Searching for interesting and compelling nonfiction books for kids? Here’s a wide variety– from easy picture books to more challenging illustrated, informational tomes. You’ll find something for all readers and interests in this round-up from 2016.
Awesome Nonfiction Books for Kids
Astronaut (Busy People) by Lucy M. George, illustrated by AndoTwin
This is a wonderful, ethnically diverse picture book about Jenny and her work as an astronaut. Readers will enjoy finding out about Jenny’s day on the space station, including the hi-jinxes of her Robot-bot. The book concludes with more information and vocabulary as well as activities. Well done!
Police Officer (Busy People) by Lucy M. George, illustrated by AndoTwin
Seth is a police officer who protects people in the community. Follow along as he and his partner,Officer Thea, go to a local festival where they helps a lost boy find his parents. You’ll learn about Officer Seth’s duties, uniform, and other busy people that work with him. This nonfiction series is excellent for children, it’s spot on with pacing, text to picture ratio, and vocabulary. I’m very impressed.
The Secret Subway by Shana Corey
Back in 1860, New York’s streets are dirty and disgusting filled with people, horses and dirt. Finally, after lots of ideas, Alfred Ely Beach decided to secretly implement his idea to create an underground train. The photographic diorama scenes with clay figures are very compelling as is the well-written historical story.
Nadia The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still by Karlin Gray, illustrated by Christine Davenier
This lovely biographical picture book introduces a new generation to the hard-working Nadia Comaneci of Romania . . . how she loved to move, discovered gymnastics, failed, practiced and then won seven perfect 10s at the Olympics in 1956. The illustrations make me want to move, they’re absolutely spot-on for this sweet, true story.
It Can’t Be True A Hailstone Bigger Than a Tennis Ball Incredible Tactile Comparisons by DK Braille
Not only is this book in English and Braille, the illustrations are also tactile! Four moons line up across the Earth’s equator, a beam of light circles around the Earth, the world’s tallest living think (a giant sequoia), and more all stand out just enough from the page that fingers can feel their outlines. This book is amazing!
Echo & Echo by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Massee
Marilyn Singer skillfully writes the most amazing, want-to-read-again, reverso poems about Greek myths. Reverso poems are poems that are flipped upside down, more or less, and still make sense! I especially love the “Pandora and the Box” and “King Midas and His Daughter” poems. All the poems are beautifully illustrated, too. This is a must own poetry book for classrooms and homes.
Brave Like Me by Barbara Kerley (National Geographic)
Photographs of real children pair with simple text describing the emotional journey of having a parent deployed. “I look at the map, but Mom feels far away.” or “Sometimes I feel angry Dad can’t come to my game or sad when he misses my show at school.” The book ends with suggestions for caregivers for helping military children deal with separation from their parent. It’s an excellent resource for all ages of children that acknowledges the challenges they’re going through.
50 Things You Should Know About American Presidents by Tracey Kelly
This nonfiction book about the presidents of the U.S. is laid out like a magazine — with lots of photos, colorful insets, easy to digest facts, and interesting stories. I also like how easy it is to flip through and read at any point — no cover to cover reading required. Also read: 50 Things You Should Know About Wild Weather by Anna Claybourne.
Eureka! The Most Amazing Scientific Discoveries of All Time
Featuring the persevering scientists who made amazing discoveries, this book will inform children about how Marie Curie discovered two new chemical elements which she sued to make a new medical treatment called radioactivity, or how Gertrude Elion helped find a treatment for leukemia, or how Galileo determined that the Sun was at the center of the solar system by learning about the moons of Jupiter. Each section of scientific discovery is well-written with plenty of images and drawing and totally fascinating. Also read: Explore! The Most Dangerous Journeys of All Time by Deborah Kesdpert.
How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, illustrated by Valentina Belloni
You’ll love this picture book story about the first female to work for the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency. Her name was Kate Warne. When she discovered a plot to assassinate President Lincoln on the train ride to his inauguration, this smart-thinking detective figure out how to trick the would-be murders and get the President safely to his destination. Well done, Ms. Warne!
Seagoing Cowboy by Peggy Reiff Miller, illustrated by Claire Ewart
Little know history is always fun to learn about — like this! The Church of the Brethren and United Nations United Relief and Rehabilitation Administration sent 200,000 mules, horses, and heifers to a devastated Europe after the war, a program that is now known as The Heifer Project. Along with the animals were the cowboys who took care of them. This tells the story of a cowboy who rode the waves to Poland. It’s a very well-written story by the real granddaughter of one of the cowboys.
The Hole Story of The Doughnut by Pat Miller, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch
I love these little known historical stories! Hanson Gregory went to sea, first as a cabin boy. While working on the boat, he’s credited with inventing the doughnut. HIs mom popularized it when on land and the rest is history. Yum!
The Librarian Who Measured The Earth by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
In this historical picture book, we learn the interesting story of a Greek man named Eratosthenes who figured out an INGENIOUS way to figure out the measure of the Earth. This book would be great to use in a geometry unit.
Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jamey Christoph
A warmly illustrated biography follows Gordon Parks who became a well-known photographer who showed racism through his camera lens.
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy, Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Mira brightens up her world with her colorful paintings. She inspires everyone to paint the city walls with colorful murals.
Countries Mack’s World of Wonder by Mack van Gageldonk
This is an excellent nonfiction book with amazing photos, whimsical drawings on those photos, and and interesting information plus questions to make it interactive.
Guinness World Records Amazing Body Records!
Kind of gross but fascinating, these body records might be just what your children want to read! The longest mustache? The longest toenails? Yup. See what I mean?
I love the concept of this book so much — because LEGO! And History! The photographs of each LEGO historical scene are beautiful — well conceived. But, the historical, informational text is way too small for even me, let alone most kids, to read. Darn. Then there are the directions for building which are fine — no text, just images of the pieces needed (who would have these by the way?) and the step-by-step directions for some of the historical elements (not all). Clearly this doesn’t have all of our world history, just 70 key moments — which are really very interesting, despite the small text size. You’ll learn about the sextant and how to make it, the smallpox vaccine, the invention of the telephone, and much more. I have mixed feelings on recommending it — I think you’d have to be a dedicated history and LEGO buff to fully appreciate this book.