Heroes in History: YA Biographies

Biography , Book List , History , Teen

This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon

Title: This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon
By: Nancy Plain
Published: 2015

Birds were "the objects of my greatest delight," wrote John James Audubon (1785-1851), founder of modern ornithology and one of the world's greatest bird painters. His masterpiece, The Birds of America depicts almost five hundred North American bird species, each image--lifelike and life size--rendered in vibrant color. Audubon was also an explorer, a woodsman, a hunter, an entertaining and prolific writer, and an energetic self-promoter. Through talent and dogged determination, he rose from backwoods obscurity to international fame.

In This Strange Wilderness, award-winning author Nancy Plain brings together the amazing story of this American icon's career and the beautiful images that are his legacy. Before Audubon, no one had seen, drawn, or written so much about the animals of this largely uncharted young country. Aware that the wilderness and its wildlife were changing even as he watched, Audubon remained committed almost to the end of his life "to search out the things which have been hidden since the creation of this wondrous world." This Strange Wilderness details his art and writing, transporting the reader back to the frontiers of early nineteenth-century America.


Jane Austen: A Life Revealed

Title: Jane Austen: A Life Revealed
By: Catherine Reef
Published: 2011

Jane Austen's popularity never seems to fade. She has hordes of devoted fans, and there have been numerous adaptations of her life and work. But who was Jane Austen? The writer herself has long remained a mystery. And despite the resonance her work continues to have for teens, there has never been a young adult trade biography on Austen. Catherine Reef changes that with this highly readable account. She takes an intimate peek at Austen's life and innermost feelings, interweaving her narrative with well-crafted digests of each of Austen's published novels. The end result is a book that is almost as much fun to read as Jane's own work--and truly a life revealed. Includes bibliography and index. Ages: 12 up Grades: 7 up AUTHOR: Catherine Reef is the author of more than 35 nonfiction books for young people. Her books for Clarion include the highly acclaimed JOHN STEINBECK and SIGMUND FREUD, which was the recipient of the 2002 Sydney Taylor Award, presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries.


Sarah Bernhardt: The Divine and Dazzling Life of the World's First Superstar

Title: Sarah Bernhardt: The Divine and Dazzling Life of the World's First Superstar
By: Catherine Reef
Published: 2020

Sarah Bernhardt was a French stage actor who became a global superstar in the late nineteenth century--the Lady Gaga of her day--and is still considered to be one of the greatest performers of all time. This fast-paced account of her life, filled with provocative detail, brilliantly follows the transformation of a girl of humble origins, born to a courtesan, into a fabulously talented, wealthy, and beloved icon. Not only was her acting trajectory remarkable, but her personal life was filled with jaw-dropping exploits, and she was extravagantly eccentric, living with a series of exotic animals and sleeping in a coffin. She grew to be deeply admired around the world, despite her unabashed and public promiscuity at a time when convention was king; she slept with each of her leading men and proudly raised a son without a husband. A fascinating and fast-paced deep dive into the world of the divine Sarah. Illustrated with more than sixty-five photos of Bernhardt on stage, in film, and in real life.


The Many Faces of Josephine Baker: Dancer, Singer, Activist, Spy

Title: The Many Faces of Josephine Baker: Dancer, Singer, Activist, Spy
By: Peggy Caravantes
Published: 2015

A complete biographical look at the complex life of a world-famous entertainer With determination and audacity, Josephine Baker turned her comic and musical abilities into becoming a worldwide icon of the Jazz Age. The Many Faces of Josephine Baker: Dancer, Singer, Activist, Spy provides the first in-depth portrait of this remarkable woman for young adults. Author Peggy Caravantes follows Baker's life from her childhood in the depths of poverty to her comedic rise in vaudeville and fame in Europe. This lively biography covers her outspoken participation in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, espionage work for the French Resistance during World War II, and adoption of 12 children--her "rainbow tribe." Also included are informative sidebars on relevant topics such as the 1917 East St. Louis riot, Pullman railway porters, the Charleston, and more. The lush photographs, appendix updating readers on the lives of the rainbow tribe, source notes, and bibliography make this is a must-have resource for any student, Baker fan, or history buff.


The Bronte Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne

Title: The Bronte Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne
By: Catherine Reef
Published: 2012

The Brontë sisters are among the most beloved writers of all time, best known for their classic nineteenth-century novels Jane Eyre (Charlotte), Wuthering Heights (Emily), and Agnes Grey (Anne). In this sometimes heartbreaking young adult biography, Catherine Reef explores the turbulent lives of these literary siblings and the oppressive times in which they lived. Brontë fans will also revel in the insights into their favorite novels, the plethora of poetry, and the outstanding collection of more than sixty black-and-white archival images. A powerful testimony to the life of the mind. (Endnotes, bibliography, index.)


The Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill: Growing Up Billy Cody in Bleeding Kansas

Title: The Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill: Growing Up Billy Cody in Bleeding Kansas
By: Andrea Warren
Published: 2015

The greatest entertainer of his era, Buffalo Bill was the founder and star of the legendary show that featured cowboys, Indians, trick riding, and sharpshooters.

But long before stardom, Buffalo Bill--born Billy Cody--had to grow up fast. While homesteading in Kansas just before the Civil War, his family was caught up in the conflict with neighboring Missouri over whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free or slave state.

To support his family after a pro-slaver killed his father, Billy--then eleven--herded cattle, worked on wagon trains, and rode the Pony Express. As the violence in Bleeding Kansas escalated, he joined the infamous Jayhawkers, seeking revenge on Missouri­ans, and then became a soldier, scout, and spy in the Civil War--all by age seventeen.

Award-winning author Andrea Warren brings to life the compelling childhood of an adventurous, determined boy who transformed himself into a true American icon.


Marie Curie: A Life of Discovery

Title: Marie Curie: A Life of Discovery
By: Alice Milani
Published: 2017

In her intensely researched, inventively drawn exploration of Marie Curie's life, artist Alice Milani follows the celebrated Polish scientist from Curie's time as a struggling governess to her years in France making breakthrough discoveries. Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences. With skill and care, Milani traces Curie's flight from Russia-controlled Poland, her romance with fellow scientist Pierre Curie, and Marie and Pierre's stunning discoveries of the elements radium and polonium. Throughout this distinctive graphic work, Curie defies doubt and double standards to make an enduring impact on the scientific world.


Darwin: A Graphic Biography

Title: Darwin: A Graphic Biography
By: Eugene Byrne & Simon Gurr
Published: 2013

Darwin: A Graphic Biography is an inspiring expedition into the physical and intellectual adventures of Charles Darwin. Presenting Darwin's life in a smart and entertaining graphic novel, Darwin: A Graphic Biography attempts to not only educate the reader about Darwin but also the scientific world of the 1800s. The graphic medium is ideal for recreating a very specific time frame, succeeding in placing the reader right next to a young Darwin on a "beetling" expedition. With specimens in both hands, and anxious to get another, Darwin ends up stuffing the third beetle into his mouth. Darwin's life presented in this form is an inspirational tale for kids of all ages. They'll be sure to identify with a curious young Darwin finding his way on youthful adventures in the fields near his house. The ups, downs, and near-misses of Darwin's youth are portrayed honestly and without foreshadowing of his later fame. This is a key point for younger readers: that Darwin wasn't somehow predestined to greatness. He was curious, patient, and meticulous. He persevered--a great lesson about what science is all about.


Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, A Monumental American Man

Title: Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, A Monumental American Man
By: Tonya Bolden
Published: 2017

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) is best known for the telling of his own emancipation. But there is much more to Douglass's story than his time spent enslaved and his famous autobiography. Facing Frederick captures the whole complicated, and at times perplexing, person that he was. Statesman, suffragist, writer, and newspaperman, this book focuses on Douglass the man rather than the historical icon.


Alexander Hamilton: Revolutionary

Title: Alexander Hamilton: Revolutionary
By: Martha Brockenbrough
Published: 2017

Complex, passionate, brilliant, flawed--Alexander Hamilton comes alive in this exciting biography.

He was born out of wedlock on a small island in the West Indies and orphaned as a teenager. From those inauspicious circumstances, he rose to a position of power and influence in colonial America.

Discover this founding father's incredible true story: his brilliant scholarship and military career; his groundbreaking and enduring policy, which shapes American government today; his salacious and scandalous personal life; his heartrending end.

Richly informed by Hamilton's own writing, with archival artwork and new illustrations, this is an in-depth biography of an extraordinary man


Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein

Title: Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein
By: Lita Judge
Published: 2018

"Both timely and terrifying." --Gregory Macguire,New York Times-bestselling author of Wicked

Pairing free verse with over three hundred pages of black-and-white watercolor illustrations,Mary's Monster is a unique and stunning biography of Mary Shelley, the pregnant teenage runaway who became one of the greatest authors of all time.

