Books, Lists, Reviews

5 Books About Great and Inspirational Men

Another round of reviews from my Cybils reading. This time with focus on inspirational men. I am still about one-third of the way through posting the completed reviews for the books. At this time, I have notes all over the place for the books I have read, and well, they are nothing more than a random collection of thoughts. I hope to get to finishing at least most of them by the end of this month on my blog.

The wonderful thing about reading all these nonfiction books was, as I mentioned earlier, all the fascinating things I learned. And to top it all off, it was nowhere close to boring. Even the picture books intended for the youngest audiences were filled with tons of information, along with a riot of colors. I look forward to reading more nonfiction this year as well. But for now, here are the books I am featuring today.

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5 Books About Great and Inspirational Men

Hello, Neighbor! The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers

Title: Hello, Neighbor! The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers
Author/Illustrator: Matthew Cordell
Length: 40 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biography (4 – 8 years)
Publisher: Neal Porter Books (May 5, 2020)
Source: Review copy for Cybils Awards from Publisher

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This is the second book about Mr. Rogers that I have read for the Cybils; and each one stands on its own. This book shows how the show came to be, and the workings behind it. It also gives a peek into Mr. Roger’s life and his wonderful personality that gave the show its essence, so to speak.

And the illustrations are simply vibrant, charming, and emotive, adding to the appeal of the book.

Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson

Title: Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson
Author: Jen Bryant
Illustrator: Cannaday Chapman
Length: 48 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biographies (6 – 9 years, and up)
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (November 12, 2019)
Source: My local library

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Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson is a well-written, beautifully illustrated story describing the life of August Wilson, a writer known for his many plays including ‘Fences’ and ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’, all of which detail the black experience in America.

Jen Bryant, the author of this story, does a good job of dividing August’s life into several key anecdotes, and the book is even sectioned into Acts, much like a play might be. The anecdotes do a good job of furthering both the story and August’s character. We learn about his childhood, his early fascination for books, the odd jobs he would take up while attempting to make money, and finally, his success. The illustrations fit the tone of the story and go hand-in-hand with the text.

While Feed Your Mind is a quick-read (as is expected with most picture books), it is surprisingly fact-filled and I would definitely recommend it.

Becoming Muhammad Ali

Title: Becoming Muhammad Ali
Author: James Patterson and Kwame Alexander
Illustrator: Dawud Anyabwile 
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biographies (8 – 12 years, and up)
Publisher: jimmy patterson (October 5, 2020)
Source: My local library

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A collaboration between James Patterson and Kwame Alexander, Becoming Muhammad Ali describes the boxing icon’s childhood with extensive and surprising detail, as the two authors seamlessly combine their unique styles into one cohesive story.

Half of the novel is written in prose, while the other half is written in free-verse, but the transitions between the two never feel jarring. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that both sections are written from the perspectives of different people. Lucky, one of Muhammad Ali’s childhood friends, narrates the prose, while the free-verse is from the point of view of Ali himself. This allows the reader to understand both what Ali (or Cassius Clay, as he was called at the time) was going through, and how his family and friends reacted.

Dawud Anyabwile also sprinkles several excellent illustrations throughout the book, perfectly capturing snapshots of Ali’s life. The story itself is inspirational, and a testament to the idea that believing in yourself and working hard can bring you success. It’s a fantastic book with a great message for children and adults alike. 

The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver

Title: The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver
Author: Gene Barretta
Illustrator: Frank Morrison  
Length: 40 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biographies (4 – 8 years, and up)
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (January 14th 2020)
Source: e-Review copy for Cybils Awards from Publisher

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This book wowed me with its stunning colorful illustrations that literally grab the reader’s attention. And then, I started reading the narrative, and was amazed at all that I learned about George Washington Carver. Before this book, he was just a name; now, he is an inspiration!

Carver was truly an amazing man; born a slave, he later became the first black man to graduate from Iowa Agricultural College with a masters degree, and went on to become a nationally respected figure in agriculture. Both narrative and text clearly portray his lifelong passion for plants and for learning about them, as well as his interest in bettering the lives of others by teaching what he knew later in life.

His life story as narrated in this book make it a great option to start discussions on racism, slavery, rights to education, nature and conservation, as well as community service, and standing up for what you believe in.

Back matter includes a timeline of Carver’s life, along with a bibliography and selections for further reading.

The Superlative A. Lincoln: Poems About Our 16th President

Title: The Superlative A. Lincoln: Poems About Our 16th President
Author: Eileen R. Meyer 
Illustrator: Dave Szalay  
Length: 48 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biographies (6 – 9 years, and up)
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing (November 5th 2019)
Source: My local library

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This book is a light-hearted, kid-friendly look at our “superlative” 16th President; and one that is filled with fun facts throughout. The poems are written chronologically thus taking readers on the delightful journey of Lincoln’s life. Each poem brings forward little known yet totally interesting stories and events from our superlative president’s life to the forefront, ranging from “Best Wrestler” and “Least Favorite Nickname” to “Most Distracted Farmer” and “Greatest Speech.”

Every detail – be it artwork or textual – adds to the wonder of this book. Meyer’s use of different poetic forms lend to the learning aspect, and make the reading more appealing as well, while Szalay’s whimsical and creative artwork blends perfectly with the text and the time period. A timeline and more backmatter allows readers to dig deeper. Fun for all!

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5 Books About Great and Inspirational Men

And Now, the End of This Post

Dear reader, have you read any of these books? Or any other books about these influencers – recommendations are always welcome? Do let me know which of these reads you would pick first.

25 thoughts on “5 Books About Great and Inspirational Men

  1. These are some great books that I will be adding to my 2021 collections. I have been hearing so much about Abraham Lincoln lately, so I’m definitely going to start with that first.

  2. Awesome books that featured great men that really an inspiration to people. This is a great list of legendary men especially Mohammed Ali which consider the greatest boxer that really live up to his name and how his life inspired so many people in his days and up to this modern era.

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