This book began with the question “How to make biographies come alive for third graders?” To answer it, we brought in an expert on bringing historical figures to life: Andrea Davis Pinkney. The students read her biography of a famous modern dancer, Alvin Ailey, (beautifully illustrated by her husband, Brian Pinkney) and visited the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater before meeting Andrea herself.
During her first visit, she discussed critical and non-critical details with the students, asking “Is it important to put in what your subject ate for breakfast?” Of course not! they answered, and so with this distinction in mind, the students selected their subjects and collected lists of facts about them; not just any facts, but the important ones.
When Andrea came back for her second visit she described how she took the facts she had gathered about Alvin Ailey and wove them together with her imagination, transforming them into a narrative story. And, with some help from our dedicated volunteer writing mentors, the students transformed their facts into stories too!
The students chose someone who inspired them as their subject, and the biographies range from Phyllis Wheatley to Bruce Lee, from Vivien Thomas to Sojourner Truth, from Bill Clinton to Bill Cosby and beyond. Even Andrea and her husband Brian were included!
The book is so new it is not yet available on our website, but check out the Pinkney portraits below, and keep an eye on this blog in the coming weeks!