No boring biographies in this bunch

BARACK, by Jonah Winter, illustrated by AG Ford, HarperCollins, $17.99; ages 4-7.

Follow the journey of a young Barack Obama that began with a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya, through Indonesia and Hawaii to Chicago and eventually to the White House.

YOUNG PELE: SOCCER’S FIRST STAR, by Lesa Cline-Ransome, paintings by James E. Ransome, Schwartz& Wade, $16.99; ages 4-8.

As a youngster, Edson (nicknamed Pele) daydreamed about soccer, often getting him in trouble in school. He and his friends became quite good but often were not allowed to play in soccer tournaments because they didn’t have the proper equipment. Through determination, Pele eventually became an inspiration to many young soccer players.

SAY A LITTLE PRAYER, by Dionne Warwick, David Freeman Wooley, Tonya Bolden, illustrations by Soud, Running Press, $17.95; ages 4-8.

On her way to school, Little D says hello to everyone she passes. She is good in school, enjoys sports and dreams about her future. In church one morning, her grandpa, the preacher, asks her to sing. He whispers in her ear"I’ll say a little prayer for you.” Little D sings"Jesus Loves Me.” Grandpa’s sermon is about everyone having talent. The book includes a CD with Dionne reading the story and the song"Jesus Loves Me.”

HELEN KELLER: THE WORLD IN HER HEART, by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James Ransome, HarperCollins,$16.99; ages 5-9.

Just before her second birthday, Helen becomes ill and loses her sight and hearing. Her parents send for a teacher, Annie Sullivan, to come from the Institute for the Blind in Boston to help her. It is not easy, but through persistence and hard work Helen is able to understand the letters to form words.

WANDA GAG: THE GIRL WHO LIVED TO DRAW, by Deborah Kogan Ray, Viking, $16.99; ages 5 and up.

The book Millions of Cats was published in 1928, yet the story continues to be enjoyed by children today. To help support the family after her father dies, Wanda paints bookmarks and cards to be sold at the local drugstore. Life is not easy for the family of seven children. At age 20, Wanda is awarded a scholarship to attend art school. From her"Notebook of Ideas,” her children’s books eventually became reality.

THE ROAD TO OZ: TWISTS, TURNS, BUMPS AND TRIUMPHS IN THE LIFE OF L. FRANK BAUM, by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, Knopf, $17.99; ages 8-12.

For most of his life, Baum would have been considered a failure. His family was rich and from the time he was born in 1856 in New York, Baum could have everything he wanted. He tried many unsuccessful adventures, which included theater, breeding chickens, traveling sales and newspapers. After marriage and four sons, he moved his family to Chicago and became a window decorator. After so many failures, his mother-in-law suggested that since he loved creating stories so much, he should try writing them. In 1900 at age 44, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published. This year is the 70th anniversary of the 1939 movie of the same name.

MOZART: THE WONDER CHILD, by Diane Stanley, HarperCollins, $17.99; ages 8-12.

At age 3, Wolfgang Mozart started taking lessons on a clavier (keyboard). Within the next few years, his father knew his son was a musical genius. By 6, Mozart was the primary breadwinner as the family traveled throughout Europe for him to perform. He died in 1791 at age 35, but in his short life composed some of the most memorable music of all time.

Judy Belanger is Chicago Parent’s children’s book reviewer and a retired elementary learning resource center teacher with four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6.

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