Early Elementary Books

Theme: Real People: True stories of the famous and not so famous

A Boy Called Dickens - (ISBN: 978-0375867323)

by Deborah Hopkinson

Follow a youthful Charles Dickens as he struggles to survive by working as a child in a vermin-plagued factory and coming to depend only on himself. Examine the characters he meets and enjoy this insider’s view of 19th century London. With so many parallels to characters in his fictional accounts, you will certainly want to read them all.

Knots in My Yo-Yo String - (ISBN: 978-0679887911)

by Jerry Spinelli

The author of the beloved Maniac McGee tells about his somewhat painful and always humorous adolescence as he tells stories and shares photos of some of his most interesting experiences and thoughts. You can taste, touch, hear, and smell Spinelli’s world in 1950’s Pennsylvania. What indications does he give that he will become an accomplished writer?

Leonardo and the Flying Boy: A Story about Leonardo da Vinci - (ISBN: 978-0764152252)

by Laurence Anholt

Told from the point of view of one of da Vinci’s apprentices, this tale reveals the state of Leonardo’s studio, views of his inventions, and items in his workshops. Although da Vinci took in many apprentices, this pair gets into trouble when they decide to try out his flying machine. Reading this book will make you want to find out more about da Vinci and the Italian Renaissance.

Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein - (ISBN: 978-0547014357)

by Don Brown

Although Albert was a slightly funny looking baby and often was not nice to his sister as he grew up, he had lots of ideas and loved fixing things. He did not mix well with other children, but he could build a very tall structure made only of cards. He was not a good student, but his thinking led him to hypothesize some of the greatest ideas science has ever had. Try to make a structure using only playing cards. How high can you get?

The Story of Harriet Tubman, Conductor of the Underground Railroad - (ISBN: 978-0440404002)

by Kate McMullan

Harriet Tubman often put her own life in danger to help slaves become free by traveling on the Underground Railroad. Besides being a “conductor,” she was also a nurse, a scout, and even a spy for the Union before the slaves became free. Make a paper chain as a three-dimensional time line that sequences the important events and accomplishments in Tubman’s life. Write one event on each link in the chain.

Thomas Edison to the Rescue - (ISBN: 978-0689853319)

by Howard Goldsmith

After Tom rescues a telegraph worker’s son from dangerous railroad tracks, he gets lessons about electricity from the boy’s grateful father. He says he has already learned a great deal about the science of power generation, and he even has the idea of a possible electric light someday! What ideas for possible inventions can you come up with? Who knows? You may create something valuable.

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin - (ISBN: 978-0375867125)

by Jen Bryant

A Young Dancer: The Life of an Ailey Student - (ISBN: 978-0805082333)

by Valerie Gladstone

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek - (ISBN: 978-0375837685)

by Deborah Hopkinson

Kampung Boy - (ISBN: 978-1596431218)

Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei - (ISBN: 978-0374470272)

by Peter Sis

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon - (ISBN: 978-0618243433)

by Jacqueline Davies

Activities for this Theme

Take pictures of your family members at the next get-together using a simple throw away camera. Put them into an album to help everyone remember that special day. Or work with an adult and create an online scrapbook using a tool such as Smilebox.


Make a list of questions you would like to ask a deceased grandparent or great aunt or uncle. Or have your parents help you write the questions. Talk to your family members to see which questions they can answer for you.