I love an inspirational, educational picture book, and The Oldest Student by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, illustrated by Oge Mora fits the bill.
I can’t believe I didn’t know about Mary Walker, but I’m glad I learned about her in this book. She was born into slavery in 1848. After being freed at 15, someone gave her a Bible. She wanted to read it, but had never learned. She couldn’t write, so she just made marks in the front to note her sons’ birth dates. She outlived her entire family and finally decided to learn to read. She was scared she was too old to learn, but she worked hard and never gave up. At 116, she could read! She lived to be 121.
Mora’s illustrations are amazing, showing the reader the way Walker sees scribbles all around her, then words after she learns to read. The endpapers include real photos of Mary Walker.