When we get huge nonfiction books, the ones that weigh more than your backpack, we don’t expect greatness. We expect pontification. But not these. These nonfiction beasts (most are quite heavy!) surprised us with their excellence and power to engage. If my kids liked them, I’m pretty sure yours will, too. That’s why they’re epic nonfiction books for kids.
(I know you already know this, but I’ll just quickly remind you that your kids NEED to be reading both fiction and nonfiction.)
Epic NonFiction Books for Kids
Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco
My kids can’t stop reading and rereading this enormous volume of Greek myths, retold Riordan style — I’m talking laugh-out-loud writing. Remember all the hilarious chapter titles in Riordan’s Percy Jackson books? And the witty, sarcastic voice of Percy? Yup. All here.
My youngest daughter’s favorite chapter title is Ares, the Manly Man’s Manly Man.
Mine is: Hephaestus Makes Me a Golden Llama (Not Really, But He Totally Should).
The writing: Engaging. Funny. And, accurate. (My pet peeve with most Greek myth books is that they mix in a little Roman and don’t even know it!) Here’s an excerpt from “The Olympians Bash Some Heads”:
Hera crossed her arms and sniffed disdainfully. “Boys and their toys. I don’t suppose we get weapons? Are we just supposed to stand back and be cheerleaders while you three do their fighting?”
Zeus winked at her. “Don’t worry, baby. I’ll protect you.”
“I think I’m going to be sick,” Hera said.
National Geographic Why’d They Wear That: Fashion as the Mirror of History by Sarah Albee
Once my 13-year old and I started this book, we were engrossed from front to back. Albee writes fantastic chapter titles and headings: (Notice a theme? Nonfiction is getting GOOD, people!) “Caulk like an Egyptian,” “Putting the “Protest” in Protestant,” and “Hazardous Hemlines.” The book is formatted so that you can pick and choose interesting sections such as Corsets, Dressed to Compress because the corset photo is so intriguing or the inset of information has such a tantalizing title such as, “Why Did Napoleon Always Have His Hand in His Coat?” (Hmmm?)
Why’d They Wear That gets into the nitty gritty of how fashion influenced politics and the current events of the day. For example, the French revolutionists thought the flour used to powder wigs of the rich could have been better used — AS FOOD. (I agree.) Although sometimes fashion, codpieces, for instance, didn’t ever influence anything — except perhaps a man’s ego.
This impressive tome makes fashion through the ages laughable, fascinating, horrifying, and sometimes confusing — but never boring.
National Geographic Kids Little Kids First Big Book of Who by Jill Esbaum
Teacher and librarians, this book will be perfect for children looking for famous people about whom to research and write a report. Most of the famous people described, whether William Shakespeare or Elizabeth Blackwell, get a colorful spread with a full-page image with pertinent facts plus a page or two of well-written information about the person’s life and contributions. More famous people in categories like: Inventors & Scientists and Artists are given paragraphs with less but just as pertinent information. Colorful pages and graphic layouts make this another visually appealing hit for National Geographic Kids.
National Geographic Kids 5,000 Awesome Facts 2 (About Everything)
I wasn’t sure about this book at first. It almost makes me cross-eyed to look at each two-page spread. Flip through to find a subject of interest — gemstones, famous heists, Harry Potter, or pandas, and the two-page spread has photos and facts galore. Sometimes a LOT of facts — 50 for shipwrecks– and sometimes LESS — 15 for animal athletes. I don’t think you could ever finish learning from this volume of awesome facts. Ever.
National Geographic Kids Weird But True! FOOD: 300 bite-size facts about incredible edibles! by Julie Beer
My oldest started reading because of these books. She started out as a nonfiction reader who needed bite-sized tidbits to read in whatever order she desired. So, we have a special place in our hearts for the Weird But True books.
The Food edition is a little different because it’s well, only about food. We suggest reading facts from it at dinnertime because what a great conversation starter! Here are a few nuggets for you:
Taurophobia: Fear of Cheese
Starbucks Coffee is named after Starbuck, a character in the novel Moby-Dick.
You can eat deep-fried orchids in Thailand.
See? Dinner table talk. Discuss.
Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome by Brad Montague & Robby Novak
Robby, the Kid President, and his brother-in-law, Brad Montague, started Kid President videos to put something positive into the world. Robby embodies this. He went through countless surgeries and broken bones due to his brittle bone disease and kept a positive attitude. So when Robby says, “You were made to be awesome. Keep going,” He knows. He’s been there and kept going.
The book is filled with ways to be awesome and spread awesomeness in the world. It’s numbered advice. It’s interviews and stories. It’s inspiration. It’s a LOT (240 pages) — you could spend hours and hours reading this book and be the better for it.
#5 Let’s live in a world with more high fives.
#30 Listen (more than you talk).
#58 Be like cheese (or bacon) and make everything you touch better.
#84 Take a moment to reflect.