Little Guides to Great Lives


What better way to kick off National Non-Fiction November than with this gorgeous little collection of biographies about some of the world’s most famous faces.

FD02C7A4-13BB-4993-8126-3C5733AA1F37Frida Kahlo by Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Marianna Madriz.

This volume explores why Frida Kahlo is a twentieth century art icon.  It looks at how she used her bold painting style to express her emotions and celebrate her identity in her famous self-portraits. It also explains how her childhood experiences of illness and a brush with death shaped her work.

Harriet (9) said: “It was a very sad but impressive story.  She went through so much but did what she loved.”

F16C92E2-4C9A-4DA1-A8DB-86493B40351DLeonardo Da Vinci by Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Katherine Spitzer.

One of history’s most brilliant minds. Artist, inventor, architect, engineer, mathematician, sculptor and scientist, Da Vinci’s ideas were way ahead of his time. In addition to painting some of the world’s greatest works of art, he also invented over 400 machines – including the helicopter!

Ella (11) said: “He is an utter genius; we still use his inventions today. At his time, he wasn’t recognised, although after his death he was admired as one of the greatest inventors of all time.”

E3B3D6AC-038B-4A8B-B73D-49B0F136FB92Nelson Mandela by Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Hannah Warren.

Follow the story of Mandela’s life as he went from goat herder to political activist to the first black president of South Africa. It explains why he helped guide the ANC away from peaceful protests to more radical means, and the price he paid for this after being sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island.  It also describes some of the civil liberties lost by the black population of South Africa during the times of apartheid and how Mandela helped get them back.

Ella (11): “What an inspirational man! His life before politics was what really interested me, and what happened to him was shocking.”

569E44DC-ABCB-4369-93C9-C44FB0EB0934Charles Darwin by Dan Green, illustrated by Rachel Katstaller

We all know about Darwin’s controversial theory of evolution, but how much do you know about his years of research and voyages across the high seas? Just why was his theory considered so outrageous? Was the idea really his first?

A nature-lover from childhood, Darwin ran out of medical school, tried his hand at being a clergyman and gained a reputation as one of best beetle-collectors in Cambridge before being invited aboard Captain FitzRoy’s expedition to South America.

FC80189A-51A3-42EF-87E3-B180A9750994Amelia Earhart by Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Dàlia Adillon.

A truly astonishing story of courage, grit and the determination to get equal treatment for women.  Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and her disappearance during the final stages of her attempt to fly around the world remains one of aviation’s greatest mysteries.

From a young age, Amelia wasn’t interested in the pursuits traditionally expected of women – sewing, good manners, marriage and instead collected articles about women choosing different paths. After nursing soldiers during the First World War, Amelia took on several jobs to find flying lessons and became the 16th woman to earn her pilot’s licence.  That’s when her adventures began…

Ella (11): “ I had only briefly heard of her once before but in the book, I learnt there was much more of a story to tell than I had ever heard.”

E46A101C-3DB8-43FB-9E22-8DB038C296B0Marie Curie by Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Anke Weckmann.

A bright child from a poor family, Marie struggled to get the education she desperately wanted in order break away from the future she saw laid out for her.

After a lot of planning and saving, Marie finally made it to university in Paris.  When studying for her doctorate, Marie investigates which materials have off strange new invisible beams called x-rays.  Her pain-staking research led to the discovery of two new chemical elements which could be used in the treatment of cancer and won her a Nobel Prize. Unfortunately there were personal costs for her dedication to scientific discovery.

Ella (11): “I wonder how many of her findings are still used today? She helped many people and was a miracle of modern science.”

This is a truly fantastic series to which I hope there will be more additions in the future.  The bold and graphic covers give them great shelf appeal and the pages inside are also heavily illustrated.

Each book starts with a family tree and explains how their childhoods helped shape these people’s lives.  Although plenty of information is given, the pages are not densely packed and the pages well laid out.  Each book also features a useful glossary and timeline in the back.

Sure to inspire and promote discussion, these guides are great for introducing readers aged 7+ to some of the most inspirational figures from our world.

Library Girl.

*Many thanks to Laurence King Publishing for sending me these titles to review*









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