Saturday, April 10, 2010

Children's Biography Series

I have already written at length about our favorite children's biographies - Landmark Books. But there are others out there as well. Here is a sampling. (Of course, I will end up comparing everything to the Landmark Series.)

Discovery Book Biographies are a HUGE set. They have biographies for many, many people. They are simple and well done. I would say they are written for the child who is just starting with chapter books. Basically, late first, second, or third grade. They are not too long to be read-alouds to kindergartners.
The spine looks like this and the company that publishes them is Gerrard. One does frequently find them with dust jackets still, however my children are hard on the jackets so mine disappear. Thomas and T-Bob loved this series and went through our biography shelves and pulled them and read them all. They gained a really good grasp of history from this and of the many characters in it.

These books have pictures on almost every set of pages. They are more than picture books, but do have enough pictures to really draw in the younger reader. You used to be able to find this series all the time at used book sales, but they are definitely becoming rarer. Grab them if you see them and still have younger readers.

This is the classic look of the series about the Childhoods of Famous Americans. This is very collectible in the orange cover, however it has been reprinted in paperback. The paperbacks can be bought new or found at used book sales. They are dark blue with red and white writing on the covers.

The old ones have the silhouette illustrations. I would classify these as biographical fiction. They are good stories, but they are not as historically accurate as Landmark or even the Discovery series. They are good reads though. I can still remember reading them as a child.

The Signature Series was written to compete with Landmark Books - they don't. They do have some very good authors, but they are fictionalized 'biographies'. They are written as stories with characters that interact with the title character.

They are also written on a slightly lower reading level. My DH likes to pick up Landmarks and read them to learn, he would have no interest in these. These are good stories. They have quite a few more pictures than Landmark. There is also a companion series to the Signature Biographies and those are the 'You Were There' Series. This is a fictionalized account of different events in history. The ones I like are the ones about the major battles of WWII. They give a good sense of the location, history and characters of those battles. T-Bob has really enjoyed those.

They do have some different biographies from Landmark. If it is a person I don't have too many biographies of and the author writes well, I don't mind having them on my shelf. They have reprinted a couple of these titles in a Weekly Reader style binding.

Ronald Syme is an author who writes about the different explorers. His writing level is just a shade above the Discovery Series. Sometimes it is hard to find biographies of these men, and it is nice to find a good author that the children enjoy reading.
I must confess something here. I am a bibliophile. It is almost an addiction. There is no 12 step program for this 'disease' - mostly because we don't want one. I have a 3,500+ volume children's library. Yes, I have read almost every book we own. Believe it or not, I am selective about what we have on our shelves. I will post another time about the paradigm shift in the writing of children's books that occurred in the last 40-50 years. Maybe someday I will give a pictorial post of the beautiful library that my DH built for our family. However, we are once again doing a serious amount of double shelving. So many books, So little space.
Let me know if you are looking for a specific book on a particular topic. I may have a title to suggest to you. If you know me locally, I may have one to loan you.
(Did I mention that my maiden name was 'Reader'? That's the truth!)


  1. Would you have the one on Queen Liliuolalani? Looking for it everywhere.

  2. I do have a biography of Queen Lilioulalani. Not sure if it is the one you are looking for, or if there is only one. Are you looking to borrow and read or to own it?
    Mama Mango