Get book recommendations, tips & advice, and more tailored to your child's age.

Thank You!

The perfect book picks are on their way.

You're all set!

Pre-K

Growing Reader

Tween

Rise Up! 11 Picture Book Biographies About Prominent Change-Makers

by Miranda Rosbach

picture book biographies of prominent change makers

Is there a more universal hope emanating from parents (and non-parents) than wishing for a better world for our children and future generations? No doubt you’ve heard of the young climate activist Greta Thunberg. But have you heard of Sidney Keys III or the other children featured in this Washington Post article about kids changing their world and community?

Kids are taking the lead and being proactive within their sphere of influence to make things happen. For example, last summer, a local eight-year-old girl asked me to sign a petition to improve the outdated playground at the top of our street.

These picture books show that there is no age requirement to have a powerful impact on creating a more equitable world.

  • A Place to Land

    by Barry Wittenstein, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

    Also available from:

    The night before the March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. gathered with his esteemed advisors in the Willard Hotel to listen to their advice about what he should say. He revised his speech until the early hours of the morning, summoning the legacy of those already slain and beaten for the civil rights cause. In New York City, Chicago, Cleveland, and Memphis, crowds boarded buses and trains bound for the National Mall in Washington, DC. When Dr. King spoke from the podium, he lectured, then went off-script with unprecedented fervor, taking the 250 thousand spectators along with him towards his dream and vision of a brighter future. This moving book is an ode to an extraordinary leader.

    Also available from:
  • My Little Golden Book About Misty Copeland

    by Sherri L. Smith, illustrated by Tara Nicole Whitaker

    Also available from:

    Misty Copeland was born in Kansas City and moved to Southern California with her family when she was four. Because she loved dancing, a teacher suggested taking ballet lessons at the local Boys & Girls Club. Misty’s ballet teacher, Cindy, quickly discovered that she had a prodigy in her class and invited young Misty to live with her for a time. After high school, Misty joined the American Ballet Theatre in New York City and gained prominence across the world as one of the most celebrated Black ballerinas. Today, Misty Copeland inspires audiences with her graceful technique and dedicated talent.

    Also available from:
  • Unbound: The Life and Art of Judith Scott

    by Joyce Scott, Brie Spangler, and Melissa Sweet, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

    Also available from:

    Joyce and Judy are twins. They are inseparable until Joyce starts kindergarten and Judy (who gets diagnosed with Down Syndrome) goes to a school for children with learning disabilities. After many years apart, Judy moves in with her sister (now grown with a family). Judy finds friendship among fellow artists at Creative Growth Art Center in California. Here, Judy uses natural materials (twigs and twine, yarn and fiber) to create her art. She weaves objects into her work and gives it a pat and thumbs-up when it is complete. Judith Scott outlived her life expectancy by 50 years, and this nonfiction biography celebrates her work through Melissa Sweet’s signature collage and textured illustrations.

    Also available from:
  • Sweet Justice: Georgia Gilmore and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

    by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

    Also available from:

    Segregation fostered discrimination between black and white bus riders. In 1955, the bus boycott started in Montgomery, Alabama. After Rosa Parks got arrested, an entire community rallied to boycott public transportation. They pooled money together to pay for fuel, those with cars offered rides, and Georgia Gilmore baked her famous meatloaf, fried chicken, and pies and sold them to help fund the boycott. Others who wanted to help, but needed to stay anonymous, donated to what Georgia called the “Club from Nowhere.” When police officers ticketed and arrested Black people waiting for rides, Georgia baked more goods to pay their fines. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. got arrested, Georgia testified and later started a bustling business to lift boycotters’ spirits. The boycott lasted through 1956, when the Supreme Court ruled segregated buses unconstitutional.

    Also available from:
  • Who Was Celia Cruz?

    by Lisbeth Kaiser and Who HQ, illustrated by Stanley Chow

    Also available from:

    Growing up in Havana, Cuba, Celia’s family had little money but enjoyed plenty of love, laughter, and dancing. To earn extra money, Celia entered singing contests. She became a household name in Cuba, but people thought she would never make it big because she was Black. As an adult, Celia played with a band before leaving Cuba to escape the political unrest and racism. In New York, Celia found a new place to share the pride of her heritage with eager crowds and helped create the sound and rhythm of fast-paced salsa music. Don’t miss the other stories in the Who Was? Board Books Series.

