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15 Diverse Picture Book Biographies

Sarah S. Davis

Staff Writer

Sarah S. Davis holds a BA in English from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master's of Library Science from Clarion University, and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Sarah has also written for Electric Literature, Kirkus Reviews, Audible, Psych Central, and more. Sarah is the founder of Broke By Books blog and runs a tarot reading business, Divination Vibration. Twitter: @missbookgoddess Instagram: @Sarahbookgoddess

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Picture book biographies are a great way to introduce the life of influential people to the youngest readers. Through the stories they tell, these biographies help children learn about diversity. In this inclusive list of 15 diverse picture book biographies, you’ll find celebrations of the lives of a variety of leaders, artists, athletes, and activists. Get ready, get set, and get going adding these to your TBR list.

Diverse Picture Book Biographies

All the Way to the Top cover

All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything by Annette Bay Pimentel, Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins, and Nabi H. Ali

This picture book tells the remarkable story of Jennifer Keelan, a disability rights activist who participated in the Capitol Crawl to convince Congress to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Cat Man of Aleppo by Irene Latham, Karim Shamsi-Basha, and Yuko Shimizu

If your child loves cats, you definitely want to check out The Cat Man of Aleppo, the true story of how Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel helped feed and care for the many pet cats left behind during the Syrian Civil War. This hopeful story is a must-read for any feline fan.

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln by Margarita Engle and Rafael López

Dancing Hands follows piano prodigy Teresa Carreño, a Venezuelan refugee who came to America and enthralled the world with her musical gifts that transcended language barriers. Dancing Hands highlights Carreño’s performance in front of President Lincoln in 1883. Can her music help heal the country?

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks by Suzanne Slade and Cozbi A. Cabrera

Exquisite memorializes the life and writing of poet-author Gwendolyn Brooks, a groundbreaking writer who became the first Black American to win a Pulitzer Prize. Slade and Cabrera’s acclaimed picture book about Brooks was a Coretta Scott King Nominee for Illustration.

Fauja Singh Keeps Going by Simran Jeet Singh and Baljinder Kaur

This lively picture book biography showcases the story of gritty athlete Fauja Singh, who smashed records as the first 100-year-old to run a marathon, a stunning achievement for someone who had mobility issues as a child.

Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes by Wab Kinew and Joe Morse

Go Show the World champions the work of noteworthy American and Canadian Indigenous people from history to present, from the well-known to those whose powerful stories are more unsung. Based on a song, Go Show the World‘s inspiring refrain is: “You’re a person who matters. Yes, it’s true. Now go show the world what a person who matters can do.”

Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson and David Shannon

Robbie Robertson and David Shannon bring the remarkable story of Hiawatha to life. In the 14th century, Hiawatha helped bring peace to the five Iroquois nations at war with one another. Thanks to Hiawatha’s peacemaking leadership, the Iroquois united, laying the groundwork for political change.

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings, and Shelagh McNicholas

I Am Jazz draws on co-author Jazz Jennings’s life as a transgender and queer rights activist. This picture book biography covers Jennings’s journey as she and her family find a way for Jennings to live a life true to her identity.

Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuko Ando by Andrea Wang and Kana Urbanowicz

In Magic Ramen, readers meet the influential Momofuku Ando, who made it his mission to find a way to serve ramen to hungry people after World War II. Ando believed that “Peace follows from a full stomach” and helped pioneer the soup that’s now loved all over the world.

Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up To Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz and A.G. Ford

Many are familiar with the groundbreaking work by Black minister and human rights activist Malcolm X, but they might not know his origin story. Fortunately, in Malcolm Little readers learn about Malcolm before he became Malcolm X, with a focus on the influences that would later inform his ideas, beliefs, and actions.

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey and Dow Phumiruk

This picture book biography showcases the life of Maya Lin, an artist whose design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was chosen when she was just 21. Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines digs deep to show how art shaped Lin’s life, having grown up in a family of artists and taking to art from a young age.

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders and Steven Salerno

Pride champions the work of politician and queer rights activist Harvey Milk. Pride also focuses on the creation of the iconic rainbow flag by Gilbert Baker, the designer of the flag that is now seen as a symbol of queer identity around the world. Readers looking for a book for Pride Month — and beyond! — will definitely want to check out Pride.

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

In this picture book biography, readers learn about the incredible activist work done by Sylvia Mendez and her family to end school segregation in California in 1947. Author-illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh’s moving picture book biography ensures that Mendez’s life and work will never be forgotten.


Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story by Paula Yoo and Lin Wang

Shining Star celebrates the first Chinese American movie star, Anna May Wong. In Shining Star, readers are introduced to Wong, with a focus on the origins of Wong’s love for cinema while she was just a kid. Shining Star also highlights Wong’s activism for Asian American actors.

Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku by Ellie Crowe and Richard Waldrep

This stunning picture book brings to life the enormous achievements of Duke Kahanamoku, a Native Hawaiian six-time Olympic champion swimmer who also helped popularize surfing around the globe.

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