Page Turning Non-fiction and Biographies

By Barbara Bietz

'tweensAt some point during the school year, most students are assigned a biography or non-fiction project or book report. The library and local book stores run out of the most popular choices, and both parents and kids are left empty handed and frustrated. With a little research you can find some interesting biographies of fascinating people. Here are a few terrific books that might spark your child’s interest:

In Defiance of Hitler, The Secret Mission of Varian Fry by Carla Killough McClafferty Varian Fry was an unlikely hero. During WWII, he was instrumental in saving the lives of thousands of Jews, many of them artists and scientists. He created an intricate system that allowed refugees to escape. What began as a short-term project literally took over Fry’s life. With a few thousand dollars, he set up an organization, The Emergency Rescue Committee, whose sole purpose was to save the lives. This book about Fry and the fascinating cast of characters who worked with him at the Emergency Rescue Committee is as exhilarating as a spy novel.

Boys of Steel by Marc Tyler Nobleman and Ross MacDonald.
Even the youngest readers will enjoy learning from well-done picture books. Boys of Steel is sure to become a classic example of the genre. This book is an homage to the unknown artists who created an American icon. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were quiet high school students when they created the comic, Superman. Nobleman deftly tells the tale of the creative processes of the two young men, and the obstacles they faced along the way. The graphic art has a vintage feel and is a perfect fit for the topic of the text. Within the confines of a picture book format, this book is interesting, informative, full of heart and heartache.

Jeanette Rankin: Political Pioneer by Gretchen Woelfle is a fascinating biography of a little known political figure. Jeanette Rankin was the first woman elected to the US House of Representatives. Her life growing up, her role in women’s suffrage, and her ultimate job in Washington is detailed in this well-documented biography. Students interested in the history of women in government will be delighted with this book.

Barbara Bietz

Barbara Bietz, -Childrens' Books and Movie Section, is a children's author, magazine writer, children's book reviewer, and past chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. She loves talking about the creative process, books and the craft of writing. Her middle-grade chapter book, LIKE a MACCABEE,(Yotzeret Publishing) is a PJ Library selection. Barbara reviews books and movies and has contributed to numerous print and online publications. She also teaches writing classes for adults. Learn more about Barbara at
Barbara Bietz

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