Best biographies and autobiographies for children
Our world and our history are full of inspiring people and their stories. Through biographies and autobiographies for children those stories are brought to life with captivating imagery, memorable anecdotes and age-appropriate honesty. Young readers today have access to a huge number of wonderful biographical titles and collections, so whether your child would like to read about singers, sufragists or scientists you'll have plenty of options to choose from.
Biographical stories inspire the next generation
According to a new survey of 1,000 UK children aged 6‐16, when asked “Who, if anyone, would you most like to be when you grow up?” one quarter (25%) of young people answered that they’d like to be a scientist, closely followed by athlete (17%) and artist or designer (16%).
Three‐quarters of respondents agree they want a career in which they can be creative, with a further 73% stating they want a career where they can help people. Just under a fifth (16%) stated they would like to be an environmentalist or climate change activist.
‘Young people today are often accused of only wanting fame and fortune,' says Katie Cotton, Group Publisher for the Little People, BIG DREAMS books at the Quarto Group. 'I’m delighted that this research has shown something that we know already: they’re more inspired by people working hard to make a difference in our world.’
Our favourite biographies and autobiographies for kids
Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl's best-selling autobiography, which covers his childhood years, is packed with sad, idyllic, funny, unpleasant and incredibly vivid stories. The perfect autobiography read for primary school children (who will also enjoy the sequel, Going Solo).
Counting the Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician by Lesa Cline-Ransome
(£13, Simon & Schuster)
An informative and inspiring picture book biography of the remarkable mathematician Katherine Johnson, one of the NASA "human computers" whose work was critical to the first US space launch in the 1960s.
Becoming: Adapted for Younger Readers by Michelle Obama
Adapted for children aged 10+, with a special introduction. Michelle Obama's life story, "in all its messy glory", encourages readers to think about their own life and how they will become themselves as they grow up and keep growing and changing.
Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant
(£13.99, Random House)
When Louis Braille lost his sight as a child there were no books for him to read. And so he invented his own alphabet that could be read by touch, a system so ingenious that it is still used by the blind community today. A beautiful picture book portrait of one of the world's greatest inventors.
Portrait of an Artist: Frida Kahlo by Lucy Brownridge
(£10.99, Wide Eyed Editions)
A colourful, thoughtful art book for children, telling the story of Mexican artist's Frida Kahlo's life through her masterpieces. The text is accompanied by stunning, detail-packed original imagery from award-winning illustrator Sandra Dieckmann.
Greta's Story: The Schoolgirl Who Went On Strike To Save The Planet by Valentina Camerini
(£6.99, Simon & Schuster)
On 20 August 2018 fifteen-year-old Greta Thunberg didn't attend school but went on strike in front of Sweden’s parliament building. This KS2 biography introduces children to the climate activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee who has inspired millions with her campaign.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
(£6.99, Harper Collins Children’s Books)
Judith Kerr's semi-autobiographical classic fictionalises her Jewish family's experiences of escaping Nazi Germany in the days before WWII. Told from the point of view of ten year old Anna, this account of life as a child refugee is extremely moving and highly recommended.
The Extraordinary Life of Alan Turing by Michael Lee Richardson
Alan Turing started life as a quiet boy who loved maths and become a mathematician and codebreaker who helped save millions of lives in the Second World War by building a machine to decode secret enemy messages. The Extraordinary Lives series profiles modern and historical figures and is packed with figures and illustrations.
Emmeline (First Names) by Haydn Kaye
(£6.99, David Fickling Books)
The First Names series of biographies is designed for young readers and packed with illustrations. Emmeline brings Emmeline Pankhurst's fight to get the vote for British women to life with witty, engaging details (including why she hated school, the fact she took lessons in stone throwing and what she thought when her daughter spat at a policeman!).
David Attenborough (Little People, BIG DREAMS) by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara
(£9.99, Frances Lincoln Children's Books)
A boy who spent hours in the library and created his own mini animal museum became the world's most famous broadcaster and conservationist, and this is his story. All the Little People, BIG DREAMS books are beautifully illustrated and packed with fascinating details about inspiring individuals from all walks of life.
Malala's Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai
In this warm picture book read for KS1 the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize tells her inspiring, brave story and encourages children to believe in themselves and recognise that their voices can make a difference. The illustrations are gorgeous and make the difficult subject matter very accessible for younger kids.
The Missing: The True Story of My Family in World War II by Michael Rosen
(£6.99, Walker Books)
A personal, sensitive account of the Holocaust by one of the UK's best-loved children’s authors, Michael Rosen. Through prose, poetry, maps and pictures he shares the true story of his search for the relatives who “went missing” during the Second World War and the shocking and heart-breaking information he uncovered.
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy
(£12.99, Simon & Schuster)
US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent her life disagreeing with inequality, arguing against unfair treatment and standing up for what’s right for people everywhere. This biographical picture book explains what she achieved through the lens of her many famous dissents, or disagreements.
The Diary of Anne Frank (Abridged for young readers) by Anne Frank
This abridged edition offers younger readers their first introduction to the extraordinary diary of an ordinary girl. With beautiful line drawings, family photographs and an afterword to explain why the Diary ends so abruptly, this version of one of the world's most widely known books is suitable for younger children who want to read Anne's words for themselves.
The Story of Marie Curie: A Biography Book for New Readers by Susan B Katz
(£5.08, Rockridge Press)
Marie Curie was told she couldn't be a researcher because she was a woman but she is now recognised as one of the most celebrated scientists in history, who changed the world with her discoveries in physics and chemistry. Colour illustrations, a glossary and a quiz present the details of her life in bite-sized chunks for newly-confident readers.
Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges
(£13, Scholastic Press)
In November 1960, the world watched as six-year-old Ruby Bridges joined an an all-white school and faced angry mobs of parents who refused to send their children to school with her. An icon of the civil rights movement, in Through My Eyes Ruby writes for children and chronicles each dramatic step of this pivotal event in history in her own words.
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