Episode 153: Three Powerful Picture Book Biographies

In this episode we look at three powerful picture book biographies from three different cultures in three different countries. We’re sure you’ll want to add these to your shopping or library list! Biographies are powerful testimonies of perseverance and creativity. These three don’t disappoint.

Show Notes:

(00:00): Welcome
(00:15): Building Character Through Picture Books
(02:03): Listen
(4:54): Shaped by Her Hands
(7:43): Manji Moves a Mountain
(10:52): Closing

Books Discussed in This Episode:


Welcome to “Books That Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that help us with everyday discipleship every day, sparking important conversations with our children.

I’m so excited to be with you today and I have some great books to share with you today, but I want to start with my own book, shameless promotion here, because I’m so excited that this book is out in the world now. I’ve been working on it for like two years and I just am so excited for this book to be launched, and it is called Building Character through Picture Books: 25 Family Devotions to Share Together. What the idea is, is that at night, for instance, as you’re reading a bedtime story, you might choose one of the 25 that I mention in this book, and then after you read that story, I have a scripture and questions that you can go into with your family, and I specifically made it for the family, not just the little guys, that we include the whole family in this time. So I have questions for our little children, and I have questions for our older children, and hopefully questions that will help us think as well, and then I even have a parent section where maybe the next day at breakfast you want to continue the conversation and go a little deeper or branch off into a related idea, but all of the lessons are geared toward building character in our children’s lives based on scripture, but sparked by a picture book, which fits right with this podcast. So the books help spark the conversations and help spark the understanding of what the scripture is talking about. So please look for that if you are interested. So far, everyone who’s bought it and read it has just shared that they really appreciate it and like it, and so I’m hoping you will be blessed by it. I would love for you to get it, it’s on Amazon in either print form or ebook. You can get it there and then if you would leave a review, we would really appreciate that.

Alright, so I wanted to spend some time talking about three very special biographies that I found recently. One of them I almost shared on our Best of 2022 episode because it was published in 2022. I actually don’t know why I decided not to. It is one of my favorites, but we really, really loved Knight Owl, and I just love that both Kristin and I chose the same favorite book for 2022. This one came in second or third on my list, and it is called Listen How Evelyn Glennie, A Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion, and this is written by Shannon Stocker and illustrated by Devon Holzwarth, and this is a wonderful biography about Evelyn Glennie, who was a British citizen. She grew up there in England and she began as a musician as a young child, then she lost her hearing and everyone would tell her, “There’s no way you can still be a musician, you’ve lost your hearing.” But she found a way to be a great percussionist, and she was the first person to have a full-time solo percussion career in the world, and so it’s pretty amazing, and she was Deaf. So I love this story because when the world tries to tell us, no, you can’t do something, and yet we know that we are gifted and called to do something, we can stand strong and continue to pursue it even when people think we’re crazy, and so I love this story for that reason, and I just love her story that she stuck with it, that she found a way to be creative and to still share her music with the world, and it is a Schneider Family Book award winner. All three of the books I’m going to share with you today are award-winning books, and they are all three biographies. I just, as you know, love biographies. I’ve really focused quite a lot this year on them, and I focus on biographies because testimonies are powerful. People can argue with our philosophies and our worldviews and everything else, but when we share our experiences and our testimonies of what has happened in our lives, especially when we share what God has done in our lives, they can’t argue with that. That is our experience and we can share that with people. Well, when we read biographies, we’re getting to see the experiences other people have had and we can learn so much from them and our children can learn so much from them, and it gives us hope in this crazy world that even when things look dark and hopeless, there’s always hope and we can hang on and keep working and keep seeing God do amazing things. So that’s the first one I wanted to mention. Listen, it’s really a wonderful book and the illustrations are very colorful and they almost dance on the page. They have a lot of movement in them and really illustrate the music she’s playing. I think the illustrator did a great job on this book.

