12 Picture Book Biographies of Truly Amazing Women
by Laura Lambert
Picture this: A girl, not unlike someone might you know, who took what could have been an ordinary life and turned it into something extraordinary. These 12 women changed the world in a way that only they could — through their words, their actions, their talents, their ideas, and their resilience. And these 12 picture book biographies bring their worlds to life for some of our littlest readers.
Eliza: The Story of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton
Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy. Anyone who’s seen or heard “Hamilton” — or who has simply been awake these last few years— is familiar with the dynamic Schuyler sisters of early American history. This is the somewhat forgotten story of Eliza, wife of Alexander Hamilton, who outlived him by 50 years and quietly made her mark long after his death.
As a little girl, books saved Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court justice. While this ostensibly is a story about Sotomayor’s life, it’s really about the love of reading.
She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley started writing Frankenstein at just 18 years old. Today, on the 200th anniversary of the book’s publishing, Lynne Fulton revisits the very night the young writer invented one of our most lasting, unforgettable characters.
The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps
At 84 years old, Jane Goodall is still going strong — in fact, she just launched a vegan clothing line with actor Leonardo DiCaprio, which supports ape conservation. This sweet picture book traces Goodall’s passion for animals back to her childhood in London and her first trip to Africa to observe chimpanzees.
I Look Up To… Ruth Bader GinsburgAvailable from:
The Notorious R.B.G. hardly needs an introduction — she’s become a pop culture icon in her own right, as famous for her workout routines, at 85, as her withering dissents. This sweet board book introduces the Supreme Court Justice and some of her most admirable qualities to a new generation of opinionated young women.Available from:
A Picture Book of Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery, then freed, and became a towering figure in the abolition movement. This picture book biography — one in a series by David A. Adler — tells her story chronologically, and in a clear way for young readers.
Before She Was Harriet
The abolitionist and civil rights activist we know as Harriet Tubman — the most important “conductor” on the Underground Railroad — actually went by many names in her lifetime. This book covers them all, and tells her incredible life story in verse.
I am Billie Jean King
On September 20, 1973 — at the height of the women’s movement — female tennis champion Billie Jean King famously took on Wimbledon champion Bobby Riggs — and won. (The match was called the “Battle of the Sexes.”) This installment in the popular Ordinary People Change the World series introduces young readers to some of the challenges King faced and successes she celebrated.
No list of books about extraordinary women would be complete without a title about Hillary Rodham Clinton, who, among countless achievements, was the first woman to be nominated by a major political party for president of the United States. This picture book, by award-winning author Jonah Winter, covers the major moments in HRC’s life story, including her college years and her time as Secretary of State.
Misty Copeland’s name is practically synonymous with ballet, and for good reason. Though she didn’t get her start until she was 13, she went on to become the first African American woman promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history. Copeland continues to be an empowering role model for aspiring dancers, and in Firebird, she charts her course from an unsure young girl joining a new world to the indomitable performer, athlete, and public figure she is today.
Joan Proctor Dragon Doctor
Can you imagine having a tea party with a Komodo dragon? It’s an unusual proposition, but it was just another day at work for Joan Procter, an internationally renowned herpetologist — that is, a zoologist who studies reptiles and amphibians. Procter was born in the UK in 1897, and while her peers favored dolls, Procter was never without her favorite lizard. In adulthood, she was named the first female Curator of Reptiles at London Zoo, and her valuable work both furthered the field of study and opened doors for others like her.
Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education
Malala Yousafzai grew up in the beautiful mountains of Pakistan, where she was a precocious young girl who loved going to school. At fifteen, when she defied the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education, she was nearly killed for it. This beautiful picture book biography, resplendent in its illustrations, follows Malala through her extraordinary young life, including her continued activism, infamous UN speech, and historic Nobel Peace Prize.