Monday, March 10, 2008

Non-Fiction Monday: Biographies

I love reading biographies written for school-age kids. They are so much more readable than adult biographies and I often walk away knowing more about the person featured in the book than if I had read an adult version (probably because I end up skimming the longer, more dense ones). These two bios are great for kids, the first being written in more of a diary form for younger kids and the second being a biography for the older crowd.

A Boy Named Beckoning: The True Story of Dr. Carlos Montezuma, Native American Hero, was both adapted and illustrated by Gina Capaldi. Told in Montezuma's own words, this book is the true story of a boy named Wassaja, meaning "Beckoning" in his language. Wassaja was kidnapped by the Pima Indians and sold as a slave, to white men at the age of only five. The boy grows up to be Dr. Montezuma, working for Native American rights, as well as an esteemed medical doctor.

The book includes photographs and original letters, as well as diary entries and small tidbits of Native American facts along the sidebars. Also included are author's notes and an excellent bibliography for future research. The illustrations are beautiful and help to tell Dr. Montezuma's story in a fluid and strong manner. I'm ashamed to say I had never heard of Dr. Montezuma before I read this book, but was intrigued to learn as much as I could once I did complete his story, especially because I live so close to where his birth and kidnapping took place in Arizona.

This is great for classes studying Native America history or for those studying great men in history. Dr. Montezuma certainly qualifies as a great man!

For upper middle grade levels, into high school, I have a great biography of Willa Cather, written by Milton Meltzer. Willa Cather was an amazing author, having written the infamous My Antonia, as well as the Pulitzer prize winner One of Ours. Though an extremely private woman, this biography of Cather delves deep into both her personal and professional life, offering up a wealth of information on how she became as successful as she did, in a time where women were expected to remain in the home. The book includes great photographs, a chronology of Cather's life, as well as a list of the works written by Cather.

For those involved in projects centering on one individual or woman, this biography of Cather is excellent. It includes all the information one could possibly want, while still being written on a level that kids, though older kids, can definitely understand.

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