You know me, I ALWAYS want kids to read both fiction and nonfiction.
Because nonfiction reading is different. It’s reading for information! Which is pretty much all that they’ll do in the upper grades and college. Right?
Fall in love with nonfiction and practice comprehending with good books like these best nonfiction books of 2020!
Best Nonfiction Books of 2020
Best Nonfiction Picture Books
Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Amazing, gigantic illustrations give us a bees-eye view of a honeybee’s life from her birth to the days of working in the hive, guarding the hive, and searching for nectar. Beautifully written and illustrated, this book is an informative book about the life-cycle of bees that sensitively ends with a reflection of the honeybee’s accomplishments (“She has visited thirty thousand flowers…Her work is done.”), her final flight in the warm air, and the birth of a new honeybee.
Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story by Zeena M. Pliska, illustrated by Fiona Halliday
Not only is this a brilliant circular story that shows the life cycle but it’s a sweet friendship story, too. The caterpillar meets a butterfly who tells him all about the world and then, must say goodbye. Written in first-person with vivid verbs and evocative illustrations, this is an essential picture book for the classroom. “I am graceful and beautiful. I can flit, flutter, and fly.”
The Story Orchestra: Carnival of the Animals by Katy Flint, illustrated by Jessica Courtney Tickle
What a magical, musical picture book! Take an immersive journey with two brothers who journey through a magical kingdom. They swim under the ocean fly with beautiful birds, explore a dusty old museum, all the while, their adventures are accompanied by orchestra music. Gorgeous illustrations, fully interactive and imaginative, this is a wonderful way to create an atmospheric reading experience.
Woodland Dreams by Karen Jameson, illustrated by Marc Boutavant
A little girl and her dog walk through the woods, saying goodnight to each of the woodland creatures. Similar poetic text structure and soothing wordplay, “Antlered swimmer / Pond-weed skimmer / Daylight’s fleeting — wade ashore / Bed down in the great outdoors.” Rich, earthy illustrations give this book a warm, cozy feel.
Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Michele Wood
Brilliantly written in poetic stanzas with evocative, textured folk art, this dramatic retelling of Henry Brown’s life is a memorable, powerful biography. Born into slavery, he lived a life at the mercy of his cruel owners. After his wife and children were sold away, Henry feels that there’s nothing more to fear and plans his escape. He asks a friend to help and ships himself in a wooden box where he’s turned upside down, hurt, cramped, and finally FREE in New England. where he becomes a mesmerist performer.
Over and Under the Rainforest by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
A child narrates what he experiences during a rainforest hike. The child notices the wildlife living up in the canopy and down below on the ground; animals like capuchin monkeys, leaf-cutter ants, sloths, and parrot snakes. Descriptive imagery plus beautiful illustrations transport readers to this verdant ecosystem. “High in the canopy, a furry dark shadow clings to a branch.”
The Nest that Wren Built by Randi Sonenshine, illustrated by Anne Hunter
Starting with Wren’s building a nest to sitting on her eggs which hatch and growing fledglings, this spring story of new life consistently ends each stanza with a lovely repeating line, “..the nest that wren built.” Lyrical and descriptive with warm brown illustrations, experience the story with all your senses. “This is the tuft of rabbity fur, plucked from a harp, persnickety burr to warm the nest that Wren built.” You’ll hear the chirps, feel the velvety moss, feathers, and thread, and see the scrawny hatchlings.
You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks by Evan Turk
Gorgeous oversized illustrated pages capture the natural beauty in our National Parks with lyrical text that invites us into the experience with all our senses. “…beneath the soaring doorways of stone and peaks that pierce the ceiling of clouds…from every river, star, and stone comes the eternal refrain: you are home.” Back matter shares more about the parks and animals in the book. This rich ode to nature is a must-read mentor text for descriptive writing.
Cactus and Flower: A Book About Life Cycles by Sarah Williamson
A book about friendship and life cycles, endings and beginnings, grief and joy, this is a special story you won’t want to miss, illustrated in bright, appealing colors and shapes. Cactus and Flower enjoy spending their days together, especially “Butterfly days” when the butterflies visit the flowering cactus. The friends play games and look at the stars, they enjoy every moment. And as Cactus grows taller, Flower grows, too which means Flower loses petals and soon is gone forever. Cactus is sad. Time passes. Cactus remembers his friend fondly. And soon, a little green bud appears.
All the Birds in the World by David Opie
As the narrator talks about what makes birds, well, birds, the kiwi bird asks “What about me?” on every page. Eventually, we’ll learn the answer to the little bird’s question…even though she doesn’t fly, has no tail, and has a beak with nostrils, she is part of the bird family. It’s a wonderful, inclusive book with gorgeous illustrations of birds of all kinds. Valuable back matter gives readers a key to the names of the birds on each page.
Best Nonfiction Middle-Grade Books
The Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Weird, Wild Names by Matthew Murie and Steve Murrie, illustrated by Julie Benbassat
Get ready for funny names, magical names, fierce names, delicious names, and weird names. But even better is the ANIMALS with these unusual names. Like the striped pyjama squid which is a cool-looking stripped squid. Or the yeti crab which is a crustacean with hairy arms. My favorite weird creature is the Tasseled Wobbegong! Permanent facts (species, habitat, and interesting details) are written in a text box with a well-written elaboration of about a page describing the animal’s looks, behavior, habitat, abilities, and more. Each animal has at least one illustration, sometimes more than one, and sometimes a photograph. Fantastic!
The Mayflower (History Smashers) by Kate Messner, illustrated by Dylan Meconis
Kids would love history if all history books were this engaging and well written. Fascinating facts share about the not-always-balanced perspective of primary sources and the usefulness of archeology. The author debunks myths like Plymouth Rock and the First Thanksgiving, explaining ow the plague that decimated the Wampanoag people prior to the Pilgrim’s arrival. It’s clearly well researched with a broad perspective. It’s accessible and easy to read with cartoons, illustrations, diagrams, and informational inserts.
The Superpower Field Guide Eels by Rachel Poliquin, illustrated by Nicholas John Frith
Filled with fascinating facts written in a conversational voice, this next book in the series brims with pizazz! Follow the story of Olenka, an amazing eel of secrets and superpowers. Full-color illustrations, humor, facts, so many facts, you won’t be able to put this book down.
Everything Awesome About Sharks and Other Underwater Creatures! by Mike Lowery
The Everything Awesome book series continues with SHARKS! Handwriting and kid-like fonts plus lots of comic illustrations and colors make this a visual feast for the eyes. (Or distracting, it can go either way.) But, it’s filled with a wealth of facts about the ocean, underwater creatures, and of course, sharks. From information about ocean zones to prehistoric sharks and kelp forests, this book covers ocean information in a fun, often hilarious, way.
So You Want to Be a Ninja? by Bruno Vincent, illustrated by Takayo Akiyama
Engaging and entertaining, full of facts, trivia, quizzes, and fun, this is the essential illustrated guide for ninjas-in-training. Three friends travel back in time to 1789 Japan where they’re taught by famous ninjas.
Almanac 2021 National Geographic Kids
With schooling at home and more families homeschooling, the 2021 ational Geographic Almanac is a must-own resource for families. Practice your nonfiction reading comprehension skills as you learn about animals, space, science, history, geography, and much more. Each page is designed to entertain and educate with stunning layouts and eye-popping photographs.
Find more nonfiction books, magazines, graphic novels, or encyclopedias here: