Scientists, Explorers, and Artists - STEAM Biographies in Picture Books

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In a Facebook group recently, a friend recently asked for books to introduce kids to different careers and some of the trailblazers. We read a lot of STEM picture books, but most of them are focused on animals or funny stories rather than biographies, so I could only think of a couple favorite biographies off hand.

Then I pulled up my library history and realized that we’ve actually read a lot more picture book biographies than I had realized.

This list features STEAM pioneers in general; it's not a strict "science and engineering" careers list. There are artists, poets, and even one librarian on the list--but all of these books tell a story of real-life creativity and "persistence."

This is only a small sample of the hundreds of picture books biographies available, but if you want to read about STEAM careers, or you like reading history and biographies, here are some amazing picture books to check out!

Math, Science, Engineering & Inventors:

  • Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs, illustrated by Mary Azarian - the photographer who showed the world that no two snowflakes are exactly the same.
  • What Miss Mitchell Saw, by Hayley Barrett, illustrated by Diana Sudyka - an early astronomer who discovered a new comet.
  • A Computer Called Katherine, by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison - the story of Katherine Johnson, an early NASA "computer" or mathematician.
  • Mae Among the Stars, by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington - a book about Mae Jemison, the first female African-American astronaut.
  • My Journey to the Stars, by astronaut Scott Kelly with Emily Easton, illustrations by André Ceolin - an autobiographical story of an astronaut's life.

  • Rocks in His Head, by Carol Otis Hurst, illustrated by James Stevenson – the story of an amateur geologist who fell in love with rocks as a boy and spent his life learning about them.

  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon - the story of a self-taught inventor who figured out how to create electricity in a remote African village. 
A set of three picture book biographies

Biology & Ecology:  

  • Galápagos Girl, by Marsha Diane Arnold, illustrated by Angela Dominguez – a bilingual biography of biologist Valentina Cruz (written in English and Spanish).

A set of three children's books

Artists & Creators:

  • Noah Webster's Fighting Words, by Tracy Nelson Maurer, illustrated by Mircea Catusanu - an early American writer and his efforts to "fix" English.

A set of three picture books

It turns out there are a lot of different ways to explore the world! 

If you want to check out even more ideas for unusual or creative careers, these two books are a great place to start:

  • What Do Grown-ups Do All Day?, by Virginie Morgand - a fun look at a wide variety of different jobs in education, science, music, and many more fields.
What other scientists or artists have you read about recently? And what sorts of problems do you want to solve in today's world?

A large collection of picture book biographies.