Who was Series

View all Recommendations by Subjects > Biographies book lists; This list was last updated on 10/27/2017
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Penguin Who Was? series tells the incredible stories of trailblazers, legends, innovators, and creators. 
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Who Was Annie Oakley?
You want girl power? Meet Annie Oakley! Born in 1860, she became one of the best-loved and most famous women of her generation. She amazed audiences all over the world with her sharpshooting, horse-riding, action-packed performances. In an age when most women stayed home, she traveled the world and forged a new image for American women.
release date: Jul 22, 2002
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Who Was Harry Houdini?
Every kid has heard of Harry Houdini, the famous magician who could escape from handcuffs, jail cells, and locked trunks. But do they know that the ever-ambitious and adventurous Houdini was also a famous movie star and the first pilot to fly a plane in Australia? This well-told biography is full of the details of Houdini's life that kids will really want to know about and illustrated throughout with beautiful black-and-white line drawings.

Illustrated by John O'Brien.
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Who Was Alexander Graham Bell?
Did you know that Bell's amazing invention--the telephone--stemmed from his work on teaching the deaf? Both his mother and wife were deaf. Or, did you know that in later years he refused to have a telephone in his study? Bell's story will fascinate young readers interested in the early history of modern technology!
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Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was only 25 when he helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott and was soon organizing black people across the country in support of the right to vote, desegregation, and other basic civil rights. Maintaining nonviolent and peaceful tactics even when his life was threatened, King was also an advocate for the poor and spoke out against racial and economic injustice until his death?from an assassin?s bullet?in 1968. With clearly written text that explains this tumultuous time in history and 80 black-and-white illustrations, this Who Was?? celebrates the vision and the legacy of a remarkable man.

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Who Was Jacqueline Kennedy?
Through this engaging Who Was? biography, kids will discover the woman behind the sunglasses.

Private and bookish, Jackie Kennedy found herself thrust into the world spotlight as the young and glamorous wife of the President John F. Kennedy.  As First Lady she restored the once neglected rooms of the White House to their former glory, and through her charm and elegance became a style icon whose influence is still felt even today. Kids will be fascinated to read about a First Family whose youth, intelligence, and good looks captivated America in the early 1960s.
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Who Was King Tut?
Ever since Howard Carter uncovered King Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922, the young pharaoh has become a symbol of the wealth and mystery of ancient Egypt. Now, a two-and-a-half-year-long museum exhibit of Tut's treasures is touring major cities in the U.S., drawing record crowds. This Who Was . . . ? is complete with 100 black-andwhite illustrations and explains the life and times of this ancient Egyptian ruler, covering the story of the tomb's discovery, as well as myths and so-called mummy curses.
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Who Was Coretta Scott King?
The wife of Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King was a civil rights leader in her own right, playing a prominent role in the African American struggle for racial equality in the 1960s.

Here's a gripping portrait of a smart, remarkable woman. Growing up in Alabama, Coretta Scott King graduated valedictorian from her high school before becoming one of the first African American students at Antioch College in Ohio. It was there that she became politically active, joining the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). After her marriage to Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta took part in the Civil Rights Movement. Following her husband's assassination in 1968, she assumed leadership of the movement. Later in life she was an advocate for the Women's Rights Movement, LGBT rights, and she worked to end apartheid in South Africa.
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Who Was Theodore Roosevelt?
He was only 42 years old when he was sworn in as President of the United States in 1901, making TR the youngest president ever.  But did you know that he was also the first sitting president to win the Nobel Peace Prize? The first to ride in a car? The first to fly in an airplane? Theodore Roosevelt's achievements as a naturalist, hunter, explorer, author, and soldier are as much a part of his fame as any office he held as a politician. Find out more about The Bull Moose, the Progressive, the Rough Rider, the Trust Buster, and the Great Hunter who was our larger-than-life 26th president in Who Was Theodore Roosevelt?
Who Was Isaac Newton?
Isaac Newton was always a loner, preferring to spend his time contemplating the mysteries of the universe. When the plague broke out in London in 1665 he was forced to return home from college. It was during this period of so much death, that Newton gave life to some of the most important theories in modern science, including gravity and the laws of motion.
Who Was John F. Kennedy?
The man who saved the lives of his PT-109 crewmen during WWII and became the 35th president fought-and won-his first battle at the age of two-and-a-half, when he was stricken with scarlet fever. Although his presidency was cut short, our nation's youngest elected leader left an indelible mark on the American consciousness and now is profiled in our Who Was...? series. Included are 100 black-and-white illustrations as well as a timeline that guides readers through this eventful period in history.
Who Was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?
Born in Austria in 1756, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his first piece of music, a minuet, when he was just five years old! Soon after, he was performing for kings and emperors. Although he died at the young age of thirty-five, Mozart left a legacy of more than 600 works. This fascinating biography charts the musician's extraordinary career and personal life while painting a vivid cultural history of eighteenth-century Europe. Black-and-white illustrations on every spread explore such topics as the history of opera and the evolution of musical instruments. There is also a timeline and a bibliography.

