Staff Picks Youth Biographies

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October 2022

The Genius Under the Table

by Eugene Yelchin

Yevgeny is growing up in Russia during the Cold War. He’s not talented like his ice-skating star older brother. He feels as if he has no artistic talent at all but then his parents see the secret artwork he has been creating underneath the family’s dining room table. Once he starts taking art lessons under the tutelage of an art master, his life starts looking up. 

Recommended by: Becky McCormack, Youth Services Assistant Manager

Posted in: Youth Biographies


Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball

by Jen Bryant

Learning to play basketball in the streets, Elgin Baylor took his ability to jump high and hang in the air over the rim to new heights. His nickname was Rabbit. After college he became the first professional African American NBA player. Elgin played in the late 1950s and early 1960s for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers using his acrobatic skills to excel as a player. Though people loved to come see him play, he was not allowed into “whites only” restaurants and hotels as the team traveled. Changes in society were happening that are referred to as part of his journey to stand up for himself by sitting down and getting people and the NBA to change.

This book is available in the library and as a movie on Hoopla.

Recommended by: Joan Stoiber, Youth Services Reference Librarian

Posted in: Youth Biographies


August 2022

While I was Away

by Waka Brown

Waka lives in Kansas. When her mother decides she needs to know how to speak Japanese better than she does, Waka is sent to live with her grandmother in Tokyo, Japan for five months. Not only is Waka not fluent with the language but she’s unused to the customs there. She also needs to navigate the different friend network at her new school. 

Recommended by: Becky McCormack, Youth Services Assistant Manager

Posted in: Youth Biographies


January 2022

Who was the Girl Warrior of France?: Joan of Arc

by Sarah Winifred Searle

A new Who HQ Graphic Novels series tells the story of Joan of Arc. The set-up of this series are dialogue-driven panel art interspersed with short historical informational pages. Joan of Arc’s faith and determination are needed in her challenging journey to help end the Hundred Years War between England and France.

Recommended by: Joan Stoiber, Youth Services Reference Librarian I

Posted in: Youth Biographies


August 2021

A Girl Named Rosita: The Story of Rita Moreno: Actor, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer!

by Anika Aldamuy Denise

Rosita Dolores Alverio, a girl who loves to sing and dance for anyone who will watch her. This is the story of Rita Moreno, from her childhood days in Puerto Rico to her rise to stardom. An inspiring picture book biography that portrays her experiences from migration to perseverance, belonging, talent, and triumph. Rita Moreno is a Latina trailblazer and one of only six women with four awards for the arts known as EGOT (an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony). She continues to be an influential voice that sparks determination and activism. Leo Espinosa’s beautiful illustrations are vibrant and captivating. Rita’s iconic lilac dress in this book will be as memorable for the young readers as for those who have seen her unforgettable Oscar-winning performance in “West Side Story”. This is a great choice for a read-aloud that can be paired with video clips of Rita’s “West Side Story” performance and her Oscar acceptance moment.

Recommended by: Fanny Camargo, Youth Services Reference Librarian I

Posted in: Youth Biographies


Becoming RBG

by Debbie Levy

This graphic novel biography clearly outlines the outstanding life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Beginning with her birth, the author details her rise, through law school and various jobs, to the Supreme Court of the United States of America. 

Recommended by: Becky McCormack, Youth Services Assistant Manager

Posted in: Youth Biographies


June 2021

Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story

by Suzanne Slade

This is a beautiful picture book biography about Anna Comstock. Not many people have heard of her but she was a nature lover, scientist, artist, educational reformer, and author who produced amazing works of art. She revolutionized how students learn about nature insisting on students going outside and having hands on experience. She was also Cornell University’s first female professor. She did her work during a time period when women weren’t taken seriously, but through hard work and determination she took major steps in advancing women’s rights and careers. This picture book is perfect for little nature lovers and their parents.

Recommended by: Erin Faxel, Youth Services Teen Librarian

Posted in: Youth Biographies


March 2021

It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

by Trevor Noah

Comedian, Trevor Noah, describes his childhood in shocking detail. From having to distance himself from his white father to an abusive stepfather to the fierce love provided by his mother, Noah tells his story with both humor and pathos. This book is available in the library and on OverDrive as an ebook.

Recommended by: Becky McCormack, Youth Services Assistant Manager

Posted in: Youth Biographies


February 2021

Song in a Rainstorm: The Story of Musical Prodigy Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins

by Glenda Armand

When Thomas was born blind to slaves, his mother was not going to let that determine his fate. She and others soon found out that he had an affinity for music and could recreate the sounds of rainstorms or trains on the piano. He gave his first concert at six years old and was the first black person to play for a president.  His abilities were amazing as he wowed crowds in America and Europe by playing any song, sometime even sitting backwards at the piano and using opposite hands to play the song.

Recommended by: Joan Stoiber, Youth Services Reference Librarian

Posted in: Youth Biographies


One Step Further: My Story of Math, the Moon, and a Lifelong Mission

by Katherine Johnson

An empowering narrative about a young girl who counted everything, even her steps, as her lifelong love of mathematics led her to become part of the team that helped John Glenn circle the Earth and land men on the moon, one step for mankind. Her perseverance and abilities enabled her to overcome the prejudices of the 1960’s against African-Americans and women in the work force and be part of the civil rights movement for herself and her daughters.

Recommended by: Joan Stoiber, Youth Services Reference Librarian I

Posted in: Youth Biographies


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