    Also available from:
  • The Heart of the Storm

    by Sharon Mentyka, illustrated by Ellen Rooney

    Also available from:

    This inspirational book follows the life of WNBA superstar, Sue Bird. When Sue was a young girl, she always loved to move and explore, and soon fell in love with the energy and rhythm of basketball. With hard work and determination, Sue became a legendary player on the court–winning numerous championships and Olympic gold medals–and off the court. Full of can-do spirit, this book is a great inspiration for the athlete in your life.

    Also available from:
  • The Faith of Elijah Cummings

    by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Laura Freeman

    Also available from:

    Growing up in Baltimore, 11-year-old Elijah marched to integrate a city pool. He grew up in a small house with six siblings and struggled in school, but he found a study space in the public library (one of the few non-segregated places). Elijah learned the value of hard work, watching his mother work and his parents save for a bigger home. He wanted to study law, and he received encouragement from his parents and the pharmacist at the drugstore where he worked. After law school, Elijah became a congressional representative, becoming a voice for people of color. This inspiring nonfiction book has quotes scattered throughout and a biography in the back, making it ideal for grade-schoolers.

    Also available from:
  • Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie's Place, the Nation's First Shelter for Women

    by Christine McDonnell, illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov

    Also available from:

    Growing up in her grandmother’s home during the Great Depression, Kip saw the generosity of a matriarch who fed anyone that came to her door. As an adult in the late 1960s, Kip heard the call of change (calls to end poverty and war), and she made a career shift from advertising to becoming a staff member at Warwick House in a poor area of Boston. One night, Kip noticed a woman dressed in man’s clothes coming through the line for food. Soon, she discovered that neglected homeless women lived throughout the city. They could not find shelter since shelters were only for men at the time. After spending time in a New York shelter, Kip returned to Boston and pestered city officials to give her a building to serve homeless women. In 1974, she opened Rosie’s Place, a spot for women to gather for a hot meal, clean clothes, a bed, and a listening ear.

    Also available from:
  • The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art

    by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPre

    Also available from:

    Kandinsky’s world was perfectly ordinary, until his aunt gave him a wooden paint box. The colors vibrated with sounds like an orchestra preparing for a symphony, and he painted what he heard. However, he did the practical thing when he grew up and became a lawyer. But one night at the symphony, the sounds exploded in his mind as he heard the colors singing, beckoning to him. Kandinsky moved to Germany, where he painted his feelings on his canvas, creating images the world had never seen.

    Also available from:
  • Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills

    by Renée Watson, illustrated by Christian Robinson

    Also available from:

    Growing up in a tiny house in Washington, DC, Florence Mills felt music in her soul. Her voice (so she thought) could stop a thunderstorm. At school, her classmates paused their outdoor play to listen to Florence sing. As she grew, Florence got invited to perform in a downtown Washington, DC theater, where she advocated for her Black friends to be allowed in the audience. When her family moved to New York City, Florence won a role in Shuffle Along and dazzled audiences with her movement and song. She took part in the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and traveled to London to perform, despite the continued racism she experienced. Though no recordings of Florence Mills exist, other contemporaries wrote songs to tribute her exceptional talent.

    Also available from:
  • Before She Was Harriet

    by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome

    Also available from:

    Do you know the complete story of Harriet Tubman? An old woman sits in front of a blue cloud-studded sky, but she was a suffragette before she became wrinkled and worn. She fought for women’s rights, raising her voice for equality. Before working as a suffragist, she was a Union spy sharing secrets with President Lincoln. She was also a nurse and a guide for hundreds of people (including her parents) fleeing for freedom from slavery. This powerful portrayal of a woman who wore many hats throughout her long life will leave readers of all ages awestruck.

    Also available from: