Impressive Nonfiction Books for 5th Graders (10 Year Olds)

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It’s so important for 10-year-olds in 5th grade to read for meaning in nonfiction texts. 5th graders need practice, lots of practice, in well-written nonfiction books for 5th graders like the ones I recommend on this list.

I taught 5th grade for almost a decade so this age group is my favorite. Kids are beginning to read more complex books, and they’re hungry for information.

nonfiction books for 5th graders 10 year olds

Also read:
All Picture Book Biographies
Nonfiction Reading Comprehension Strategies
Text Features
Best Books for 5th Graders, 10-Year-Olds

Nonfiction Books for 5th Graders

Two Truths and a Lie written 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 how the authors engage the readers’ brains in such a way! The conversational tone in which this book is written makes it flow smoothly. That, plus the addition of many illustrations and photographs, makes this one hard-to-put-down nonfiction middle-grade book just right for your 5th graders.

A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu, and You A Laugh Out Loud Guide to Life on Earth by Mike Barfield and Jess Bradley
What child doesn’t like to read comics? Learn a lot about many things in this book of comics, diagrams, and secret diaries that explain topics like body parts, animals, and plants using cartoon panels and first-person narration mixed with “bigger picture” expository information. For example, read “A day in the life of” things like the eye, heart, a bee, anglerfish, and a toadstool. Or read “The secret diary” of a tornado.

Accidental Archeologists: True Stories of Unexpected DIscoveries written by Sarah Albee, illustrated by Nathan Hackett
Albee consistently writes exceptional, appealing nonfiction books and this latest one is no exception. The writing hooks you from the first page and the stories of accidental archeological discoveries are compelling. She includes black and white photographs, informational insets, and present-day updates. I thoroughly loved learning about the discovery of The Rosetta Stone, a fought-over golden Buddha statue, a 5300-year-old mummy, and the other discoveries; you will, too.

Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for The World’s Most Adventurous Kid written by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco, illustrated by Joy Ang
Beautifully illustrated and written, this guide is filled with interesting and unique spots all over the world. Organized by country or state in the U.S., each location includes a few paragraphs of information and an illustration plus a map showing where it is. Some are things “Hidden in Plain Sight” like the Eiffel Tower Apartment in France or the Dinosaur of Ta Prohm in Cambodia or “DIY Transportation” like the Homemade Zip Lines in Columbia. Explore weird weather, sweet and salty treats, catacombs, caves, and more — this will be one book that your adventurous kids will enjoy reading cover to cover multiple times.

Do You Know Where the Animals Live? by Peter Wohlleben
This book is organized around questions about animals. For every question, find the answers in a two-page spread of photographs and text. Lovely layouts with full-color photographs, quizzes, at-home applications, and interesting and informative information make this is a unique but worthy animal tome that will appeal to most readers. Questions include: Can animals survive on plants alone? Do animals dream? Why do elephants stomp their feet?

The Dictionary of Difficult Words written by Jane Solomon, illustrated by Louise Lockhart
Want a mesmerizing book that is even better than a word-a-day calendar? This oversized dictionary contains the coolest selection of 400 words that kids will love to learn, beginning with abecedarian (someone who is learning the alphabet) and continuing to Zeppelin. Each letter gives readers about 15 new words to learn. This includes the word, pronunciation, part of speech, and definition.

What Breathes Through Its Butt? Mind-Blowing Science Questions Answered by Dr. Emily Grossman
If you’re looking for an informative nonfiction book with voice (HUMOR) and pizazz, this book hits all the right spots. You can’t help but love the appeal of the book which is a mixture of goofy cartoons, information in a handwritten typeface with bolded and bigger words, and funny quizzes. (What can you do to make a pineapple taste riper? a. stand it upside down b. place it in the fridge c. cut it open d. sit on it) The quizzes introduce the topic, engaging a reader’s natural curiosity. You’ll learn about eggs, muscles, escaping a crocodile’s jaw, and other much weirder topics.

SNEAKERS How it Happened The Cool Stories and Facts Behind Every Pair by Stephanie Warren Ddrimmer illustrated by Dan Sipple
I’m excited to share this fantastic nonfiction book with you! With colorful graphic design, excellent informative writing, large text size, photographs, and illustrations, you’ll learn all about the shoes we call sneakers, starting with the history and continuing to the present. The book concludes with thoughts of the future sneakers, too. Excellent.

