Biographies

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#1 – Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers by Sarah Warren 

This was a great picture book highlighting the role of Dolores Huerta in the struggle for fair treatment for migrant farm workers in the second half of the 20th century. The book does not give extremely specific details about her life or what she has done, but rather a broader picture of who she is as a person and what methods she used to accomplish what she wanted to accomplish. Nearly every page starts with describing Dolores in a different role (for example “Dolores is a warrior” or “Dolores is an organizer”), and then goes on to explain how this role defines a part of her stand against unfair treatment of migrant workers. The illustrations in the book are really wonderful – very bright, colorful, and realistic. I think they add a lot to the telling of the story. In the back of the book is a timeline telling more specific details about Dolores’ life and also a page of references to learn more about her. 

Before reading this book, I had never even heard of Dolores Huerta, so I’m sure many students have not either. Her story, however, is really important and I think this book could be a great way to help students recognize that the fight for a fair workplace still happens today, in many different settings and contexts. The book also does a good job of showing the progression of Dolores’ fight and the different steps she went through to make some changes happen. For some students, this may help them understand how processes like this occur. 

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#2 – Harriet Tubman: Hero of the Underground Railroad by Lori Mortensen

This picture book was definitely good, but I am not completely blown away. It was fun to read about Harriet Tubman in a context other than a textbook, but I feel like it could have done a better job of explaining what she did and the significance of what she did. I do like how it outlined her entire life, including what she did after the Civil War ended. 

This book could certainly be a great way to introduce Harriet Tubman if students were focusing specifically on her in class. I think this biography could be a good one to read aloud to the whole class, then assign a group of students a certain section of the text and have them do their own research to learn more about what was discussed in their section. Each group could present their findings. This may be a good way to engage the students more in the information. 

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#3 – John F. Kennedy by Marta Randall 

At first I was afraid this biography was going to be very boring and drag on, but it turned out to be really interesting and well-written. The book grabs the reader’s attention immediately with having the first chapter be about the assassination of JFK. It then goes on to describe his background and his movement up to presidency, eventually bringing it full circle at his death. Real photographs of JFK, his family, and others throughout the entire book help get the full effect and story of who JFK was and the events that surrounded him. Many of the pages also have quotes from JFK or others who were close to him commenting on different parts of his life and his role as president of the United States. 

The part I liked most about the book is that his biography is largely shaped around the bigger historic events that were happening at this time. JFK’s life and presidency are described in relation to how he handled all these different things going on in America and in the world at the time. So, not only would students learn about JFK from reading this book, but they would also learn a lot about the 1950s-60s. For example, the last three chapters are entitled Berlin and the Soviet Union, The Cuban Missile Crisis, and Civil Rights. I think students could really benefit from using this book either as a supplement or addition to the textbook. It seems easier to read than most textbooks and certainly has more fun and interesting photographs. 

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One thought on “Biographies

  1. These are some interesting choices. Thanks for commenting on the art because this can be such an important part of the success of the book. I was sorry to hear that the Tubman book wasn’t great. Moses is a book about her that is excellent.

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