Legend is correct that Mary Shelley began penning Frankenstein in answer to a dare to write a ghost story. What most people don't know, however, is that the seeds of her novel had been planted long before that night. By age nineteen, she had been disowned by her family, was living in scandal with a married man, and had lost her baby daughter just days after her birth. Mary poured her grief, pain, and passion into the powerful book still revered two hundred years later, and in Mary's Monster, author/illustrator Lita Judge has poured her own passion into a gorgeous book that pays tribute to the life of this incredible author.


Tales of the Talented Tenth: Robert Smalls, the True Story of the Greatest Heist of the Civil War: Robert Smalls Steals the Confederate Planter

Title: Tales of the Talented Tenth: Robert Smalls, the True Story of the Greatest Heist of the Civil War: Robert Smalls Steals the Confederate Planter
By: Joel Christian Gill
Published: 2021

"Joel Christian Gills shows how ordinary people fight for our collective liberation and whose stories are not often at the forefront of our historical consciousness." --Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist Do you know the story of the slave who sailed himself to freedom? For the third book in the bestselling Tales of the Talented Tenth series, Joel Christian Gill brings Robert Smalls to life by telling the true story of the enslaved African who pulled off one of the most daring and largest heists of the Civil War. Come along for the adventure as Robert earns a job working for the C.S.S. Planter , escapes to freedom, goes on to become a first-generation Black politician, and makes history by writing and leading the passage of legislation that led to the United States' first free and compulsory public school system. Tales of the Talented Tenth is a historical comic series that focuses on the adventures of amazing African Americans in action.


Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller

Title: Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller
By: Joseph Lambert
Published: 2012

Helen Keller lost her ability to see and hear before she turned two years old.

But in her lifetime, she learned to ride horseback and dance the foxtrot. She graduated from Radcliffe. She became a world famous speaker and author. She befriended Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, and Alexander Graham Bell. And above all, she revolutionized public perception and treatment of the blind and the deaf.

The catalyst for this remarkable life's journey was Annie Sullivan, a young woman who was herself visually impaired. Hired on as a tutor when Helen was six years old, Annie broke down the barriers between Helen and the wider world, becoming a fiercely devoted friend and lifelong companion in the process.

In Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller, author and illustrator Joseph Lambert examines the powerful bond between teacher and pupil, forged through the intense frustrations and revelations of Helen's early education. The result is an inspiring, emotional, and wholly original take on the story of these two great Americans.


Harriet Tubman

Title: Harriet Tubman
By: Kitson Jazynka
Published: 2019

Born into slavery in c.1820, Harriet Tubman would later run away and help scores of other African American slaves escape to freedom in the North using the "Underground Railroad." A nurse, scout, and advisor during the American Civil War, Harriet co-led the Combahee River Raid, in which 700 slaves were liberated. After the war, Harriet became involved in women's suffrage, or the right to vote, and opened a retirement home for sick and elderly African Americans. In this biography book for 8-11 year olds, learn all about Harriet Tubman's fascinating life, the hardships she endured, her visions, the people she helped and rescued, the battles she fought, and how this American icon of justice and strength continues to inspire so many people today.

This new biography series from DK goes beyond the basic facts to tell the true life stories of history's most interesting people. Full-color photographs and hand-drawn illustrations complement thoughtfully written, age-appropriate text to create an engaging book children will enjoy reading. Definition boxes, information sidebars, maps, inspiring quotes, and other nonfiction text features add depth, and a handy reference section at the back makes this the one biography series every teacher and librarian will want to collect. Each book also includes an author's introduction letter, a glossary, and an index.


Victoria: Portrait of a Queen

Title: Victoria: Portrait of a Queen
By: Catherine Reef
Published: 2017

Catherine Reef brings history vividly to life in this sumptuously illustrated account of a confident, strong-minded, and influential woman.

Victoria woke one morning at the age of eighteen to discover that her uncle had died and she was now queen. She went on to rule for sixty-three years, with an influence so far-reaching that the decades of her reign now bear her name--the Victorian period. Victoria is filled with the exciting comings and goings of royal life: intrigue and innuendo, scheming advisors, and assassination attempts, not to mention plenty of passion and discord. Includes bibliography, notes, British royal family tree, index.


Walt Whitman

Title: Walt Whitman
By: Nancy Loewen
Published: 2015

"An exploration of the life and work of 19th-century American writer Walt Whitman, whose poetry is known for both its passionate celebration of American life and its direct, speechlike style"-- Provided by publisher.


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