Girls Think of Everything Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women written by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
I loved this expanded and revised edition because Melissa Sweet’s design and illustrations make the book so special. The author writes the biographies like a fictional narrative story with action and suspense but it’s all true. These biographies are about women who solved problems by inventing the solution. What great models for entrepreneursinventors, and having a growth mindset.

Search for a Giant Squid: Pick Your Path by Amy Seto Forrester & Andy Chou Musser 
In this informational fiction choose your own adventure story, you’ll join an expedition on a dive to the deepest ocean depths to search for a giant squid. Choose which pilot to be, the submersible you’ll use, and the dive site, and then start your adventure. What will you discover? What will you do with mechanical problems or bad weather? 

Science Comics Coral Reefs Cities of the Ocean by Maris Wicks
An adorable yellow fish narrates this informative book about his habitat, coral reefs. It’s all facts though so it’s not the kind of book that most kids (or adults) will want to sit down and read in one sitting. Read it in chunks and you’ll soon be an expert on coral reefs.

Wild Outside Around the World with Survivorman written by Les Stroud illustrations by Andres P. Barr
Les Stroud recounts exciting personal adventure stories of exploration and survival in all sorts of places around the world. Fascinating stories are accompanied by photos, illustrations, maps, and informational insets. I couldn’t put this book down and HIGHLY recommend it.

The Ultimate Art Museum by Ferren Gipson
WOW — this is the MOST impressive, well-organized, and beautifully designed art history book for children that I’ve EVER read. It’s a curated book that takes children chronologically through 18 galleries from geographical regions and cultures such as the Far East, Ancient Egypt, Medieval Europe, and the Byzantine period. Colorful borders and design, photographs and paintings with descriptions. Gorgeous — I highly recommend this incredible book!

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.

Race Against Death by Deborah Hopkinson 
Zippy pacing with dialogue from first-person accounts, character arcs, and a true story arc makes this nonfiction book read like a narrative story. It’s well-organized and meticulously researched about what happened in the Philippines during World War II. When the Phillippines fell to the Japanese, the US, and Philippine soldiers and citizens were taken into horrific Prisoner of War camps. Notably, this book shares the contributions of women, including their underground resistance, which many books ignore.

Note: This is about the violence of war and includes soldier language (damn, bastards), but it’s not detailed or salacious and is appropriate for middle-grade readers who aren’t bothered by either.

Big Book of Jokes by Michael Dahl
I love the large type size and grin-worth (groan-worthy?) jokes! My kids call these “dad jokes” because there are a lot of puns and plays on words. Want an example? “What kind of fruit is never lonely? Pears.” or “What is a swimmer’s favorite game? Pool.

Squidtoons: Explore the Ocean with Comics by Garfield Kwan and Dana Song
The pages of this book are all illustrated so it’s a graphic novel with comic-style illustrations containing dialogue, different colored and sized typeface text, and seemingly random topics from the weedy seadragon to the California mantis shrimp. My daughter devoured this book, finding both the information and presentation engaging. (I didn’t as much.)

Young, Gifted, and Black, Too written by Jamia Wilson, illustrated by Andrea Pippins
Read about 52 black icons from the past and the present. Each biography includes a bold, graphic illustration. Well written, these short biographies will inspire and educate readers.

The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity written by Nicholas Day, illustrated by Brett Helquist
You will love the incredible writing, the fun illustrations, the biographical information about the curious, brilliant, and distractable Leonardo Da Vinci, the other art heists from the poorly guarded Louvre (one involving Pablo Picasso), the burgeoning science of fingerprints to replace France’s ear-measuring methodology and the surprising, eventual discovery of the Mona Lisa. Interestingly, the Mona Lisa wasn’t a well-known painting until this art heist in 1911. Highly recommended!

How Old is a Whale? Animal Life Spans from the Mayfly to the Immortal Jellyfish by Lily Murray, illustrated by Jesse Hodgson 
Beginning with the mayfly, whose life spans 3 minutes to 24 hours, and ending with the immortal jellyfish whose life span is forever unless it’s eaten, you’re going to be fascinated with the facts in this life span book. Each animal gets its own two-page spread with information about their life and a muted illustration in earth tones. Love it! (The text is fairly difficult, so I’d recommend this for strong middle-grade readers.)

Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island by Jennifer Therme
I couldn’t put this history of the island of Manhattan down, starting with the Lenape people and continuing to the present day with subways and bridges and 1.6 million people. You might not know that when settlers organized into a city, the city’s long-term plans meant that homes and farms were relocated and destroyed which also happened when Central Park was later created. That’s when eminent domain forced an entire African American community called Seneca Village to move, disappearing forever. With gorgeous illustrations and readable, informative writing, this oversized picture book will interest all readers.

Rise Up: Ordinary Kids With Extraordinary Stories written by Amanda Li, illustrated by Amy Blackwell
Kids will love the colorful layouts, exceptional writing, and wealth of information about SO many amazing role model kids. Learn about Poorna Malavath from India who climbed Mt. Everest, Desmond Doss, a WWII hero from the U.S., and Molly Kelly from Australia who escaped from forced resettlement for Aboriginal children. The writing grabs you from the first sentence — and makes these children’s true stories exciting and dramatic as if you were reading an adventure story.

Ostriches: The Superpower Field Guide written by Rachel Poliquin, illustrated by Nicholas John Frith
Ostrichees are cool and weird which you’ll learn in this incredibly interesting and compelling book! I mean, the ostriches have TOE CLAWS OF DEATH. Whoa. And their bones are just bizarre yet for a really good reason! Not to mention their eyeballs are the biggest of any land animal. This book makes me awestruck by the ostrich. It’s my new favorite animal! Run to your library or bookstore and get this book & entire series.

The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome written by Jonathan W. Stokes, illustrated by David Sossella
Wildly imaginative romps through history, these books are filled with tongue and cheek hilarity while also being boldly informative about their historical topics. If Ancient Rome is your preferred destination, you’ll need your handy handbook close by to make sure you survive — which seems to be unlikely since, since as the book says, “Rome is an absolute deathtrap.” Throughout these thrifty travel guides, you’ll read letters from your “Corporate Overlord at Time Corp“. These, as you may expect, are hilarious! The guides are published by Time Corp in the year 2164 to help vacationing tourists with the most practical information for their time travel trips.

The Everybody Gets Anxious Activity Book written by Jordan Reid, illustrated by Erin Williams 
I like this colorful activity book with pizazz, goofy kid-approved humor, and activities that actually appeal to tweens! What are some of the activities, you ask? Rank situations from yayyyyyyy to nope nope nope. Design your own emoji. Draw faces on underwater creatures who are feeling lots of things like a smug seahorse and a worried whale. Draw five things that make you feel safe. Write top 5 things you’re most proud of. I like it. Would your 8 to 12 year old?

Whoppers: History’s Most Outrageous Lies and Liars by Christine Seifert
I read this nonfiction book aloud to my kids — it was SO fun because it prompted great discussion and interaction. They couldn’t believe that people would make up such outrageous lies. Learn these incredible wild whoppers — from people you’ve heard of like Charles Ponzi to people you’ve never heard of like George Psalmanazar who convinced people he was a native from his made-up island of Formosa. It’s book best for middle grade to YA readers.

So You Want to Be a Viking! written by John Haywood, illustrated by Takayo Akiyama
Fun, narrative banter with appealing cartoon illustrations, this is a well-designed book about Vikings that will actually teach readers a good deal of factual and historical information.

Mercy The Incredible Story of Henry Bergh: Founder of the ASPCA and Friend to Animals by Nancy Furstinger
This little nonfiction chapter book packs a big punch — it’s the absolutely fascinating life of a rich (and formerly lazy) man named Henry Bergh who devoted his life and his money to saving maltreated animals in the late 1800s. (He is also persuaded to start campaigning for children as well — they were often treated just as badly or worse!) One of the reasons I like this book so much is that the writing is excellent and the author paints a complete picture of a man who is flawed.

Weird But True SPORTS: 300 Wacky Facts About Awesome Athletics National Geographic Kids
I wasn’t sure what to expect but again, National Geographic outdid themselves. The facts weird (did you know professional hockey players can be penalized for tucking their jerseys into their pants?!) and come from a wide range of topics and sports. Learn crazy facts about skateboarding, ostrich races, and jetsprint boats! Highly recommended. ALSO READ: Awesome Sports Books for Kids

Little Dreamers Visionary Women Around the World by Vashti Harrison
Harrison’s artwork is stunning– framable I think. This book features the biographies 35 women; women like Ada Lovelace, Marie Curie, and Grace Hooper. Each biography is one page paired with an illustration. The information shares more about the woman’s contributions to the world like the physicist who experimented with subatomic particle decay.