The second one I want to share with you is Shaped by Her Hands: Potter Maria Martinez by Anna Harber Freeman and Barbara Gonzalez and illustrated by Aphelandra. Barbara Gonzalez, who is the co-author, is Maria Martinez’s great-granddaughter. So it’s kind of cool that her great-granddaughter wrote her story or helped write her story. Both of the authors are teachers and Anna Harber Freeman is an art teacher, and she just always wished there were picture books to share with children about different art, and so she knew about Maria Martinez and so she wanted to write her story and contacted her great-granddaughter to help write it, and so it’s just kind of cool, the story behind the story, but the book is beautiful and I love it’s about the Tewa people in New Mexico and my ancestors came from the same area, and so I love that Maria Martinez, her pictures and her family pictures look a lot like my great grandma and my family’s pictures, so I think that’s kind of cool. But this is also an award-winning book, it’s the Chicago Public Library best informational book for younger readers from 2021 and the Kirkus Best Picture Book, Biographies of 2021. So this was obviously published in 2021, but she started out as a little girl making pottery like many young Native American girls did. However, when the other girls would go play with dolls or run around, she didn’t want to do that, she wanted to work on her pottery so that it could become better and be perfected, and she kept working at it and working at it and she succeeded, her pottery became beautiful and just the way it should be, and she was very excited about that. Well, she became quite famous and she was even asked to create pottery to recreate the pottery from an archeological dig to show what it looked like, and in that she found a new type of pottery to make and began to create this black pottery that was very hard to make, and she took a long time to practice and figure out how to recreate what her ancestors had made, and then she elevated pottery to an art form because of the way she created it and the way some of her family members painted on them, and it just became art, and it’s so wonderful. This story is just beautiful, tells a lot about the Pueblo lifestyle and history. I just really, really love this book and think it is really well done, and I love so much that her great-granddaughter helped write it, so that just makes it more meaningful. This book is from a series called She Made History, and I believe there’s about 13 books in this series, and I haven’t read them all. I’ve read a couple of them, but the ones I’ve read have been very informative and really challenging and encouraging, and so I’m hoping to check out more of them in the future, but they seem to be really well written.

And then the third book I wanted to share with you is a story from India. So, Manjhi Moves a Mountain is written by Nancy Churnin and Danny Popovici and is the story of Dashrath Manjhi from India who lived on one side of a mountain and there was a village on his side of the mountain and a village on the other side of the mountain, but on the one side where he lived, it was more like a desert, and on the other side of the mountain is where they had lots of lush land and water and they had schools and markets and a hospital, and the people on his side often couldn’t make it to the hospital in time. It was just very frustrating because they would have to climb the mountain and go across to the other side to even plant their crops and they would have to go back and forth and back and forth, and he would get so tired of it. So one day he’s on the top of the mountain and he just throws a rock cause he’s frustrated, and he notices that when he does, there’s like chalk and other little rocks that kind of scatter and go down the mountain, and it gives him an idea. So he goes back to his village and trades his goats for a chisel and a hammer and begins to hammer away at this mountain. And with the help of the people and Manjhi working, it takes like 22 years to finally get through the mountain, but then they have a road between the two villages, instead of a mountain between the two villages, and he lived to see this come about, and it’s just a great, great lesson for us that in the figurative way, if we chip away at the big obstacles in our lives, little by little, day by day, we can overcome those great obstacles. Of course, this is a story of literally a mountain in his way and he chipped away at it every day and the people in his village did too, and I just think it’s a really wonderful story. I also love it because it’s from another country, and I love to share stories that share about other cultures and other countries, and all three of these books kind of do that. We have this one about India, the first one was from England, and the second one was about Native American culture, and so I do love that about all three of these books as well. So what are some of your favorite picture book biographies? There are a lot of them out there and we would love to hear, what are your favorites? Share with us on social media where you see the post for this podcast, or you can go to my website, TerrieHellardBrown.com and comment on the blog post for this episode and tell us what picture book biographies you’ve found that are really special, and as I was preparing for this episode, I also got to thinking about some of the Christian leaders historical figures throughout history, and how we don’t have a whole lot of picture books about them. I’ve seen a few, but not a lot, and there are some great chapter books, but it is very hard to find picture books about some of the Christian leaders, and so that may be something that God is putting on someone’s heart to do. Maybe mine, I’m not sure, but I would love to see more picture books about Christian leaders as well, so think about that, pray about that, but do let us know.

Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” where we encourage each other to live out everyday discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you enjoyed this episode, please like and share on social media so people know we’re here or leave a review on one of the podcast host sites, we truly appreciate it. When you do, if you would like to connect with me, as I said, you can connect with me on my website, TerrieHellardBrown.com, and you can also join my mailing list there and you’ll be notified when we post a new podcast or blog post. We respond to every comment and questions, so feel free to post a question on the blog post, we would love to hear from you. We pray you feel empowered as a parent or caregiver to walk by faith and to embrace everyday discipleship every day with the children in your life.

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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