Fascinating People, Past and Present | Biography Series Nonfiction

This season’s biographies feature the famous, the infamous, and the lesser-known but noteworthy.


This season’s biographies feature the famous, the infamous, and the lesser-known but noteworthy. Readers will encounter diverse personalities, from outlaw Billy the Kid to rapper Kendrick Lamar. Some titles introduce important people who have been ignored in history, while others will be used to update and enhance established collections.



Andrews, Elizabeth. Harry Styles: Everyone’s Favorite Performer. Sept. 2023. ISBN 9781098244361.
––––. Jung Kook: BTS Singer and Beyond.Nov. 2023. ISBN 9781098244378.
––––. Olivia Rodrigo: Best-Selling Songwriter.Nov. 2023. ISBN 9781098244385.
––––. Sadie Sink: Stranger Things Scene Stealer.Nov. 2023. ISBN 9781098244392.
––––. Timothée Chalamet: Dune’s Leading Man.Nov. 2023. ISBN 9781098244408.
––––. Zendaya: Emmy-Winning Entertainer.Sept. 2023. ISBN 9781098244415.
ea vol: 32p. (Pop Biographies). Abdo/ DiscoverRoo.Tr $32.79.
Gr 2-4–The careers of six popular entertainers are traced in these volumes. Readers learn that Harry Styles became a part of new band One Direction after being cut from The X Factor, Jung Kook produced a solo album in 2014, and Olivia Rodrigo played Nini in the “High School Musical” franchise. Sadie Sink has appeared as Annie on Broadway, Timothée Chalamet was nominated for an Academy Award for Call Me By Your Name , and Zendaya became the youngest winner of a dramatic Emmy for Best Actress. Little personal information is provided outside of birthdates and causes championed. The narratives are informative and straightforward, although a little dry. Photographs accompany the texts but add little value. Given the popularity of these celebrities with young people, there may be a demand. Styles, Rodrigo, and Zendaya are the subjects of many juvenile biographies; however, the volumes on the other three subjects may be useful. VERDICT Some young readers will appreciate any books they can find about their favorite stars. Selectors should weigh demand against current offerings.

Clayton, Annette M. José Feliciano.illus. by Elisa Chavarri. ISBN 9781731657398.
––––. Pura Belpré.illus. by Elisa Chavarri. ISBN 9781731657299.
Su, Karen. Dalip Singh Saund.illus. by Arlo Li. ISBN 9781731657374.
––––. Yuri Kochiyama.illus. by Arlo Li. ISBN 9781731657282.
ea vol: 24p. (Leaders Like Us). Rourke. Aug. 2023. Tr $29.93.
Gr 1-4–Brief introductions to mostly unknown but noteworthy leaders are presented in these four colorfully illustrated titles. José Feliciano, despite his blindness, taught himself guitar and created music that appeals to millions. Puerto Rican migrant Pura Belpré became New York’s first Hispanic librarian and began bilingual story times so Spanish-speaking children could participate. Indian immigrant Dalip Singh Saund championed citizenship for people from his country and went on to become the first Asian American congressman. Yuri Kochiyama felt the sting of injustice as a World War II Japanese internee and spent the rest of her life fighting for the rights of the disadvantaged. While these volumes do not go into great detail about their subjects, they do provide suitable introductions to mostly lesser known figures. The illustrations are beautifully integrated with the text, giving these titles great appeal for young readers. VERDICT Given that there are few biographies out there on these significant, though less famous, people and these volumes are nice presentations, selectors will do well to consider for purchase.

Daniels, Rachel. Meet Ariana Grande!ISBN 9781680208641.
––––. Meet Beyoncé!ISBN 9781680208658.
––––. Meet Billie Eilish!ISBN 9781680208665.
––––. Meet Bruno Mars!ISBN 9781680208672.
––––. Meet Lizzo!ISBN 9781680208689.
––––. Meet Simone Biles!ISBN 9781680208771.
––––. Meet Stephen Curry!ISBN 9781680208788.
––––. Meet Taylor Swift!ISBN 9781680208696.
ea vol: 24p. (Easy Star Biographies). Mitchell Lane. EZ Readers. Aug. 2023. Tr $28.57.
K-Gr 3–Celebrities popular with youngsters are featured in these colorful volumes. Employing simple, straightforward prose, the author shares facts about recording artists, athletes, and actors. Readers learn that Ariana Grande loves scary movies, Bruno Mars learned to sing at the age of four, fans love Taylor Swift’s red lips, Billie Eilish was homeschooled, and gymnastic skills have been named for Simone Biles. As interesting as these facts will be to the subjects’ fans, the real draw of each of these volumes are the large, colorful photographs. Fashionistas will especially appreciate the costumes of Beyoncé, Eilish, Grande, Lizzo, and Swift, while fans of Biles and Curry will enjoy the action shots of these athletes. VERDICT These age-appropriate introductions with outstanding photographs will appeal to young fans and should be considered for addition in public and school libraries.