Latinitas by Juliet Menendez
Dynamic and interesting one-page biographies of 40 Latina women who made an impact in the world. From chefs like Justa Canaviri to architects like Susan Torre and singers like Celia Cruz, you’ll learn about some amazing women. Graphic illustrations of each woman in earthy tones are featured across from each woman’s biographies. Highly recommended.

Insect Superpowers 18 Real Bugs that Smash, Zap, Hypnotize, Sting, and Devour! written by Kate Messner, illustrated by Jillian Nickell
Stylized to look like a comic book of superhero action with oversized pictures and the occasional large comic-style typeface of smack! pow! and chomp! impress upon the reader just how super these superbugs are. Messner shares the must-know basics (name, size, hideout, superpower) then launches into fascinating details about each, including what they eat (favorite foods) and who eats them (archenemies). Interesting insets of information narrate more facts about each insect.

Amelia Earhart (First Names) written by Andrew Prentice, illustrated by Mike Smith
Like the Houdini book, this well-written narrative biography is filled with cartoon illustrations from which you’ll learn a LOT! I recommend this series because kids will get a full picture of Millie’s life as well as the context of the world around her including how women were treated. The book is organized in a clear sequence of events starting when Millie was a child and ending with the time of her infamous disappearance. In addition, the back matter includes a timeline and glossary.

Awesome Achievers in Technology written by Alan Katz, illustrated by Chris Judge
Kids will zip through this excellent middle-grade biography because the author makes the information relevant and relatable. The writing is conversational, the author is totally hilarious (especially when he talks about his own ridiculous inventions or the questions he asks Siri), and there are illustrations, quizzes, fast facts, and activities, plus a wealth of fascinating information about each inventor’s life. 

The Boy Who Became a Dragon: A Bruce Lee Story by Jim Di Bartolo
You don’t have to love martial arts to enjoy this engaging biography about the martial artist and movie star legend Bruce Lee. From his birth in San Francisco to life in Hong Kong during and after Japanese occupation, then his move back to the U.S., you’ll meet a troubled kid who gets into lots of trouble yet even as a child, manages to work as an actor like his father. He experiences racism for having mixed race heritage and a dad who worked for the hated Japanese so Bruce leaves his home in Hong Kong for the U.S.. Lee’s life is fascinating, and the author does a great job with all the historical references.

Copycat Science by Mike Barfield
Part biographies and part experiments, this nonfiction book narrated in cartoon format makes science fun! Learn about each scientist in their short biography, then apply and learn more about their area of study by doing the related experiment. Read about James Audubon then make a bird feeder. Then read about Rosalind Franklin and do an experiment about strawberry’s DNA. Topics include living things, human biology, materials, air, electricity and magnetism, forces and physics, astronomy, math, and more.

The Disney Book: A Celebration of the World of Disney (DK)
My oldest daughter loves anything Disney and proclaimed that this is the best book ever written. 🙂 While I’m not sure about that, it is a dense fact-filled tome from the early years to the present day.

Genius! The Most Astonishing Inventions of All Time by Deborah Kespert
A visually appealing graphic layout makes it easy to access the invention information — in fact, it’s downright enticing! You’ll learn about interesting early inventions and more modern inventions such as the space rocket. This is a well-done, readable nonfiction book.

Pencils, Pens and Brushes: A Great Girls’ Guide to Disney Animation written by Mindy Johnson, illustrated by Lorelay Bovi
Learn about some of the incredible women who worked at Disney’s animation. My daughter read this and thinks that artsy girls especially (like my daughter) will love these biographies. Each one skillfully captures the woman’s story, where she started, her passions, her education, and how she came to work for Disney as well as what she worked on while at Disney. The illustrations and design of this book are both eye-catching and exquisite.

The Double Dangerous Book for Boys by Hal Iggulden
Remember the wildly popular book, The Dangerous Book for Boys? This is the long-awaited sequel! Styled to look like a book from my own childhood, this is a dense volume of SO MUCH CONTENT to read and absorb! 

We Are Artists: Women who Made Their Mark on the World by Kari Herbert
I’m loving this book so much — it shares with well-written biographies (about 3- 5 pages for each woman) about so many female artists from different countries, each with their own unique style and life experience. From Yayoi Kusama of Japan to Alma Thomas of the U.S. to Amrita Sher-Gil of India and Hungary, discover incredible, passionate artists with long-lasting influence.

