50+ Historical Picture Books Biographies

Books are a great way to bring history alive! Here are 50+ of the best children’s historical picture book biographies and autobiographies/memoirs for kids.

Books are a great way to bring history alive! Here are 50+ of the best children's historical picture book biographies and autobiographies/memoirs for kids.

This list is separated into two parts – American history and world history. Picture books are a great way to bring visuals, stories, and life to the random black and white photos we see in history books. Read about the men and women who helped change the world!

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Picture Book Biographies Series

The “I Am” series by Brad Metzler

From activists to presidents to inventors, the “I Am” series is written especially for early elementary students. They make each historical figure relatable to kids. It introduces them to great people in our nation’s history, in a quirky, fun way. This series proudly shows children to dream big, and that ordinary people can change the world!

A Picture Book Of Series by David Adler

David Adler also has a great series of picture book biographies. They have more traditional and formal illustrations, and serve as a great introduction to American icons such as George Washington or Rosa Parks.
Some more of my favorites in this series (that aren’t often included in biographical series) are:

Little People, Big Dreamers series by Isabel Sanchez Vegara
This series shows famous and notable women throughout history, from scientists like Marie Curie to poets like Maya Angelou.

Picture Book Biographies

Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Based on the poem of the same name, this story is simply illustrations to Longfellow’s classic poem. Paul Revere was a Patriot during the American Revolutionary War.

George Washington: A Picture Book Biography by James Giblin

George Washington was our very first president. What made him great? Read about his amazing life story in this story. It’s well-rounded, and its simple text and great pictures make it great for early elementary students.

George Washington’s Birthday by Margaret McNamara

This fun picture book takes place on seven year old George Washington’s birthday! The paragraphs aren’t too long in this fun book, and there’s smaller extra “facts” about Washington on each page.

George Washington's Birthday: A Mostly True TaleNow & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin FranklinMae Among the Stars


They Called Her Molly Pitcher by Anne Rockwell

When Molly Pitcher’s husband went to fight in George Washington’s army, Molly followed him! In one incident, after her husband was shot in battle, Molly took over his job firing a cannon! This is a longer picture book with lengthier text, so it’s best for a read aloud for grades 3+.

Now and Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin by Gene Barretta

So much has changed since Benjamin Franklin was alive! Read about his classic inventions, and how they have shaped modern America.

Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindbergh

Meet John Chapman, otherwise known as Johnny Appleseed! This book rhymes and has simple text, great for the youngest of beginning readers. Read about Johnny’s legacy, and what he’s done for us today!

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman to go into space! This beautifully illustrated children’s book is one of my favorites and reminds kids to dream big. Grab the book guide here.

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? by Tanya Lee Stone

In the 1830s, Elizabeth Blackwell challenged society’s norms, and became America’s first female doctor. She graduated from medical school, and serves as a reminder that you can do anything you put your mind to!

Elizabeth Leads the Way by Tanya Lee Stone

Elizabeth Cady Stanton wasn’t like other women. An early activist for woman’s rights, Stanton wanted to challenge women across the world to vote.

Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth BlackwellHenry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground RailroadMoses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom (Caldecott Honor Book)


Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Many recognize the name Harriet Tubman, but did you know the many roles she played before becoming Harriet? Lyrically written and beautifully illustrated, this is one of my favorite picture book biographies. Grab the book guide here.

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

Set during the American Civil War, a young slave named Henry has always imagined what freedom looked like. As an adult, he decides to turn his dreams into reality and mail himself to freedom. Henry’s Freedom Box is a favorite among classrooms, mainly for its introduction to slavery without being too graphic.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Weatherford

Harriet Tubman was known as “Moses” to her people, as she, a freed slave, continued to go back to plantations bringing people to freedom. This book is a Caldecott Honor winner.

