Reading in the Rain: Books for Kids -- Picture Book Biographies

This week’s recommendations focus on picture book biographies, a wonderful way to introduce kids to historical figures using a familiar format. These unique books are tied together because they showcase people who were passionate about their art or their work. In addition, all three of these books combine text and illustrations to create a whole that is more than the sum of the parts. Currently, King County Library System (KCLS) has copies of these books in their catalog.


Before John was a Jazz Giant by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Sean Qualls

Henry Holt, 0805079947


This picture book biography, named a Coretta Scott King honor book, examines and celebrates the influences of John Coltrane before he was a jazz giant. As a boy, John hears music everywhere. There’s music in the sound of his grandma cooking, in the steam engines whistling, the hymns at church, and the birds singing sunrise. And John takes all the sounds in the world around him and he puts them in his saxophone. “Before John was a jazz giant, he was all ears.”




Just Being Audrey by Margaret Cardillo, Illustrated by Julia Denos

Balzer + Bray, 978-0061852831


This exquisite picture book is a biography of the iconic and compassionate Audrey Hepburn. The story begins with her childhood in Europe, and follows her from her rise to fame in motion pictures and the world of fashion, to her work as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. The book is a wonderful introduction to Hepburn’s life and movies and a loving tribute to a legendary woman.



What To Do About Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove her Father Teddy Crazy! by Barbara Kerley, Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

Scholastic Press, 978-0439922319


This picture book biography follows Theodore Roosevelt’s high spirited daughter, Alice, who spent her life, “eating up the world.” Beginning with her childhood and continuing through her marriage to congressman, Nicholas Longworth, Alice’s life is never dull. Although her behavior - dancing all night, owning a pet snake, driving fast cars, traveling the world - was looked upon as outrageous at the time, she became a national celebrity. People all over the country read the papers each morning to see what “Princess Alice” had been up to. In addition, she became one of her father’s most trusted advisors in his political career.