Picture Book Showcase #1

During my time as a Library Science graduate student, I had the opportunity to create displays and curate digital exhibits. I really enjoyed doing that and wanted to try something new for you all! I read a lot of picture books and I've found quite a few that I think are gems and are definitely worth taking a look at. For this series of posts I will be sharing different kinds of picture books under various themes. Hopefully you all enjoy it and find something to share with your kids, your friends, or maybe learn something you never knew before. Remember, your age doesn't dictate what you're "allowed" to read! Nobody ever grows out of learning or art.

Today's theme is:

Random History and Biographies

These books are either biographies of interesting people that you don't really hear about, or interesting events and inventions from the past that are still around now (maybe both!). These 8 books feature artwork that I really enjoyed and stories that taught me something interesting that I didn't previously know about, in a variety of subjects and topics. Each book title is listed below with its author and illustrator (Ill.).

About Time Miracle Mud
Snowflake Bentley Mr. Ferris and His Wheel
The Camping Trip that Changed America The Man Who Walked Between the Towers
The Nutcracker Comes to America The Librarian Who Measured the Earth


  • About Time: A First Look at Time and Clocks by Bruce Koscielniak
  • Miracle Mud by David A. Kelly, Oliver Dominguez (Ill.)
  • Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Mary Azarian (Ill.)
  • Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, Gilbert Ford (Ill.)
  • The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir & our National Parks by Barb Rosenstock, Mordicai Gerstein (Ill.)
  • The Man Who Walked Between the Two Towers by Mordicai Gerstein
  • The Nutcracker Comes to America by Chris Barton & Cathy Gendron (Ill.)
  • The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky & Kevin Hawkes (Ill.) 


So these is the first set of picture books I have selected and here is a little more about what each one is about.

About Time is exactly what the title says. It is a book that talks about the history of time and tools that were used in the past to measure it. This includes mentions of how the sun and moon were used to create calendars and things before we ended up with the clocks we use today. This book teaches about the how we measure time, instead of the how to tell time, which allows it to be used for lessons in history and science, and not just basic math for very small children. There were some tools I was not aware of and that I would be very interested in learning more about. 

Miracle Mud is about Lena Blackburne and his top-secret recipe for baseball preparation. As a major sports fan in general, who played Little League baseball as a kid, I found this book to be fun and informative. Lena Blackburne is a player that you don't hear very much about, because he isn't exactly a hall of famer for his playing ability. He played in the Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1910 to 1929. He is known best for the process he would use to prepare baseballs. Baseballs, before they are used, are very shiny and players needed to break them in. Players used to have different ways of preparing the baseballs, but Blackburne was not a fan of these ways, because the baseballs would end up soggy, blackened, and/or stinky. Blackburne's method ended up becoming the league wide standard and is still used today, which makes this book especially interesting for baseball fans. 

Snowflake Bentley is about a man named Wilson Bentley, who is one of the first known photographers of snowflakes. He was born in 1865 and he perfected a snowflake catching method which allowed him to take photographs before the ice crystals melted. Bentley also published an article arguing that no two snowflakes are alike, a statement that is said very casually by everyday people today, with no knowledge of Mr. Bentley and his innovative work. This book won the Caldecott Medal in 1999 and is still a very interesting book to read today, twenty years later! 

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel tells the story of George Ferris, an American inventor who created one of the most popular and iconic amusement rides in the entire world. DisneyLand has one, Six Flags has one, and the picture you see in the background of this blog is of the Texas Star, which was the tallest Ferris Wheel in North America until a larger one was built in Mexico in 2013 (and which I have ridden). This book talks about George Ferris's invention, what people thought before he completed it, and about its debut at the 1893 World's Fair. Ferris wheels, named after their inventor (betcha didn't know that before!), are now found at traveling carnivals all the time and are a staple of the fair/carnival/amusement park experience. After reading this book, you'll know quite a bit more about something you probably never thought to look up before. 

The Camping Trip that Changed America is about the camping trip that President Theodore Roosevelt took in 1903 with naturalist John Muir. This trip is what resulted in the creation of the National Park system here in the United States! The trip happened in the redwood forests of Yosemite, which today is one of the top 5 most visited National Parks in the country. Thanks to this trip, we now have 61 national parks! I think that is reason alone to check out this book and discover the story of how some of our greatest natural landscapes have come to be preserved.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers tells the story of Philippe Petit, who walked between the World Trade Center towers in 1974. This book was written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein, who also illustrated The Camping Trip that Changed America. It won the Caldecott Medal in 2004. One of the interesting features of this book is that there are some fold-out pages, which help to emphasize the size and scale of the distance that Philippe was crossing. I thought it was a really interesting touch that added an extra layer to the book. 

The Nutcracker Comes to America is a book that presents exactly how the Nutcracker ballet came to be an American tradition during the Christmas/winter season. This is the story of how 3 brothers from Utah learned the story of the Nutcracker and caused a sensation in which a 19th century Russian story is performed in theatrical venues all across the country in the 21st century. I've attended the Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker and I have always known for the story to be a staple at Christmas time, since I watched the Care Bears animated version of it back in the 1990's on a VHS tape. I've also been a long time fan of Tchaikovsky's composition, as well as its use in the Disney animated feature, Fantasia. This book adds a new layer of depth and history to the beloved story and ballet. 

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth is about Eratosthenes, a Greek philosopher and scientist. With an innovative mind and some well-thought out measurements, he accurately measured the circumference of the Earth, long before the invention of satellites, computers, and digital calculators. He was also a librarian in his time, which made me all the more interested in the book since that is the profession I have studied so hard to be a part of. While more mathematical and scientific in nature than most of the other books included in this listing, it is definitely worth a read and I think it could leave many people astounded by Eratosthenes' accomplishments.

Final Thoughts

This ends the first ever Picture Book Showcase post. I'm really hoping you'll see if your local library has any of these books so you can check them out. I like how this turned out, so I will probably be doing some more of these. 

Comment Section Time!
If you've already read, or decide to read any of these books, let me know which ones and what you thought of them, down in the comments. Also, be sure to include your own picture book suggestions for me to read, or suggestions for future Picture Book Showcase themes! 

See you at the next post!