Sunday 14 August 2022

Board Biographies by Lynne Benton

 This will be a short blog, as I’ve only just come home from a trip to the US, visiting friends, and I’m still somewhat jet-lagged!  However, it’s time for my Blog, so here goes:

While we were away, as we drove past a big new building, my friend Maria said, “That’s our new library!”  That in itself was noteworthy.  In England these days, the words “new” and “library” seldom appear in the same sentence.  Then, a few days later, when Maria was looking after her two year old grandson, Aiden, she said, “I’ve promised I’ll take him to the library,” so I was glad I would have the opportunity to go there.

It turned out to be a happy experience.  It was a big airy building, standing alone but surrounded by plenty of places to park.  There were two floors: the children’s library on the ground floor, and the adults’ on the first floor (though I never got to see that!)  As soon as we were inside, Aiden trotted ahead of us to the far end of the building where there was a wide play area for pre-school children, carpeted and furnished with small tables and chairs and plenty of toys, as well as chairs for parents/grandparents to watch the children play, and at one side a long trough of books specially for the pre-school age group.  This was only part of the whole children’s library, which was easily accessed from this area, and where there were several cheerful, friendly, helpful librarians ready to assist anyone who needed it.

Aiden was clearly at home here and had a lovely time playing with the various toys, alongside several other small children.  All very happy.  And when he’d had enough of those, he would go to the trough, select some books and ask Maria to read to him.  So while they were busy I took a look at the books on offer – market research, if you like!

And I found an interesting phenomenon.  There were plenty of board books there for  very young children , such as


But among them I found a series of similarly small board books, clearly for the same age group, but which turned out to be (very simple) biographies of famous people!  This did surprise me.  I wondered how many two-year-olds would be interested in biographies?  But what I found even more surprising was the wide variety of people chosen for the series.  I found five in the trough – Dolly Parton, Ella Fitzgerald, Muhammed Ali, Mother Theresa and Stephen Hawking (!)  The book about Stephen Hawking even tried to explain (very very simply) his black hole theory!

Since returning home I’ve done some research and discovered that there are many more of these board biographies, including ones on David Attenborough, Neil Armstrong, Michelle Obama and Greta Thunberg. 

And I began to think that maybe I was wrong to be surprised – maybe it is a good thing to tell very young children how certain people became famous, and how they too can aim high, just as these people did.

And I started wondering if I were to be asked to write a biography of someone who would appeal to two-year-olds, who would I choose? 

Who would you choose?


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Adelaide Dupont said...

David Bellamy.

Or probably David Attenborough.

They probably would have encountered him on television or on film.

I did think at first Isaac Newton.

Lynne Benton said...

Thanks, Adelaide - David Bellamy is a good idea! Easily recognisable. I'm still thinking...