Everyone knows a young reader or two who absolutely love non-fiction. Often times they’ll choose books that let them learn about real life people and the world around them rather than picking up the next Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. The First Names Series is perfect for precocious readers looking for their next great biography but who aren’t quite ready to jump into young adult or adult books just yet.
Laid out in easy to manage sections and chapters, the first two books in the First Names series are quick and easy to read. They are filled with fun facts and stories about the lives of Harry Houdini and Amelia Earhart. The biographies are accompanied by numerous illustrations which help young readers stay engaged and also add some needed humor in some places!
Over all, they’re fun books that will appeal especially to your more inquisitive, non-fiction focused readers. They also have a fun, almost diary-style feel that will likely appeal to kids who may not otherwise be interested in non-fiction books. It’s a series that’s definitely geared knows what drive it’s target audiences.
Read on to find out more about the first two books in the series: Harry Houdini and Amelia Earhart!
Starting out with Harry Houdini about to attempt one of his more dangerous tricks, the book quickly find itselfs segue into Harry’s early years. Born in Budapest, his family immigrated to the United States while he was still very young and they struggled most of his young life. Ehrich Weisz, as he was known then, became interested in magic at a young age and mastered his craft over the years eventually becoming the Harry Houdini we all know today!
Harry Houdini takes young readers through the ups and downs of his magical career showing them just how hard he had to work to make his name famous. Along the way readers will learn all kinds of things they might not have expected including quite a bit about Harry’s family, his wife, and especially his younger brother, Dash, who also found success as a stage magician.
While there are a few times here and there that the book feels like it gets bogged down in the little details, it’s still a fun read. The illustrations are entertaining and pair well with the story that’s being told. Geraint Ford really captures Harry’s unique look and charisma in his black-and-white drawings throughout the book. Plus he has some really cool illustrations that explain some of Harry’s biggest stunts and tricks. They’re enough to keep any kid waiting and wanting to see more!
When young readers first meet the famous Amelia Earhart she’s about the same age as many of them would be. A daredevil even as a child, she’s riding sleds through the snow and getting herself into some pretty precarious situations. And yet she comes out of it all on top. From there were learn more about her early childhood, her family, and her first experience with flight.
What would initially start as a hobby would turn into a high-flying career or daring deeds across the country. Amelia Earhart would finally find her place showing off in dusty, rural towns and flying in dangerous air shows. Eventually she’d be pegged for even more fanciful flights including being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic and then the first to do so solo. She’d break records and shoot even higher each time eventually making her famous, ill-fated attempt to fly around the world which would sadly end in tragedy.
Amelia’s story – while ultimately tragic – is full of inspirational moments that will encourage young readers to follow their dreams. She did a lot of things people thought she never could just because she was a woman and she lived a full life proving them all wrong! Mike Smith’s illustrations help tell her story as well as the story of early aviation. Drawings of Amelia are joined by maps and drawings of various planes that grew alongside hobby aviation. Smith does a great job of bringing the story – and the history – to life!