Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Non-Fiction
Extraordinary People

Extraordinary People

Fall 2015 Non-Fiction
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Michael Hearst
Illustrator: Aaron Scamihorn
Publisher: Chronicle Books
ISBN: 9781452127095
Hardcover Price: $16.99

It seems like a tough sell for a book promoted as educational for kids to feature Evel Knievel, Bruce Lee and Madam Curie on the cover, but that's exactly what author Michael Hearst does in his eclectic biographic collection of 50 "extraordinary" personalities.

In what turns out to be an impressive, method-to-madness potpourri of important, intriguing, overlooked or simply bizarre people, the book includes back-to-back spreads (one page bios with an illustrated profile on the opposite page) of such historical and contemporary characters as "Stagecoach Mary" Fields, Deion Sanders, Nikola Tesla, Bobbie Fischer, P.T. Barnum and Helen Keller.

And what do they have in common? Not much other than they're extraordinary in their own ways…and the author enjoyed reading about them when he was a boy.

The bios are short and accompanied by two or three incidental facts, quotes, quizzes, insights or side notes. Did you know that Julia Child played basketball at Smith College? Or that, after his death in 2003, George Plimpton's ashes were packed into a firework and shot into the sky, at his request? Or that Alfred Mehran lived in Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport for 17 years?

In a society where individuality is constantly undermined by propensity for uniformity, these short-form looks at remarkable artists, daredevils, geniuses, eccentrics, criminals, humanitarians and heroes are helpful and entertaining lessons in creative nonconformity.

Don Oldenburg   ©2015 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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