Recently I took an amazing nonfiction writing class from Candace Fleming, the author of many nonfiction books I love, especially The Honeybee. She blew my mind with her definition of nonfiction, and now I’m rethinking MY ENTIRE LIFE, well, at least the blog lists! Because Candy argued that any fictionalized dialogue or emotional elements (like a planet feeling feelings) make a book fiction, NOT nonfiction. Which is such a good point. So I may be rewriting my nonfiction book lists in the near future. Have you ever thought about this before?
Today, I’m sharing a batch of wonderful new nonfiction books that caught my attention with great writing, informative topics, and plenty of kid appeal. There’s a lot of variety. See if you can find something new for your home, classroom, or library!
New Nonfiction Books, August 2023
Stand as Tall as the Trees: How an Amazonian Community Protected the Rain Forest written by Patricia Gualinga and Laura Resau, illustrated by Vanessa Jaramillo
BIOGRAPHY / AUTOBIOGRAPHY / RAINFOREST
Beautifully crafted with emotional resonance, get inspired by this true story of Patricia Gualinga’s life. Paty is a Kichwa girl who lives deep in the rain forest of Ecuador, a place alive with “trees towering, vines winding, and frogs singing” and the mystical beings who rule the forest — the Amazanga. Paty moves to the noisy city for her education. But when Paty’s forest home is destroyed by a greedy company, she helps her people gather, unite, and protest, making the destructive company leave the forest! Heartfelt writing and luminous illustrations make this a memorable biography (autobiography) that shows how one person can make a difference in the world!
What’s Inside a Caterpillar Cocoon? and Other Questions About Moths & Butterflies by Rachel Ignotofsky
BUTTERFLIES & MOTHS
Just wait until you see the gorgeous illustrations throughout this book. I could frame them all! Learn all about moths and butterflies, starting with their differences, their life stages, their metamorphosis, their anatomy, and more interesting information about their diet, mating, and spreading pollen. Kids will love reading about these important insects. Perfect for primary-grade classrooms and homes.
Home Is Calling The Journey of the Monarch Butterfly written by Katherine Pryor, illustrated by Ellie Peterson
This exceptional picture book shows the monarch butterflies’ long journey, traveling day after day to a new home, distant relatives, and safety. Written from the “we” point of view, the butterflies see sunsets and sunrises, sunsets and sunrises. They fly and fly, feast and drink, shelter and huddle, soar and ride the wind. After two months, they arrive, safe at last, to their new home with all the other orange and black butterflies!! The stunning illustrated pages are filled with monarchs in motion.
Building a Dream: How the Boys of Koh Panyee Became Champions written by Darshana Khiani, illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
GROWTH MINDSET BIOGRAPHIES
What an inspiring story! These soccer-loving boys have no place to play because their floating village is surrounded by the ocean and waterways. After their low-tide beach location no longer works, the boys don’t let that deter them. They build their own pitch — a floating dock– where they can practice and play!
The Queen of Chess: How Judit Polgar Changed the Game written by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by Stevie Lewis
What an inspirational true story! This is about a girl with chess skills who studied and trained from a young age for hours every day. She worked hard, winning competitions and medals, until finally, she became the youngest grandmaster!
Tomfoolery! Randolph Caldecott and the Rambunctious Coming-of-Age of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
You’ve heard of the award. Now you can read the life story of Randolph Caldecott, the artist who loved nature and artwork. See how his passion took him on a journey that led to children’s book illustration success.
The Walking School Bus by Aaron Friedland and Ndikeka Mandela, illustrated by Andrew Jackson Obol
When their father can not walk them on the dangerous route to school, Shaka and Nadi can’t go anymore. Until they get the idea of making their own school bus. First, they try to build one, but that doesn’t work. So next, they decide to walk with other kids in a large group. This way, they don’t need the dad and can stay safe from dangerous men.
They Lead The Wolf Pack by June Smalls, illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara
The bigger text narrates the story of the wolf pack leaders, their den, the litter, hunting, and growing. Smaller text on each page you can read later to discover more factual information about the wolves. Either part you read is interesting with lovely action-packed illustrations.
Breathe Like a Bear: First Day of School Worries by Kira Willey, illustrated by Anni Betts
BACK TO SCHOOL / MINDFULNESS
Bear heads off to school. He meets Bird along the way, who is feeling anxious. Owl shares a mantra for when they’re anxious: “Breathe in, breathe out. Everybody has a heartbeat. Breathe in, breathe out. It’s a rhythm we all share.” Bear and Bird share the mantra with Fawn. Then at school, the teacher shares the mantra again. Lovely illustrations.
The World’s Most Atrocious Animals *Or Are They? by Philip Bunting
I’m a new fan of this series — it’s so much fun to read while being informative, too. The animal information is both fascinating and hilarious because the captions for each animal are funny and quirky. “Hangry Hangry Hippo.” (Meaning, this isn’t actually 100% nonfiction.) Fortunately, the paragraph below each illustration is more information with the pertinent scary details about the fearsome animal. “A hippo’s most terrifying feature is its enormous jaws.” Read about the alligator snapping turtle, red kangaroo, bull shark, Goliath birdeater, and other scary animals. The illustrations are eye-catching, with colorful backgrounds and appealing design.
Splat! The Most Exciting Artists of All Time by Mary Richards
This book features famous artists’ profiles that include their artwork, big idea, challenges, background, historical time, and relevant background information. Starting with Michaelangelo and continuing with Vermeer and Seurat to Kandinsky and Hepworth and more, these are short biographies that will teach readers more about each artist.
The Phone Book by Jessica Speer, illustrated by Lesley Imgart
CELL PHONE SAFETY & USE
Stories, questions, information, quotes, definitions, techy tidbit, tests *true or false, reality check, straight talk from teens, weird facts, checklists, secret codes, and activities make this an exciting, interactive book to read — that may change lives for the better. Yes, this little book is packed! For example, read about a dating situation with a text that got the police involved. Learn the definition of a digital footprint, then test your knowledge about digital footprints by playing “You Be the Judge” with online photos from person A or person B. Who would you hire? Besides being an amazing resource that parents and teachers can use with their tweens and teens, I love the text, size, and paper choice. It’s super appealing.
Little People, Big Dreams American Dreams A Treasury of 40 Inspiring Americans
From the 1800s to the 2000s, read short biographies about famous people including activists, athletes, entertainers, and artists. I like the one-page biographies, the simple illustrations, the famous quotes, and the timelines of important dates with illustrations and photos.
Plague Busters! Medicine’s Battles with History’s Deadliest Diseases by Lindsey Fitzharris and Adrian Teal
Well-written and fascinating, in this nonfiction book, middle grade readers will learn about the deadliest diseases throughout history, from The Black Death to Scurvy. Each disease is explored in a full chapter with stories of people affected, remedy options (which were generally quite awful!), the history of the disease including inventions and innovations in understanding and treatment, and famous deaths from the disease. You’ll read about people like Louis Pasteur, who found a treatment for rabies (a deadly disease from which Edgar Allen Poe died), and John Snow, who figured out how cholera was spread. I loved this book and think your readers will, too. Also, who doesn’t need these facts for trivia night, anyway?
Spooky Coloring Book by Sara Szewczyk
My daughter loves this coloring book because it’s also a story! Follow a witch cat as she sweeps out the ghosts, cares for her greenhouse plants, visits a gryph in the enchanted forest where she collects more plants, concocts a magic potion, and does other daily witchy activities. This is a 96-page book with one coloring page to color on each two-page spread.