Illustrated by Carrie Robbins.
Cover illustration by Nancy Harrison.
Who Was Ernest Shackleton?
As a boy he preferred reading sea stories to doing homework and, at age 16, became an apprentice seaman. Subsequently, Ernest Shackleton's incredible journeys to the South Pole in the early 1900s made him one of the most famous explorers of modern times.  His courage in the face of dangerous conditions and unforeseeable tragedies reveal the great leader that he was. His historic 1914 journey aboard the Endurance has all the drama of an action movie.
Who Was Gandhi?
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in 1869 in British-occupied India. Though he studied law in London and spent his early adulthood in South Africa, he remained devoted to his homeland and spent the later part of his life working to make India an independent nation. Calling for non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights around the world. Gandhi is recognized internationally as a symbol of hope, peace, and freedom.
Who Was Steve Jobs?
Steve Jobs, adopted in infancy by a family in San Francisco, packed a lot of life into fifty-six short years. In this Who Was…? biography, children will learn how his obsession with computers and technology at an early age led him to co-found and run Apple, in addition to turning Pixar into a ground-breaking animation studio. A college dropout, Jobs took unconventional steps in his path to success and inspired the best and the brightest to come with him and “change the world."
Who Was Galileo?
Like Michelangelo, Galileo is another Renaissance great known just by his first name--a name that is synonymous with scientific achievement. Born in Pisa, Italy, in the sixteenth century, Galileo contributed to the era's great rebirth of knowledge. He invented a telescope to observe the heavens. From there, not even the sky was the limit! He turned long-held notions about the universe topsy turvy with his support of a sun-centric solar system. Patricia Brennan Demuth offers a sympathetic portrait of a brilliant man who lived in a time when speaking scientific truth to those in power was still a dangerous proposition.
Who Was Pete Seeger?
Pete Seeger was an American folk musician and social activist whose outspoken songs about freedom and justice got him blacklisted from radio and TV for years.

Pete Seeger was still singing and playing the banjo for tens of thousands of fans even when he was at the age of ninety-four. Born in New York City on May 3, 1919, Pete came from a family of musicians. Despite writing and singing folk songs that all of America knows, not many kids know his name. Why? Because his ties to the Communist Party got him banned from radio and television for many years! Well-known for his civil rights activism with Martin Luther King Jr., Seeger also spearheaded efforts that cleaned up the Hudson River and made it beautiful again. His best-known songs include "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?", "If I Had a Hammer" and "Turn, Turn, Turn."