Hanlon, Luke. Alex Morgan.ISBN 9781098291662.
––––. Kobe Bryant.ISBN 9781098291686.
––––. Tom Brady.ISBN 9781098291723.
Hewson, Anthony K. Aaron Judge.ISBN 9781098291655.
––––. Josh Allen.ISBN 9781098291679.
––––. Lionel Messi.ISBN 9781098291693.
––––. Patrick Mahomes.ISBN 9781098291709.
––––. Serena Williams.ISBN 9781098291716.
ea vol: 32p. (SportsZone Biographies). Abdo/SportsZone.Sept. 2023. Tr $32.79.
Gr 3-5–Career chronologies of eight famous athletes are traced in these informative volumes. Each begins with a significant moment in the subject’s career, such as Tom Brady’s actions in the 2016 Super Bowl and Alex Morgan’s win at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. These are followed by accounts of successes in their respective fields. Readers learn that Kobe Bryant was the youngest player in NBA history (in 1996), Josh Allen had a 69.2 percent completion rate in 2020, and Lionel Messi was instrumental in Argentina winning the World Cup in 2022. While the information is useful, narratives tend to be nothing more than recitations of the athletes’ achievements, and those looking for information on their personal lives will be disappointed. The dense text is alleviated somewhat by full-page color photographs of the subjects in action. All but Bryant are still living, though Brady and Williams are retired; the volumes on Morgan, Allen, Messi, Mahomes, and Judge will be out of date by the time they hit shelves. Further, most of these athletes are already the subjects of numerous other titles. VERDICT These volumes offer average fare on famous athletes; selectors should consider only where collections need to be refreshed.

Mather, Charis. Trailblazers in Space.ISBN 9798885099585.
––––. Trailblazers in the Air.ISBN 9798885099578.
––––. Trailblazers on Land.ISBN 9798885099561.
––––. Trailblazers on the Sea.ISBN 9798885099554.
ea vol: 24p. (Our Greatest Adventures). Bearport/Fusion. Aug. 2023. Tr $28.50.
Gr 1-3–These four volumes provide young readers with brief introductions to trailblazers of space, air, land, and sea. A two-page spread, accompanied with colorful illustrations, presents people like first in space Yuri Gagarin, the Wright Brothers who flew the first controlled airplane, Annie Londonderry who bicycled around the world, and Bungaree, the first Aboriginal Australian to sail around the world. Though the information about these individuals is scant —readers will learn when they were born, when they died, and their accomplishments—the narratives are interesting. The bright, colorful illustrations will entice readers and encourage them to learn more about the subjects’ amazing achievements. VERDICT These introductory volumes will appeal to browsers, and selectors should consider them for purchase.

Read WIth You. Meet Amrita Sher-Gil.Sept. 2023. ISBN 9798886185065.
––––. Meet Carol Highsmith.Sept. 2023. ISBN 9798886185072.
––––. Meet Clara Peeters.Sept. 2023. ISBN 9798886185522.
––––. Meet Dorothea Lange.Sept. 2023. ISBN 9798886185492.
––––. Meet Horace Pippin.Oct. 2023. ISBN 9798886185485.
––––. Meet Ito Jakuchu.Oct. 2023. ISBN 9798886185508.
––––. Meet Shin Yun-Bok.Oct. 2023. ISBN 9798886185089.
––––. Meet Ustad Mansur.Oct. 2023. ISBN 9798886185515.
ea vol: 36p. (Meet the Artists). Read with You. Tr $15.59.
Gr 2-5–Paintings and photographs of visual artists from various eras and cultures are presented in these volumes in which the artists provide their own first-person narratives. Indian painter Amrita Sher-Gil employed a European style to paint Indian subjects, Carol Highsmith takes photographs of people and places in the United States; Clara Peters was a still life artist during the Renaissance; and photographer Dorothea Lange documented marginalized people of the Great Depression. Horace Pippin created powerful paintings of the early 20th-century Black experience; Ito Jakuchu employed contrasts in his paintings of birds; Shin Yun-Bok was a Korean painter of the Joseon period; and Ustad Mansur framed his nature paintings with beautiful borders. Emphasis is placed on the artwork, so readers looking for biographical information will be disappointed. However, as introductions to the art of lesser-known artists, these volumes do a fine job. Paintings and photographs are reproduced well. VERDICT These titles will enhance art appreciation for young readers and should be considered for purchase.