Abe Lincoln Remembers by Ann Turner

Abraham Lincoln is one of the better-known presidents in our history. In this book, he is reminiscing on his past. In reality, it is only a few moments before he would later be shot in a theater by John Wilkes Booth. However, this book chooses to celebrate Lincoln’s accomplishments, instead of focusing on his death.

Marvelous Mattie by National Geographic Learning

Margaret Knight, known as “the lady Edison,” always loved to invent things. Her most notable invention is the flat-bottomed brown paper bag. She is acknowledged as the first woman to hold a U.S. patent!

Young Thomas Edison by Michael Dooling

Thomas Edison was not a regular kid. At a young age, his mother took him out of public school to begin homeschooling. His inventions went on to help shape American history.

Abe Lincoln RemembersMarvelous MattieFly High!: The Story of Bessie Coleman


Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel

Clara Lemlich was a Ukrainian immigrant in the early 1900s. Working hard, she worked, spend hours studying English, and went to night school. Tired of poor treatment, Clara led a large strike, which fought for better work environments.

Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman by Louise Borden

Bessie Coleman was the first African American female (and the first person of African-American descent) to earn a pilot’s license! Here is her great story of determination and perseverance.

Six Dots by Jennifer Bryant

You might recognize Louis Braille’s name, but did you know he created Braille as a teenager? This picture book tells the journey of the boy who invented the written language for the blind. Find the book guide here.

Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say

Immigrants are often faced with a challenging problem. They love their new life in America, but miss their home country. This is the story of the author’s grandfather, who came to America from Japan.

Seabiscuit vs War Admiral: The Greatest Horse Race in History by Kat Shehata

Learn about one of the greatest horse races in history – the race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral! These pages are somewhat dense. I’ve also seen this quirky and fun book which looks perfect and hilarious for younger ages, but I haven’t read it yet.

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team by Audrey Vernick

For the kiddos who love sports, this is the true story of a family in the 1930s who had 16 children, 12 brothers who played on a baseball team together! With a vintage, old-timey feel, this picture book is filled with adventure, and can raise some discussion on the Great Depression.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909Grandfathers Journey (Caldecott Medal Book) by Eve Bunting (1-May-2012) HardcoverSeabiscuit vs War Admiral: The Greatest Horse Race in History


Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression by Carole Weatherford

Dorothea Lange was bullied as a child, because she had polio and it left her with a limp. This never stopped her from becoming an influential photographer, especially during the Great Depression.

On a Beam of Light: The Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne

Despite being brilliant, Albert Einstein was no ordinary child! Hear his amazing life story, in a picture book explained simply for early elementary students. His story is inspiring, and a great reminder that wonder and curiosity are so important in life! Grab the book guide here.

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks by Cynthia Levinson

Meet nine-year-old Audrey Hendricks, known as the youngest person to be arrested for protesting during a civil rights rally. Audrey is a great reminder that even kids can make a difference!

Lincoln and Kennedy: A Pair to Compare by Gene Barretta

Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy had a lot in common, but there were a lot of things that were different about the two! This is a longer picture book, but comparing the two presidents can be fun. Plus, the illustrations are engaging!

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

In this autobiographical story, Patricia Polacco shares her story of overcoming dyslexia in school, and the one teacher who helped her through it. Now, Polacco is a successful children’s author.

The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot July 25, 1909 by Alice Provenson

This picture book can go with an aviation study, or study about the Wright Brothers/Amelia Earhart.  It has an older style and the colors are more muted, but it’s still an interesting look at the man who made the first flight over the English channel in a heavier-than-air aircraft.

Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the DepressionThe Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights ActivistLincoln and Kennedy: A Pair to Compare 

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles

In the 1960s, Ruby Bridges was one of the first people to begin breaking racial barriers – she became the first black child to enter an all-white school. (There’s also a Disney movie to go along with Ruby’s story!)

Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker

Katherine Johnson was a brilliant mathematician whose skills helped take us on many NASA missions, including the Apollo missions, which took us to the moon! Despite facing much prejudice for being a woman and for being black, Katherine is known as one of the greatest minds of all time. There is also a great movie about Katherine called Hidden FiguresGrab the book guide here.

