Monday, November 10, 2008

The Not-So-Random Shelf: Biography

What’s your favorite patriotic song? For some, nothing but “The Star Spangled Banner” will do. Others prefer “God Bless America” or “America (My Country Tis of Thee).” Many people would undoubtedly mention “America the Beautiful” as their favorite (perhaps because it’s admittedly easier to sing than our national anthem?).

While traveling throughout the country, Katharine Lee Bates discovered the diverse beauty of this country. Traveling by prairie wagon with her fellow teachers, Bates was understandably tired when she arrived at the top of Pikes Peak (CO). When her eyes took in the overwhelming beauty of the country, she said she felt “great joy.”

Her poem was published in several literary magazines and earned her much fame. Bates’s inspiring life is well portrayed in Barbara Younger’s Purple Mountain Majesties: The Story of Katherine Lee Bates and America the Beautiful. Splendid illustrations and text introduce us to this great American woman. If you have a lower elementary student needing a biography for Women’s History Month, this would be an excellent choice.

On the other hand, if your lower elementary student needs a biography for Black History Month, Hank Aaron: Brave in Every Way should be at the top of the list.

Hank Aaron is, of course, best known for breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record on April 8, 1974. Not everyone was cheering him on, though; he received hate mail for daring to breach Ruth’s record. Aaron was determined to break the record; through hard work and determination, he achieved his dream. Hank’s childhood ambition and the barriers he overcame to make his name in baseball are told in honest and inspiring prose. Rich illustrations bring Aaron’s story alive and immediate. Hank Aaron: Brave in Every Way would also be a great classroom read aloud for any time of the year.

Perhaps you’re looking for a biography of a famous composer? Sebastian: A Book About Bach is somewhat fanciful but a fun introduction to this brilliant composer. From his early days as a composer, to his large family (20 children), and his eventual decline, Bach’s life is told in a breezy and friendly manner. This is also suitable for a read aloud.

Biographies...Not Boring!

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