I am a history buff and I LOVE biographies. If they are well done, they provide a look into not only the life of the individual but the issues of the time and invite you to walk in their shoes. Below are some picture book biographies. Many of these are wordy and dense for a picture book- they are not meant for young children (although they can be read aloud well). The picture book format was chosen for these stories because it allows the author to use images to further the story - not because the topics are childish.
Demi - Her works include Alexander the Great, Marco Polo, Muhammed, Jesus, Saint Francis of Assisi, Joan of Arc, Tutankhamun, Columbus and many more.
D'Aulaires - This couple created a series of picture book biographies - often using word carvings that were created into pictures. Titles include Leif the Lucky, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Buffalo Bill, Columbus, Pocohontas, and Abraham Lincoln.
Diane Stanley - Her books are visually inviting and detailed. She delves into the lives of Joan of Arc, The Bard of Avon (Shakespeare), Leonardo da Vinci, Shaka, Good Queen Bess, Michaelangelo, Cleopatra, Peter the Great, and Saladin.
Peter Sis - His books aren't strictly biographies - they are more about a specific time period or era. They are really meant for slightly older children too - late elementary. He looks at The Wall (Iron Curtain), Starry Messenger (Galileo), Follow the Dream (Christopher Columbus), The Tree of Life (Darwin).
Aliki - This author has written books on a number of themes but his historical books are not to be missed. Their pictures are great as is the information he provides. Titles include The Medieval Feast, William Shakespeare and the Globe, Mummies Made in Egypt, A Weed is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver, The Story of Johnny Appleseed, The Story of William Tell, The King's Day: Louis XIV of France, and The Many Lives of Benjamin Franklin.
Jean Fritz - She has written lots of historical fiction and some are picture books and others are longer. Her books don't have gorgeous pictures but there is quite a bit of meat to the text she provides for the age she is addressing. Can't You Make Them Behave, King George?, Shh . . We're Writing the Constitution, And Then What Happened, Paul Revere, George Washington's Breakfast, What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?, Where was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May?, Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? and You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton? and others are her picture books. The stories with questions in the titles are for the youngest set. She then has chapter books about Sam Houston, Teddy Roosevelt and others.
Although Robert Coles wrote mostly for adults about children, this is one of my very favorite biographies, The Story of Ruby Bridges. It doesn't cover her full life but the episode it describes is powerful. He was the psychologist assigned to her as she helped desegregate Louisiana schools. He is one of my very favorite authors, but I digress (try The Call of Stories).
I have not read ALL of these titles but I have read at least a few books by each of these authors. I do encourage you to preview them because these are written about historical figures so they will all have some type of bias or approach. Older books tend to romanticize characters a bit more and newer books often have less of a "hero" factor in their presentation. All of them have a place and provide a great opportunity to discuss perspective with your children.
Although these are picture books many will require more than one sitting to complete. Remember to take your time and enjoy the story. Do you have any other titles or authors you would recommend in this category? Happy reading!