleanor of Aquitane)

 I had the surprising pleasure of watching the new Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett at the movies yesterday. Surprising because I didn’t expect much of it. Pleasing because I found it to be intricately crafted, the chemistry between Robin and Lady (Maid) Marion to be entirely believable, and the movie showcased a new and fascinating approach of the man before he wore the hood and became one of the most famous outlaws of all time. If I’m to be perfectly honest, it was a little Hollywood and the movie could have actually been MORE epic than it was – it seemed as if it had been overedited slightly. But in my view that’s a small price to pay for an enjoyable movie trip, and Cate Blanchett as Lady Marion was majestically good as always.

Coming away from the rolling credits however, what struck me most about the legend of Robin Hood was how little I had known of it. Big fan of men in tights and such, but I didn’t know, for example, that ol’ Robin was considered a staunch supporter of 12th century king Richard the Lionhearted. I didn’t know (stemming from this) that the legend of Robin Hood lived in the time of Eleanor of Aquitane. Yeah, THE Eleanor of Aquitane. Oh, wait, you want to know more about her? Well, she was…awesome. And important to history because…um.
You got me readers, I don’t know a thing about her. Oh, I can spin a yarn from here to tomorrow that’s more or less true about Elizabeth I, or count the wives of Henry VIII on my fingers in under 9 seconds (that’s right, I timed it). I even profess to know more than your average Jane about the beloved Plantagenets.

But about the woman who was considered the most beautiful woman of her time (oh, weren’t they all), who defied convention and exercised influence over her sons as heirs to the throne, was super wealthy, survived the marriage of two kings and outlived all but two of her TEN children? Regrettably, not much. Until, that is, Alison Weir, teacher of this area of history, rides in on her trusty white horse to take me far away from the land of ignorance!

I graduated to the class of Alison Weir after I had polished off Philippa Gregory’s “historical” works (so they were mostly fictionalised a great deal, who cares? Still rollicking good reads). Alison Weir writes BIOGRAPHIES about British Royalty, my snobby historian friends said. Not mere fiction.

Yawn. Sounded boring to me. Luckily, the lives of these royals are as good as fiction anyway! I’m flicking through my recent purchase, Alison Weir’s Eleanor of Aquitane, and I’m learning things already. Turns out Eleanor’s first marriage to King Louis VII of France was annulled by consanguinity within the fourth degree (don’t feel shame in looking up that word – I had to)!

I’ll report back once I’ve finished, if any of you out there have some interesting books on Eleanor they’d like to recommend me, I’m all ears (we’re on a first-name basis now, Eleanor and I).

I’m about to be educated – is it wrong that I get so excited about these history lessons?