As an elementary school teacher, I love picture book biographies. At their best, they include compelling narratives, well-crafted language, and fantastic examples of character traits. John Deere, That’s Who! and Noah Webster’s Fighting Words, both by Tracy Nelson Maurer, include all of these attributes and more.
John Deere, That’s Who!, published March 2017, explores the story behind a household name. Maurer shows her ability to build historical context as she masterfully explains what life was like in the 1830s. Throughout the book, Maurer makes use of rhetorical questions and repetition to keep readers engaged. By the book’s end, readers are left with an understanding of how hardship led to innovation.
Noah Webster’s Fighting Words, published April 2017, is a standard biography with a creative twist: “Noah” himself serves as editor. Fake hand-written sticky notes throughout the text show what Noah may have said to expand on or correct Maurer’s text. This move makes the book even more entertaining, but it also pushes the book into the historical fiction category, as Mary Ann Cappiello of The Classroom Bookshelf explains. This book can inspire students to explore our linguistic history and will leave them wanting to learn even more about the man behind our dictionary.
In both of her new picture books, Maurer has earned a place on kids’ bookshelves.
Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the review copy of these books – all opinions are my own. Thanks for reading!