Biographies: To Bobble or Not to Bobble

I am a sucker for a good biography and even more enamoured by a good autobiography. People fascinate me and I often find myself flipping to the picture pages present in most biographical tomes. As a kid I loved history books with pictures of children from the turn of the century or during the civil war, something about those old photographs drew me into their world. These days, there are a number of places to turn if one wants to find a good biography for children. Everyone from Walt Disney to Mother Teresa to Albert Einstein to Neil Armstrong. The two biggest series though are the Who Was...? series and the DK Biography series.
The Who Was...? series' covers always have a rather comical caricature of the books' subject. Often the picture looks like one of those caricatures a person might buy at the fair or the beach. Except of course, the subjects of this art is none other than Michelangelo or Babe Ruth. The biographical information is on point, but something about the cartoon characters throughout the entire book really irks me. How is a giant bobble headed person going to help a child understand what George Washington looked like? Dispersed throughout the book are sidebars with other historically relevant information having to do with that particular time period or subject. Again, I do wonder if cartoons are really the best way to convey historical information here. Anyone know of a study regarding visual learning of facts, cartoons vs. photographs?
The DK series is my preferred method of biography. DK loads their biographies with all kinds of photos and whatnot. For example: Paintings of George Washington, a photograph of his house, pictures of his false teeth used in the day, letters, as well as other artifacts of the era.

Perhaps I should have made a caveat in regards to cartoons. As a child, cartoons were never my preferred viewing method. I would have rather watched a Disney live action film over an animated film any day. Hans Christian Andersen starring Danny Kay was one of my favorite movies. And it is just this bloggers' opinion, but if you are going to introduce a child to a historical figure, the lease you can do is show them a real picture of them rather than a giant bobble head.


Unknown said...

I teach high school social studies and use these books for student reading and research of characters lives and times- students love the characters; the reading is something my struggling readers can easily read, and have success with.