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All-Time Greats: The Best Biographies of Historical Figures for Children Learning French

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Language learning takes effort and dedication – something that the real-life subjects of these books have in abundance! Reading books in French will help your children on their language learning journey and we hope that the inspiring real people featured in these books will encourage them.

The reading age guidelines are based on recommendations from the books’ French publishers, but depending on your child’s level of French you may want to choose books aimed at younger children. Most of the books are aimed at a 3rd grade level but some are a little more challenging and would suit 4th or 5th grade children.

Louis Armstrong

7+ years

This book follows the life of the Louisiana-born jazz virtuoso, Louis Armstrong. Young Louis knew from a young age that music would have a profound influence on his life. At the age of five, he discovered the joy of music listening to gospel at church and by the time he was eight years old he had formed his first band. This biography follows his career from learning to play the trumpet up to his collaboration with another musical legend, Duke Ellington. Archive photos and illustrations bring the stories to life, and the supplementary CD includes an audiobook of the text read by Lemmy Constantine, and 15 of Louis Armstrong’s songs. A vivid portrait of an exceptional trumpeter and distinctive singer.

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Louis Braille, L'enfant de la nuit

8+ years

We take being able to read for granted but there was a time when the magic of books was inaccessible to blind people. This book tells the story of Louis Braille. He lost his sight in a childhood accident and was sent to a school for the blind in Paris. However, the standard of education for visually impaired people was low at the time and young Louis fiercely wished to be able to read books by himself. After years of research and experimentation, he developed a tactile alphabet using raised dots. His idea did not gain much popularity during his lifetime, but after Louis’ death in 1852, the Braille alphabet began to take off. Braille is still used all over the world today as a reading and writing system for blind and visually impaired people. Well-researched and moving, this book paints a touching portrait of a man whose invention has allowed people all over the world to enjoy the magic of reading.

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Benjamin Franklin

8+ years

This book is from the “T’étais qui, toi?” series of biographies for children, which are written in an accessible novel form with humorous illustrations. Benjamin Franklin is well known as one of the American Founding Fathers and the inventor of the lightning rod, but Le Bourhis introduces us to many more aspects and achievements of this inquisitive and intelligent man. Franklin was a printer, a politician, an ambassador, an inventor and a fervent campaigner for the abolition of slavery by the end of his life. This engaging book sheds light on a man who was truly ahead of his time.

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Malala, pour le droit des filles à l'école

8+ years

Learn about Malala, who has bravely campaigned for educational rights despite fearsome opposition and violence. Born in the Swat valley in Pakistan in 1997, Malala grew up in a small house opposite the school that her father founded. When the local taliban banned girls from attending school, Malala refused to obey. Only eleven years old, she courageously spoke out against the ban, writing a blog and appearing on television to question the legitimacy of the law depriving girls of education. However, as she gained worldwide acclaim, she also became a bigger target and in 2012 the taliban attacked her school bus and tried to kill her. Transferred to England for treatment, Malala recovered from her serious injuries and refused to give up her fight. She returned to school and continues to campaign for educational rights. At the age of 17 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This story of bravery and determination is complemented by photos, historical and political information and Malala’s own words.

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La Reine du Niagara

9+ years

This book tells the stranger-than-fiction story of Annie Edson Taylor. At the end of the 19th century, the respectable teacher was looking for a way to finance her retirement. As a middle-aged woman, her options were scarce… And then one day, she had an idea: go over Niagara falls in a barrel, generate lots of publicity, sell her story and get rich! She commissioned a custom-made barrel, hired an agent, and and on her 63rd birthday she became the first person to survive a trip over Niagara falls in a barrel! Although she did not make any fortune in the end, Annie’s stunt has only been matched by a small number of people since, and she is still the only woman to have done it. This book describes Annie’s brave and entrepreneuring feat and the black and white illustrations evoke the sepia photographs of the era.

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Martin Luther King

10+ years

Taken from the “De vie en vie” collection for children about famous people who have changed the world, this book describes the life of the civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King Jr.. The first chapter tells the story of Rosa Parks, an African American woman who risked arrest by sitting at the front of a bus in a seat reserved for white people. Having first set the social and historical context, the book goes on to introduce Martin Luther King Jr. and his political message – particularly that of non violence. An interesting and informative book about a figure who has had a huge influence on the history of human rights.

Irish linguist and writer based in Dublin. Fascinated by all things word-related. Hobbies include consulting etymological dictionaries, attempting to learn increasingly obscure languages and ... Show More

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