In this easy-to-read biography from the New York Times best-selling series, Pete Seeger is revealed as not just a performer but as a champion for a better world and the eighty illustrations contained in the book help bring his story to life.
Who Was Ben Franklin?
Ben Franklin was the scientist who, with the help of a kite, discovered that lightning is electricity. He was also a statesman, an inventor, a printer, and an author-a man of such amazingly varied talents that some people claimed he had magical powers! Full of all the details kids will want to know, the true story of Benjamin Franklin is by turns sad and funny, but always honest and awe-inspiring.
release date: May 01, 2005
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Who Was Charles Darwin?
As a young boy, Charles Darwin hated school and was often scolded forconducting “useless” experiments. Yet his passion for the natural world was so strong that he suffered through terrible seasickness during his five-year voyage aboard The Beagle. Darwin collected new creatures from the coasts of Africa, South America, and the Galapagos Islands, and expanded his groundbreaking ideas that would change people's understanding of the natural world. About 100 illustrations and a clear, exciting text will make Darwin and his theory of evolution an exciting discovery for every young reader.
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Who Was Sitting Bull?
No one knew the boy they called “Jumping Badger” would grow to become a great leader. Born on the banks of the Yellowstone River, Sitting Bull, as he was later called, was tribal chief and holy man of the Lakota Sioux tribe in a time of fierce conflict with the United States. As the government seized Native American lands, Sitting Bull relied on his military cunning and strong spirituality to drive forces out of his territory and ensure a future homeland for his people.
Who Was Rosa Parks?
In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama. This seemingly small act triggered civil rights protests across America and earned Rosa Parks the title "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement." This biography has black-and-white illustrations throughout.
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Who Was Milton Hershey?
Discover the man behind the chocolate bar! Milton Hershey's life was filled with invention and innovation.  As a young man, he was not afraid to dream big and work hard.  Eventually, he learned the secret to mass-producing milk chocolate and the recipe that gave it a longer, more stable shelf life.  He founded a school for those who didn't have access to a good education and an entire town for his employees. Both his chocolate empire and his great personal legacy live on today.
Who Was Marie Curie?
Born in Warsaw, Poland, on November 7, 1867, Marie Curie was forbidden to attend the male-only University of Warsaw, so she enrolled at the Sorbonne in Paris to study physics and mathematics. There she met a professor named Pierre Curie, and the two soon married, forming one of the most famous scientific partnerships in history. Together they discovered two elements and won a Nobel Prize in 1903. (Later Marie won another Nobel award for chemistry in 1911.) She died in Savoy, France, on July 4, 1934, a victim of many years of exposure to toxic radiation.
Who Was Susan B. Anthony?
Susan B. Anthony may be an international icon but her campaign for women's rights had personal roots. Working as a school teacher in New York, Anthony refused to settle for less pay than her male colleagues which ignited her lifelong devotion to women's equality. Anthony toured the United States and Europe giving speeches and publishing articles as one of the most important advocates of women's rights. Learn more about the woman behind the movement in Who Was Susan B. Anthony?
Who Were the Wright Brothers? (Who Was...?)
As young boys, Orville and Wilbur Wright loved all things mechanical.  As young men, they gained invaluable skills essential for their success by working with printing presses, bicycles, motors, and any sort of machinery they could get their hands on.  As adults, the brothers worked together to invent, build, and fly the world's first successful airplane. This is the fascinating story of the two inventors and aviation pioneers who never lost sight of their dream: to fly, and to soar higher!
Who Was Amelia Earhart?
Amelia Earhart was a woman of many "firsts." In 1932, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In 1935, she also became the first woman to fly across the Pacific. From her early years to her mysterious 1937 disappearance while attempting a flight around the world, readers will find Amelia Earhart's life a fascinating story.
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Who Was Christopher Columbus?
Learn all about Christopher Columbus' early life at sea, which led him to seek fortune by sailing west in hopes of creating new trade routes with the Indies. Kids will read about why he called himself the "Great Admirald of the Seas" and learn of all his struggles to find finacial support for his voyage.
Who Was Alexander the Great?
Alexander the Great conquers the New York Times best-selling Who Was...? series!

When Alexander was a boy in ancient Macedon, he already had grand ambitions. He complained that his father, the great king of Macedon, wasn't leaving anything for him to conquer! This, of course, was not the case. King Alexander went on to control most of the known world of the time. His victories won him many supporters, but they also earned him enemies. This easy-to-read biography offers a fascinating look at the life of Alexander and the world he lived in.
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Who Was Milton Bradley?
Meet the man behind the board games: Milton Bradley.

Born in Maine in 1836, Milton Bradley moved with his family to the working-class city of Lowell, Massachusetts, at age 11. His early life consisted of several highs and lows, from graduating high school and attending Harvard to getting laid off and losing his first wife. These experiences gave Bradley the idea for his first board game: The Checkered Game of Life. He produced and sold Life across the country and it quickly became a national sensation. Working with his company, the Milton Bradley Company, he continued to produce board games, crayons, and kid-friendly school supplies for the rest of his life. He is often credited as the father of board games, and the Milton Bradley Company has created Battleship, Jenga, Yahtzee, Trouble, and many more classic games.
Who Was Thomas Alva Edison?
One day in 1882, Thomas Edison flipped a switch that lit up lower Manhattan with incandescent light and changed the way people live ever after. The electric light bulb was only one of thousands of Edison's inventions, which include the phonograph and the kinetoscope, an early precursor to the movie camera. As a boy, observing a robin catch a worm and then take flight, he fed a playmate a mixture of worms and water to see if she could fly! Here's an accessible, appealing biography with 100 black-and-white illustrations.
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Who Was Michael Jackson?
Born in Gary, Indiana, on August 29, 1958, Michael Jackson was definitely not a regular kid. A superstar with The Jackson 5 before he was eight years old, he became the King of Pop as a solo artist. Michael was a creative--yet deeply troubled--genius who always remained devoted to his art right up until his death is 2009 before a much anticipated tour. He had a pitch-perfect voice and footwork that his idol Fred Astaire admired. Who will ever forget the Moonwalk? Kids today who only know Jackson through video performances are nevertheless fascinated by him. Megan Stine provides a sensitive, fair-minded depiction of this unique music legend.
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