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12 Inspiring Illustrated Biographies That Introduce Kids to Diverse Heroes

by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

I enjoyed reading biographies from an early age — the idea that a person’s life was important enough for a book intrigued me, and I was thrilled and inspired whenever I found small similarities or points of connections between my own experiences and those of the larger-than-life figures on the pages. Readers of all ages can find much to consider, relate to, and celebrate in these transcendent stories of people who’ve had an impact on our lives and culture. These are some of my favorite illustrated biographies and memoirs for young book-lovers:

  • Teen

  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March

    by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, illustrated by PJ Loughran (retold by Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley)

    For her activism, Lowery was jailed nine times before her 15th birthday, and was the youngest marcher in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. This illustrated memoir of Lowery’s commitment to nonviolent resistance even when faced with violence like what law enforcement exhibited on “Bloody Sunday” is both sobering and inspiring.

  • March Trilogy

    by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

    With the release of the third volume in this stirring and historic trilogy, Representative John Lewis made history once again as the author of the first graphic novel ever to win a National Book Award. My own daughter tore through these firsthand accounts of young people’s involvement in the Civil Rights movement, and was inspired by the connections Lewis makes to present-day events. Readers can watch Representative Lewis, who continues to speak out on important issues today (recently leading the first-ever sit-in in the House of Representatives to demand action on gun control legislation) accept his award here.

  • Persepolis

    by Marjane Satrapi

    This riveting graphic novel-style memoir of Satrapi’s childhood in Tehran and coming of age in the midst of tremendous political upheaval is now considered a modern classic. With humor and poignancy, Satrapi skillfully threads the personal challenges and triumphs of her adolescence with the history and cultural life of Iran. Adapted to film in 2007, Persepolis has become a high school classroom staple, and a reading guide with discussion questions and additional reading suggestions can be found online.

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