Rescue and Jessica by Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky

In this beautiful story, Jessica is a double amputee from the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings. Rescue is her service dog. Together, they grow into a life-changing friendship that changes the both of them.

I, Vivaldi by Janice Shefelman

Although his mother wanted him to become a priest, Antonio Vivaldi felt himself drawn towards music and enjoyed composing, performing, and teaching music. Vivaldi is best known for composing “The Four Seasons,” one of the best known classical pieces out there. This picture book works well for giving a visual to Vivaldi’s pieces!

For the Love of Music by Elizabeth Rusch – mid 1700s

Meet Maria Mozart, the older sister of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart! She is not as well known as her brother, but at only 12 years old, she was considered one of the best pianists in Europe at the time. This is a great story for budding musicians and pianists!

Escaping Titanic: A Young Girl’s True Story of Survival by Marybeth Lorbiecki

Ruth Becker was a little girl on the ill-fated Titanic. The book does a good job of explaining what happened on the Titanic, without getting into any graphic details for younger readers.

The Story of Ruby BridgesCounting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13I, Vivaldi


Winnie: The True Story of the Bear That Inspired Winnie the Pooh by Sally M. Walker

Did you know Winnie the Pooh was inspired by a real bear? One day, Harry Colebourn saw a baby bear for sale at a train station. Harry was a veterinarian and knew he could take care of it, but he was also in training as a soldier. This is one of the sweetest picture books I’ve ever read, and a great story about a classic character!

The Donkey of Gallipoli: A True Story of Courage in WWI by Mark Greenwood

Growing up, Jack Simpson always loved giving people donkey rides, for a penny a piece. When he was drafted in WWI, his love of donkeys helped rescue 300 Allied soldiers. The images are simple, but the story is very poignant and memorable!

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Pickney

Duke Ellington had a great musical career that lasted over 50 years. Mainly performing jazz music, he was prominent in the 30s, 40s, and 50s! With a fun whimsical watercolor, this is his story!

Tucky Jo and Little Heart by Patricia Polacco

Based on a true story, Tucky Jo was a normal kid from Kentucky, who was shipped off to the Pacific during World War II. Through the chaos, he meets a young girl he nicknames Little Heart. Little Heart doesn’t speak English, but the two become friends. The ending has a surprise twist, and it’s great for showing humanity, friendship, and loyalty during wartime without being graphic.

Passage to Freedom by Ken Mochizuki

Passage to Freedom is one of the many picture books that can help teach the Holocaust in a non-graphic way. Told from the perspective of his son, Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat who saved 6,000 Luithanian Jews by illegally writing out visas for them. Grab the book guide here.

Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto by Susan Goldman Rubin

This is one of my favorite picture book biographies! During the Holocaust, many gentiles stayed silent. Irena Sendler was different – she smuggled 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, and placed them in hiding. Irena and each child she saved survived the war. Although it deals with a heavy subject, this story is not graphic, and appropriate for mid to upper level elementary students, depending on maturity. Grab the book guide here.

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear (Caldecott Medal Winner)The Donkey of Gallipoli: A True Story of Courage in World War IDuke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra



Just Being Audrey by Margaret Cardillo

Audrey Hepburn is known for her classic style and beauty. But, she was much more than that! As a child, she helped the resistance movement during World War II. Her experience inspired her to use celebrity status to become a humanitarian, and was an active supporter of UNICEF.

For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story by Rebecca Langston-George

Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. At just 15 years old, Malala was shot by the Taliban for taking a stand for girl’s education. She survived, and continues to be an activist for human rights and the education of women. The ending includes a glossary of words that may be unfamiliar to beginning readers, such as “ban” or “refugee.”

I hope you enjoyed this list! What are some of your favorite historical picture books or picture book biographies?

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