From sports facts to dinosaur poop and historical biographies, these latest nonfiction books give readers (ages 6 – 11) plenty to learn and read.
Don’t Miss These Nonfiction Standouts for Ages 6 – 12
Book of Bones: 10 Record-Breaking Animals by Gabrielle Balkan, illustrated by Sam Brewster
Oversized, dramatic white on black pictures of animals with bones catch your attention. Try to guess from the picture and clues what animal it is. For example, guess who has the most bones. You’ll see a picture of a twisty snake like creature and read facts such as more than one thousand bones, scaly skin and lay eggs, and slither through the rainforests of Southeast Asia. Turn the page to see the colorful picture, the answer, and more information. Did you guess a reticulated python? I suspect this fascinating book will get kids jazzed about both bones and the cool animals.
Big Machines The Story of Virginia Lee Burton (How Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel and Friends Came to Life) by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by John Rocco
One of the best picture book biographies of 2017! Jinnee creates wonderful drawings and stories for her two young sons. You’ll want to reread her books before and after this biography. You’ll learn how books like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Katy and the Big Snow, Maybelle, The Cable Car, and The Little House came to life. Reading this story gives insight into an artist’s creative process, the process behind writing and illustrating a children’s story.
Tonatiuh shares the story of a dedicated ballet dancer who discovers the beauty of folkloric dances from the different regions of Mexico. She learns them all, sharing them with the world in performances by her dance company, El Ballet Folklórico. Gorgeous folkloric illustrations enhance each page’s details; I love these so much I want to frame them all. This is a wonderful tribute to one of my favorite performing companies and the dancer visionary who made it all happen.
Ride On, Will Cody! A Legend of the Pony Express by Caroline Starr Rose, illustrated by Joe Lillington
Short, punchy phrases epitomize the hurry of the Pony Express rider as he races across the West, changes horses, and never sleeps until he reaches all the mail stations. Teachers will welcome this historical picture book in their school libraries and classrooms.
Dino-Mite (Science with Stuff ) by Sarah Parvis
Will the fossilized dino poop entice you to read this book? It just might help you turn the pages to learn more about dinosaurs. The book is well-organized and informative with full color, glossy pages and kid-friendly layouts making it a good choice for elementary school dinosaur fans.
Shark-Tastic (Science with Stuff) by Lori Stein
Who wouldn’t want their own shark tooth you get with this cool book? Then get the scoop on the world of sharks from the basics of their bodies to unusual features and interesting kinds of sharks. This is a well-written shark book with helpful photographs and interesting informational insets. You’ll learn a lot from this book.
Whenever I volunteer in the school library, I see groups of kids huddled up reading sports facts books just like this one. I think elementary kids, especially hockey fans, will devour the pages of this book, too. From the beginnings of hockey to the present day, readers will learn about old style skates to current skates, gear including the outfits, famous players, coaches, and teams. For hockey players and fans, this is a must read.
You Can Be a Paleontologist! National Geographic Kids by Scott D. Sampson, Ph.D.
Each section of information begins with a question like “How do you find fossils” then answers the question using text, photographs, and informational insets. Dinosaur fans will be excited to learn just how scientists find, store, study, and figure out more about the dinosaurs they study — all from the bones. Clear information with enticing photographs make this an excellent choice for dinosaur and science enthusiasts.
The Girl Who Ran Bobbi Gibb, The First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon by Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, illustrated by Susanna Chapman
It’s now hard to imagine a time (not so long ago) when women were prohibited from doing things like running in a long distance race simply because of their gender. In this story we learn how Bobbi, a girl who loved to run, wanted to run the Boston Marathon race. But her application for the race was denied because she was a girl. So she disguised herself as a boy and entered the race. When her long hair became uncovered, the racers and spectators cheered her on. She finished the race, paving the way for girls and making history. You’ll love the gorgeous illustrations as well as this exciting, inspiring true story.
It might take a kid 100 hours to read this book. Maybe more. The beauty of it, besides the dense content of fascinating facts, is that kids can skip around to what interests them to read at that moment. As you expect from National Geographic Kids, the layout, colors, and photographs are fantastic making the information jump out at the reader. This is a great gift for kids who love nonfiction books of facts. Or any kid actually.
Martí’s Song for Freedom Martí y sus versons por la libertad by Emma Othenguy, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal
José Martí was a Cuban poet who wrote against slavery and the Spanish rule of Cuba. Forced to leave his beloved Cuba, he moved to New York until he could return home to fight for Cuba’s independence. This is a basic bilingual biography which doesn’t get into a lot of the nuances of the poet’s life but makes for a great starting point for a study of Cuba, latino poets, or the power of words in a social justice movement.
Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee! by Andrea J. Loney, illustrated by Keith Mallett
James VanDerZee got his first camera by winning a contest where he had to sell the most perfumed sachets. From that moment on, he worked hard to be the best photographer he could be, even moving to New York City where he eventually opened his own photography studio. His story is fascinating, as are the people whom he captured in photographs during the Harlem Renaissance, many of which were displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a special exhibit.
Sports Illustrated Kids The Football Fanbook by Gary Gramling
You know how some guys love Sports Center? They’ll want to watch it all night, or at least if they get the remote. Well, this is like Sports Center for kids. This book is filled with photographs and football information to do with stats, facts, skills, coaching, greats, teams, and terms that would make for perfect nightly reading for football crazy kids. I know a few, you probably do as well. I can just imagine those kids curling up with their Football Fanbook to learn just what quarterback has the highest winning percentage in the NFL or offensive strategies that work or everything to know about a favorite NFL team like the Broncos. Get your football fans reading this book — I doubt they’ll want to put it down.
BUGS! Animal Planet Amazing Animal Facts Chapter Books by James Buckley, Jr.
I really like this book, and the series (see Snakes! here). I envision elementary teachers who are looking for high-interest expository text to use this series in teaching comprehension strategies or research or science. The books are in full color with photographs, illustrations, and kid-friendly design. The text size itself is perfect for elementary readers, it’s slightly bigger than typical nonfiction books of this length with decent white space in between the lines and around it. Finally, I’m impressed with the way this book series delivers factual information without dumbing it down or making it too difficult to read. Amazing Animal Facts Chapter Books is a stellar, highly recommended science chapter book series just perfect for elementary classrooms and libraries.
Two Truths and a Lie by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Lisa K. Weber
This book is GENIUS! It’s an impressive dare really for kids to read and figure out what is true and what is a lie. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE how the authors engage the readers brains in such a way! I can’t resist their dare. And I hope most kids wouldn’t be able to either. Again, it’s a genius premise, one that promises to cementing knowledge of real and false because no answers are given. Know that readers will not just be reading and thinking deeply, but they’ll also doing research while they’re immersed in the book… (Because one must know if a prehistoric dinosaur “Bambi” exists, if the slyrking will take over your picnic, or if doctors really can implant a stimoceiver in the brain to control your behavior.) Readers can’t just walk away without doing the research to find the truth. Oh, and I must tell you that the conversational tone in which this book is written makes it flow smoothly. That, plus the addition of many illustrations and photographs make this one hard-to-put down nonfiction middle grade book. Teachers, take note!! Two Truths and a Lie is a new favorite nonfiction book for elementary and middle school kids.
The Hidden Life of a Toad by Doug Wechsler
There is so much to love about this nonfiction picture book book! The text is really basic — not to hard for early elementary grades. The book sequentially shows in text and photos the development of a toad — which is fascinating! It’s longer that I would prefer but I think kids will stay engaged since the changes in the toad are quite profound.