Friday, November 13, 2009

Biographies for Younger Readers

Uma and Dana in the Youth Services Department have been buying lots of interesting books lately. Here are three biographies that I enjoyed.

You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax? by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Andre Carrilho. Random House, 2009. ISBN 9780375837388

Sandy Koufax has never really been forgotten by any baseball fan over 50 years of age, old enough to remember actually seeing the Dodger play. Jonah Winter aims to tell the latest generation about the player with the blazing fastball, who stunned the sports world by retiring early to keep from further hurting his arm. The quickly-told story with cartoonish characters serves as a cautionary tale as well as a tribute. The tilt-it-and-he-pitches book cover works best if you look at it with only one eye.

I and I: Bob Marley by Tony Medina, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson. Lee & Low Books, 2009. ISBN 9781600602573

Biographies are not often written in verse. Tony Medina recounts the short life of the Jamaican singer Bob Marley in sixteen poems, accompanied by what look to me like tempera paintings (but with great ability to mix the colors). The poems give the reader a sense of the life without detailed narrative, and the illustrations establish a mood. Medina follows the poems with detailed explanatory notes from which the curious reader can learn the specifics of Marley's life. Medina's emphasis is that Marley's life was not tragic - that the singer's music still lives.

Amelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator by Shelley Tanaka, illustrated by David Craig. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2008. ISBN 9780810970953

Recognizing courage and furthering the belief that women can do anything are author Shelley Tanaka's aims in telling the story of Amelia Earhart, who disappeared in the Pacific Ocean in 1937, just a few days short of finishing her around-the-world-at-the-equator quest. Tanaka tells how Earhart had succeeded against great odds before; her failure was difficult for her fans to accept. In addition to getting an engaging biography, readers young and old learn how dangerous aviation was before modern communication and navigation systems.

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