Upper Elementary to Middle School

Lowe, Lindsey. The Story of Billy the Kid.ISBN 9781978536630.
––––. The Story of Blackbeard.ISBN 9781978536661.
––––. The Story of Bonnie and Clyde.ISBN 9781978536692.
––––. The Story of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.ISBN 9781978536722.
––––. The Story of Jesse James.ISBN 9781978536753.
––––. The Story of Ned Kelly.ISBN 9781978536784.
ea vol: 48p. (On the Run: True Stories of Legendary Outlaws). Enslow. Aug. 2023. Tr $29.60.
Gr 5-8–Some of history’s most infamous outlaws are the subjects of these six volumes. Readers learn that gunslinger Billy the Kid often escaped jail, Blackbeard probably began his career as a privateer, and Bonnie and Clyde killed law enforcement officials as well as their robbery victims. Butch Cassidy robbed but did not kill, Jesse James was influenced by his Confederate sympathies, and Ned Kelly was perceived as a modern day Robin Hood. The author mostly provides a sympathetic view of the subjects: Billy the Kid was orphaned as a teen, Clyde Barrow was abused on a prison farm, and Jesse James faced a difficult childhood. Many viewed Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as “romantic outlaws” as, to quote the author, “They only stole from institutions such as banks, railroads, and mining companies who could afford it.” Otherwise these volumes are factual and comprehensive, although not exciting reads. Many photographs accompanying the texts are poorly reproduced. VERDICT These titles will suffice for reports, but browsers will probably pass. Selection should be based on research needs.

LUSTED, Marcia Amidon. The Untold Story of Michael Collins. ISBN 9781669015949.
Mansfield, Nicole A. The Untold Story of Barbara Rose Johns. ISBN 9781669016106.
––––. The Untold Story of Charlotta Spears Bass.ISBN 9781669016021.
TYNER, Dr. Artika R. The Untold Story of John P. Parker.ISBN 9781669016182.
ea vol: 32p. (First but Forgotten). Capstone. Aug. 2023. Tr $31.32.
Gr 4-6–The lives and accomplishments of people who have been forgotten to history are presented in these four volumes. While Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were making headlines for walking on the moon, Michael Collins was flying the command module and ensuring their safety. Barbara Rose Johns initiated a strike in her segregated high school that precipitated Brown v. Board of Education. Charlotta Spears Bass was the first Black woman to run for vice president of the United States. Before Harriet Tubman gained fame as a conductor of the Underground Railroad, John P. Parker was bringing escaped slaves to Ohio. The emphasis in each title is on the important historical events, with only basic personal data such as birthdates, marriages, and a brief synopsis of their later lives included. The authors employ direct prose, and the narratives are accompanied by photographs and illustrations. VERDICT Informative and enlightening, these volumes will be of value to broader collections attempting to cover more than just well-known figures and should be considered for purchase.

Markovics, Joyce. Aretha Franklin.ISBN 9781668927809.
––––. Ella Fitzgerald.ISBN 9781668927816.
––––. Jimi Hendrix.ISBN 9781668927823.
––––. Kendrick Lamar.ISBN 9781668927830.
––––. Lizzo.ISBN 9781668927847.
––––. Muddy Waters.ISBN 9781668927854.
ea vol: 24p. (Groundbreakers: Black Musicians). Cherry Lake. Aug. 2023. Tr $30.64.
Gr 4-6–The career highlights of prominent Black musicians are chronicled in these volumes showcasing their subjects’ musical achievements. Aretha Franklin began singing to cope with the loss of her mother, eventually becoming the “Queen of Soul.” After winning a talent contest, Jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald went on to become the “First Lady of Song” as well as the first Black American woman to win a Grammy. Jimi Hendrix taught himself how to play the guitar and was the highest paid musician in the world before his untimely death. Kendrick Lamar turned his writing skills into a successful rap career. Lizzo overcame body shaming while pursuing success with her music. Muddy Waters created the Chicago blues sound. This series emphasizes the music; outside birth dates and mentions of partners, little personal information is divulged. Photographs appropriately accompany the texts. Most of these subjects are covered in many other biographies, and the volumes on Lamar and Lizzo will quickly date. VERDICT The subjects are interesting and influential, but as other works are available on them, selectors should mostly consider these where collections need refreshing.

