“There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside of the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy.” – Mark Twain

Did you know that Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first American President to ride in an airplane? Did you know that Mary Parker, who was born into slavery, learned how to read at the age of 116? Did you know that John Deere invented a plow and not a tractor? Did you know that artist Frida Kahlo had two monkeys, a parrot, three dogs, two turkeys, an eagle, a black cat, and a fawn for pets? Did you know that when Ruth Bader Ginsburg was young she played the cello and she was a baton twirler?  

These are just a few of the amazing facts that you can learn about other people at the library this month. We are celebrating and highlighting people who have made a difference in our world. Kids are encouraged to check out a biography from the children’s section to learn from the lives and the stories of others.  (Every child who checks out a biography can also pick up a small treat at the Youth Services desk.)

I will be honest, there are biographies out there that can be pretty dry and not very exciting for kids. The books in our special selections this month tell about the lives of ordinary and extraordinary people in age-appropriate and interesting ways. Learn about how John Lewis used to “preach to the chickens” when he was young. Read about Claudette Colvin and her important place in civil rights history. Find out about how Doc Key taught his horse Jim how to read, spell, and do math and how they taught the world about kindness.

Here are a few of the books being highlighted in our special selections this month.

Undefeated by Steve Sheinkin

Since the Super Bowl last Sunday there has been a lot of talk about who is the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) in sports. One name that doesn’t get mentioned often, but should, is Jim Thorpe. Jim Thorpe was a two-time gold medalist in the 1912 Olympics and he played professional football, baseball, and basketball in the early 20th century. Before all that though, Thorpe played on the football team at Carlisle Indian Industrial School, a college for American Indians in Pennsylvania. Undefeated tells the story of this extraordinary player, an underdog team, a steadfast coach, the poor treatment of Native Americans at the time, and triumph over adversity. You don’t have to be a sport’s fan to enjoy this book.

Alicia Alonso Takes the Stage is a part of the Rebel Girls Series that records stories of real women who inspire strength and confidence in young girls. From the publisher – Alicia was born to dance. From the moment she slips on pointe shoes for the first time, she’s determined to become a professional ballerina. A few years later, Alicia moves from Cuba to the United States to follow her dreams. Then, Alicia begins to lose her sight. How can a ballerina dance if she can’t see where she’s going? Stuck in bed and only able to practice with her fingertips, Alicia doesn’t give up. She finds a way to get back on stage, dancing into the hearts of audiences as one of the world’s most famous prima ballerinas. The beautiful illustrations and activities in the back of the book help to create a connection with the reader and spark creativity and imagination.

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis

One of my favorite rides at any amusement park is the Ferris Wheel, but I never thought about the history behind it. In 1889 the World’s Fair was held in Paris with the Eiffel Tower as its centerpiece. Four years later the fair was scheduled to take place in Chicago and the fair committee was looking for a structure to outshine the tower in France. A mechanical engineer named George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. presented an idea so immense and difficult that many people thought it would never work. Using his engineering skills and a new metal called “steel” Ferris created a moving structure inspired by the water wheels of his childhood. On June 21, 1893 the fair opened and people got their first chance to ride the “Monster Wheel.” This wheel was the only one that Ferris built and it was destroyed after the 1904 St. Louis world’s fair, but the legacy of his invention lives on in fairs and parks all over the world.

I am continually in awe of the Williams sisters talent and strength on the tennis court. The book Serena The Littlest Sister tells about how the youngest sister in a family of 5 girls, grew up to be a champion. From the publisher – Serena Williams is one of the biggest names in sports, but she grew up the littlest of five girls in her family. While sharing a room and playing tennis with her older sisters, Serena had to figure out how to be her own person―on and off the court. This empowering biography showcases the rise of the youngest Williams sister and how her family played a part in her path to becoming the strong woman and star athlete she is today.

Bold, colorful illustrations highlight the tight sisterhood and tennis action of Serena’s childhood and teenage years. This true story about a tennis icon will inspire littlest siblings everywhere to forge their own path and leave their mark.

Click on the titles below to learn about more great people who made a difference in the world.

Find these and many more biographies in the Children’s section of the O’Fallon Public Library!

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