Patience and perseverance are among the hardest things for children to learn. How can we make pressing on in the face of discouragement interesting to kids? By reading them amazing stories of creativity and resilience! Picture book biographies show the satisfying results of persevering over a lifetime. All ages will be inspired by the true tales shared in these ten picture books.
Marjory Saves the Everglades:
The Story of Marjory Stoneman Douglas
written by Sandra Neil Wallace
illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
Simon & Schuster
Books for Young Readers, 2020
After age 40, Marjory became an advocate for the Everglades — “a slow-moving, life-giving river of grass,” convincing officials to establish a national park there. She was almost 80 when a planned supersonic jetport required she amp up her activism, and her efforts continued until age 108.
Jean-Henri Fabre and his World of Insects
written by Matthew Clark Smith
illustrated by Guiliano Ferri
Two Lions Press, 2015
Ridiculed in the 1800’s for carefully observing insects in their habitats, Jean-Henri persisted documenting them for decades. Nearing his ninetieth year he was still working when the King of France visited his village to inform him he’d been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature for his poetic writing about the lives of insects.
A Plan for the People:
Nelson Mandela’s Hope for his Nation
written by Lindsey McDivitt
illustrated by Charly Palmer
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2021
This new picture book biography explores Nelson Mandela’s long fight for racial justice in apartheid-era South Africa. He persevered through decades of struggle and 27 years behind bars — purposely educating himself in prison to lead a new democratic nation. Despite South Africa’s oppression of its non-white citizens, Mandela had hope — hope for a nation that belonged to everyone who lived in it.
The Story of Hallie Morse Daggett,
the First Female “Fire Guard”
written by Aimée Bissonette
illustrated by David Hohn
Sleeping Bear Press, 2021
In the 1880’s the Forest Service didn’t hire women — thinking they couldn’t handle the physical challenges or isolation. But they didn’t realize how determined Hallie Morse Daggett could be. A true story of “girl power.”
written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Beach Lane Books, 2013
Late in his life, famed artist Henri Matisse is initially discouraged as he contemplates life in bed or wheelchair. Determined to remain creative, he resumes drawing — even using chalk tied to a pole. Eventually Matisse “draws with scissors’ by cutting sinuous natural shapes from colored paper. Quotes gleaned from Matisse’s letters to an old friend illuminate his joy,
The Oldest Student:
How Mary Walker Learned to Read
written by Rita Lorraine Hubbard
illustrated by Oge Mora
Schwarz and Wade Books, 2020
Mary Walker’s precious Bible waited 101 years before she learned to read it at the age of 116. Fascinating story of a woman whose long life spanned from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, and who — with perseverance and dedication — proved that you’re never too old to learn.
Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story
written by Lindsey McDivitt
illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen
Sleeping Bear Press, 2018
Nature artist and early environmentalist Gwen Frostic built a successful business around her art. She consistently challenged stereotypes of disability, of women, and in the later years — the low expectations of old age.
A River of Words:
The Story of William Carlos Williams
written by Jen Bryant
illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008
Celebrated poet William Carlos Williams persevered with the writing he loved throughout a busy, demanding career as a doctor. A true story to inspire anyone nursing dreams of creativity, someday…
When Grandma Gatewood Took a Hike
written by Michelle Houts
illustrated by Erica Magnus
Ohio University Press, 2016
In 1955, Sixty-seven-year-old Emma “Grandma” Gatewood became the first woman to solo hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in one thru-hike. She didn’t give up after failing to finish the first time, and she completed the hike of over two thousand miles with no professional gear or tent.
The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau
written by Michelle Markel
illustrated by Amanda Hall
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2012
Despite poverty, limited resources and brutal discouragement from the critics Rousseau stays the course. This is a tale of blossoming creativity realized in later life. And a story of dedication to learning a new skill over many, many years.