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Suggested Biographies by Grade Level


Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Explore these fascinating stories about real people. Grade levels are suggested, but remember that each Reader is different, and might find something interesting at another level. Under each grade is a link for even more titles.


A boy and a jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz

Tells the story of a young boy with a speech impediment, who overcame his difficulties by working with animals.

Tells the story of the young Keith Richards, who was introduced to the joy of music through his beloved granddad, affectionately known as "Gus.".

Just being Audrey by Margaret Cardillo

Illustrations and text describe the life of Audrey Hepburn, beginning with her childhood, and describing her life in Nazi-occupied Holland, her dreams of becoming a prima ballerina, her success as an actress, and her efforts to help the world's children through UNICEF.

Mattie Knight loved to make things ranging from a foot warmer for her mother or toys for her older brothers. Or, when she was 12, a metal guard to prevent shuttles from shooting off looms and hurting workers. Later, Mattie invented a machine that could cut and glue the square-bottomed paper bags we still use today. Meet the woman known as "the Lady Edison."

"A biography of Carl Sagan focusing on his childhood and culminating in the Voyager mission and the Golden Record."

More suggestions for Kindergarteners.

First Grade

Looks at the life of the artist Benny Andrews illustrated with his original paintings, from his childhood and youth in rural Georgia, through his studies in Chicago and his activism and artistic success in New York City.

A picture book biography of oceanographer Sylvia Earle, discussing her childhood along the Gulf of Mexico, her passion for the environment, and her experiences in ocean exploration.

Illustrations and text describe the life of Lipman Pike, who grew up more interested in baseball than his father's small haberdashery in Brooklyn, and became one of the sport's iconic players.

A picture book biography of urban environmental artist Tyree Guyton, discussing his childhood in 1950s Detroit and the way he used art to transform his decaying, crime-ridden neighborhood into an internationally-recognized exhibit.

Also available in: e-book | audiobook

Mumbet's Declaration of Independence tells the story of a Massachusetts slave from the Revolutionary era--in 1781, she successfully used the new Massachusetts Constitution to make a legal case that she should be free.

More suggestions for First Graders.

Second Grade

"Alfred Nobel was the man who founded what became known as The Nobel Prizes. Nobel also invented dynamite, becoming very wealthy from his invention. Saddened by its use for harmful destruction, Nobel left his fortune to create yearly prizes for those who have rendered the greatest services to mankind"--Provided by publisher.

Dare the wind by Tracey E Fern

Describes how Ellen Prentiss received sailing lessons from her father during childhood, married a ship captain, and helped set a world speed record during the Gold Rush era.

Mo Willems by Abby Colich

"Presents the life and career of Mo Willems, including his childhood, education, and milestones as a best selling children's author." Find his work in the library catalog if you like humorous stories.

Presents an introduction to the abolitionist and women's rights activist, narrating her rise from former slave to preacher and orator a century before the Civil Rights Movement.

Examines the life of Peter Mark Roget and his invention of the thesaurus. If you're into words, look for picture books about Noah Webster and the dictionary in JBIO WEBSTER.

More suggestions for Second Graders.

Third Grade

A home for Mr. Emerson by Barbara Kerley

A portrait of the American writer imagines his early years as a city youth whose dreams about the fields and woods of the country inspired him to pursue a literary life based around the things he loved.

Presents the life of the astrophysicist, including his childhood in the Bronx, his academic career, and his status as a scientific expert.

This biography profiles the life of Bass Reeves, a former slave who was recruited as a deputy United States Marshal in the area that was to become Oklahoma.

"Read about this American artist, activist, and passionate bird lover from his days as a child, to art student, to creator of the Peterson Field Guides, to global environmentalist. Peterson's guides were revolutionary--simply written and drawn for everyone to enjoy the birds, animals, and plants of the outdoors. Millions of copies have sold to date. Author Peggy Thomas and artist Laura Jacques worked closely with the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York, to create the first children's book about this great naturalist."

More suggestions for Third Graders.

Fourth Grade

Ali : an American champion by Barry Denenberg

Puts the famous boxer in to historical context through the use of newspaper articles, interviews, opinion pieces, and photographs.

Presents an introduction to the life of the passionate performer and civil rights activist that traces her journey from the slums of St. Louis to the world's most famous stages.

"Dorothy Mary Kamenshek was born to immigrant parents in Norwood, Ohio. As a young girl, she played pickup games of sandlot baseball with neighborhood children. The outbreak of World War II and the ensuing draft of able-bodied young men severely depleted the ranks of professional baseball. In 1943, Phillip K. Wrigley led the initiative to establish a new league--a women's league, and Kamenshek was selected and assigned to the Rockford Peaches in their inaugural season. When injuries finally put an end to her playing days, she went on to a successful career in physical therapy. Fame came again in 1992, when Geena Davis portrayed a player loosely based on Kamenshek in the hit movie A League of Their Own."

"Sally Ride was more than the first woman in space--she was a real-life explorer and adventurer whose life story is a true inspiration for all those who dream big. Most people know Sally Ride as the first American female astronaut to travel in space. But in her lifetime she was also a nationally ranked tennis player, a physicist who enjoyed reading Shakespeare, a university professor, the founder of a company that helped inspire girls and young women to pursue careers in science and math, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. From Sally Ride's youth to her many groundbreaking achievements in space and beyond, Sue Macy's riveting biography tells the story of not only a pioneering astronaut, but a leader and explorer whose life, as President Barack Obama said, "demonstrates that the sky is no limit for those who dream of reaching for the stars.""--.

The author describes her battle against polio when she was thirteen and her efforts to overcome its debilitating effects. For another true story about polio, try One Step at a Time.

More suggestions for Fourth Graders.

Fifth Grade

Looking for more women in computing? Try a biography about Grace Hopper.

The fictionalized story of Robinson Crusoe was inspired by Alexander Selkirk's real-life adventures.

Describes the peaceful protest organized by teenager Barbara Rose Johns in order to secure a permanent building for her segregated high school in Virginia in 1951, and explains how her actions helped fuel the civil rights movement.

An account of the early life of Gerald R. Ford, up through high school. More biographies about the president from Michigan can be found in JBIO FORD.

More suggestions for Fifth Graders.

Sixth Grade

Cheaper by the dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth
Also available in: audiobook

The story of an efficiency expert with a dozen children, the story continues in Belles on their Toes.

"The as yet unpublished memoirs for young adults of the only female SOE agent to lead a French Resistance network during World War II." If you're interested in a fictional account that follows a female agent, try Code Name Verity.

Examines how a team of scientists and historians unearthed a Maryland homestead from the 1600s and details the painstaking work required to restore the ruin to its former glory.

Traces the story of Holocaust survivor Leon Leyson, who was the youngest child in his family and possibly the youngest of the hundreds of Jews rescued by Oskar Schindler. Many readers find the story of Anne Frank, but there are many other similar tales.

These two brothers are responsible for many of the fairy tales we know and love today. Find the fairy tales in the J398 section, including this Illustrated Treasury.

More suggestions for Sixth Graders.

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