Martin, Emmett. The Words of Eleanor Roosevelt.ISBN 9781642826951.
––––. The Words of Frederick Douglass.ISBN 9781642827019.
––––. The Words of Helen Keller.ISBN 9781642826982.
––––. The Words of Lewis and Clark.ISBN 9781642827040.
––––. The Words of Malcolm X.ISBN 9781642827071.
––––. The Words of Thomas Jefferson.ISBN 9781642827101.
ea vol: 32p. (Historical Perspectives: In Their Own Words). Rosen/PowerKids. Aug. 2023. Tr $27.93.
Gr 3-6–Biographies of a diverse set of famous Americans are presented in these volumes that integrate the subjects’ own words. Most quotations are pulled from their autobiographies while others are from journals and famous writings. Readers learn how important the fight for social justice was to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and activist Helen Keller. Former enslaved person Frederick Douglass advocated for abolitionist causes, while Malcolm X fought for Civil Rights. The journals of Lewis and Clark provided the details of their famous expedition, and the words of Thomas Jefferson reveal his views on learning and liberty. These books aim to create a better understanding of dynamic historical figures by considering them through their own words, and to some degree that aim succeeds. However, little new information is presented on people for whom there are already numerous titles, and the quotes used are easily accessible elsewhere. Illustrations and photographs accompany but do not really complement the text, which tends to run a little dry. VERDICT These volumes will suffice as refreshers for collections that need report references.

Schwartz, Heather E. Harry Styles.ISBN 9781728491776.
––––. Kendrick Lamar.ISBN 9781728491745.
––––. U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.ISBN 9781728491752.
Smith, Elliott. Stephen Curry.ISBN 9781728491783.
Sonneborn, Liz. Sonia Sotomayor.ISBN 9781728491769.
ea vol: 48p. (Gateway Biographies). Lerner. Aug. 2023. Tr $31.99.
Gr 4-6–The careers of four famous people and one soccer team are chronicled in these five volumes. Readers will learn that artist Kendrick Lamar recorded his first songs at age 16 and became the first rapper to win a Pulitzer, while Stephen Curry was rejected by his dream school before taking Davidson College to the NCAA championship. Though raised in a working-class neighborhood, Sonia Sotomayor’s determination to practice law led her to Yale, and eventually the Supreme Court. Information about personal lives is limited to brief mentions of parents and relationships, and no personal data on the soccer stars is included at all. Laudatory in their praises, authors omit controversy while charitable works are noted. Photographs accompany the texts but do not enhance them. Narratives run a little dry, but the information contained in these titles would be suitable for report purposes. However, numerous biographies have already covered these subjects, and interested readers will probably prefer individual titles on U.S. Women’s Soccer team members. VERDICT These volumes feature subjects already covered in other books and at best would be additional purchases.


Upper Middle School to High School

Rogers, Kate. From 1600 to 1800—William Harvey to Georges Cuvier. ISBN 9781499474763.
––––. From 1800 to 1860—Alexander von Humboldt to Gregor Mendel. ISBN 9781499474794.
––––. From 1860 to 1920—Louis Pasteur to Henrietta Swan Leavitt. ISBN 9781499474824.
––––. From 1920 to 1960—Ernest Rutherford to J. Robert Oppenheimer. ISBN 9781499474855.
––––. From 1960 to 2000—Hans Bethe to Steven Pinker.ISBN 9781499474886.
––––. From Ancient Greece to 1600—Asclepius to Johannes Kepler. ISBN 9781499474732.
ea vol: 64p. (History’s Most Influential Scientists). Rosen/Britanica. Aug. 2023. Tr $38.86.
Gr 9 Up–The endeavors of famous scientists are related in these chronological volumes. Readers will learn that Roger Bacon was an early advocate of experimental science; Edward Jenner discovered the first safe smallpox vaccine; physicist Michael Faraday increased our understanding of electromagnetism, and much more. Little information on personal lives is provided; the three-to-seven page articles on each are almost entirely consumed with theories, experiments, and explanations about their respective research. Subjects are almost exclusively from Europe and North America, and few women are included. The scientific language employed—thermodynamics, quantum electrodynamics, and corpuscular conception of light , for example—means those consulting these volumes should already have a working knowledge of the scientist or their work. Nearly all data provided can be found elsewhere, and those interested in more personal details will certainly have to look to other sources. Despite dense text and somewhat tedious reads, these volumes will complement a high school science curriculum nicely, making them suitable additions to reference collections. VERDICT Though there is nothing new offered here, these volumes will satisfy a need for a science reference collection that needs updating.

Young readers will appreciate the information and pictures in “Easy Star Biographies” (Mitchell Lane) while older readers will glean much from “First But Forgotten” (Capstone). “Leaders Like Us” (Rourke) will introduce students to important, but lesser-known people of distinction, as will “Our Greatest Adventures” (Bearport), and “Meet the Artists” (Read With You)may ignite an interest in unfamiliar artists.

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