Posts Tagged ‘H. Joseph Hopkins’

Whenever I begin a new project I like to read several books in the same genre. This helps me get a feel for trends and what’s happening in the market. My current focus has been reading picture book biographies.

I have to admit that biographies are not my favorite in the picture book genre. They tend to be long, wordy and I find myself losing attention pretty quickly. But to my surprise, I discovered several biographies that broke this mold.


Title: Me…Jane

Author: Patrick McDonnell

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Book Description from publisher:

In his characteristic heartwarming style, Patrick McDonnell tells the story of the young Jane Goodall and her special childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. As the young Jane observes the natural world around her with wonder, she dreams of “a life living with and helping all animals,” until one day she finds that her dream has come true.

One of the world’s most inspiring women, Dr. Jane Goodall is a renowned humanitarian, conservationist, animal activist, environmentalist, and United Nations Messenger of Peace. In 1977 she founded the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), a global nonprofit organization that empowers people to make a difference for all living things.

With anecdotes taken directly from Jane Goodall’s autobiography, McDonnell makes this very true story accessible for the very young–and young at heart.Me-Jane-image

Book Thoughts:

Me…Jane is a lovely picture book. Jane’s  heart and passion for animals are threaded through the spare text and illustrations. This is a biography that reads like a picture book. If you are looking for an in depth description of Dr. Jane Goodall’s life, this is not the book for you. This is more of a peek through the window of her life and leads you to search out more answers.


Title: The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever

Author: H. Joseph Hopkins

Illustrator: Jill McElmurry

Publisher: Beach Lane Books

Description from the publisher: 

Katherine Olivia Sessions never thought she’d live in a place without trees. After all, Kate grew up among the towering pines and redwoods of Northern California. But after becoming the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science, she took a job as a teacher far south in the dry desert town of San Diego. Where there were almost no trees.

Kate decided that San Diego needed trees more than anything else. So this trailblazing young woman singlehandedly started a massive movement that transformed the town into the green, garden-filled oasis it is today. Now, more than 100 years after Kate first arrived in San Diego, her gorgeous gardens and parks can be found all over the city.

Part fascinating biography, part inspirational story, this moving picture book about following your dreams, using your talents, and staying strong in the face of adversity is sure to resonate with readers young and old. tree lady 1

Book Thoughts:

Author H. Joseph Hopkins has written a beautiful picture book that dares to defy the traditional picture book biography model. All of the pertinent information is present and accounted for, but the fun refrain at the end of each paragraph helps give this book a more traditional picture book feel rather than dry biography.


Title: Thomas Jefferson: Life, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything

Author: Maira Kalman

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Book Description from publisher: 

Renowned artist Maira Kalman sheds light on the fascinating life and interests of the Renaissance man who was our third president.

Thomas Jefferson is perhaps best known for writing the Declaration of Independence—but there’s so much more to discover. This energetic man was interested in everything. He played violin, spoke seven languages and was a scientist, naturalist, botanist, mathematician and architect. He designed his magnificent home, Monticello, which is full of objects he collected from around the world. Our first foodie, he grew over fifteen kinds of peas and advocated a mostly vegetarian diet. And oh yes, as our third president, he doubled the size of the United States and sent Lewis and Clark to explore it. He also started the Library of Congress and said, “I cannot live without books.” But monumental figures can have monumental flaws, and Jefferson was no exception. Although he called slavery an “abomination,” he owned about 150 slaves.

As she did in Looking at Lincoln, Maira Kalman shares a president’s remarkable, complicated life with young readers, making history come alive with her captivating text and stunning illustrations.imgres

Book Thoughts:

This is another book that defies the definition of dry boring picture book biography. Packed full of interesting facts and fun, quirky illustrations, Ms. Kalman’s biography is anything but boring. This book is great for children interested in looking a little deeper into the subjects life.

While different in subject and execution, each of the above books have perfectly managed to take a subject that could be boring and present it in a new and interesting way. Do you have any other biographies that break the mold? I would love to hear about them?

Happy Reading,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk


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