Rocket to the Moon: Big Ideas That Changed the World by Don Brown
Instead of reading a narrative nonfiction book, get your fact-filled history about the first moon landing in an exciting, well-written, black-and-white graphic novel. Reading this book will help you understand our country’s competitiveness with Russia, the many attempts to launch rockets, and the eventual success of sending astronauts into space. I’m happy to see this new “Big Ideas” graphic novel series with a home-run first book.

Built by Animals: Meet the Creatures Who Inspire our Homes and Cities written by Christine Dorian, illustrated by Yeji Yun 
Learn about animal construction — from the animals’ home-building materials to their designs and more. This book is fascinating and the illustrations are engaging.

The Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Weird, Wild Names written by Matthew Murie and Steve Murrie, illustrated by Julie Benbassat
Get ready for funny names, magical names, fierce names, delicious names, and weird names. Like the striped pyjama squid which is a cool-looking stripped squid. Or the yeti crab which is a crustacean with hairy arms. Each animal has at least one illustration, sometimes more than one, and sometimes a photograph. Fantastic!

The Deep! Wild Life at the Ocean’s Darkest Depths by Lindsey Leigh
What an engaging dive into the ocean! Read about the ocean layers and the cool creatures who live in each ocean zone. The unique handwritten font instead of a traditional font gives the feeling of waves and playfulness. Cartoon illustrations show interesting creatures like the barreleye fish, the prambug, the hagfish, and the tripod fish. And the dialogue bubbles of conversational creatures only add to the genius of this eye-catching book. I predict this will be very popular with middle grade readers!

How Do Meerkats Order Pizza? by Brooke Barker
I love this engaging and informative book about scientists who specialize in specific areas of study — including meerkats studied by Dr. Marta Manser, Japanese macaques and bonobos studied by Dr. Cecile Sarabian, and lizards studied by Dr. Earyn McGee. The book is illustrated in comics with dialogue bubbles and handwritten text. It’s amazingly dense with factual information but remains easy to read, interesting, and appealing to the eye. Readers will want to pour over this book for days and learn about animals and scientists. Maybe it will inspire a new career trajectory…or just educate kids on more of the natural world.

United States Atlas National Geographic Kids (2020)
Here’s an atlas that will be your go-to resource for many years. So much information is packed into this appealing atlas — it’s a lot with plenty of information on each state in addition to the maps — flags, stats, facts, photos, land and water, nature, population, economy, and much more. I really like that the atlas shows the entire United States map with different focuses such as climate, natural hazards, population, and more. Perfect for school and home.

Sports Illustrated Kids The Football Fanbook by Gary Gramling
This book is like Sports Center for 5th graders. It’s 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. Get your football fans reading this book — I doubt they’ll want to put it down.

Totally Wacky Facts About History by Cari Meister
This reminds me of the Strange But True books only about history and from a different publisher. And, I LOVE IT! This little book makes history interesting to kids — it’s filled with colorful photos and illustrations and yes, wacky facts. Here are a few to get you started: Early Chinese spies flew on large kites to gather information about their enemies. Ancient Romans were the first to record seeing UFOs.  Napoleon suffered from ailurophobia. that means he was afraid of cats.  Crazy cool, right? It makes you want to know more!

Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey by Bob McCabe
Last year AJ’s favorite Christmas gift was Harry Potter Film Wizardry, a book she still reads over and over – just this morning in fact, she was curled up on the couch reading it before school. Even though I haven’t let her see all the movies, I’m going to buy her this newest Harry Potter movie book, Page to Screen. It’s a whopping 531 pages! HUGE, right? This ultimate Harry Potter movie bible gives readers, besides a workout lifting the thing, stories, photographs, memorabilia, cinematic history and the film-making techniques from each of the movies.

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies How Maria Marian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman
This biography is written for ages 10+ about Maria’s childhood and adult life. The book includes detailed illustrations and photographs of her actual drawings and the insect and plant specimens she observed plus occasional informational insets describing the world around her at the time— the first museums, the role of women, and science before photography, just to name a few. Maria’s dogged passion for the natural world, insects in particular, led to them being one of the first naturalists to document a butterfly’s metamorphosis. Her story is fascinating and inspirational.

Untamed The Wild Life of Jane Goodall written by Anita Silvey, forward by Jane Goodall
Untamed is an excellent depiction of Jane Goodall’s life with kid-friendly language using kid-appealing layouts of colorful photos. Interesting insets throughout describe tips for kids and information such as sign language. I love the Gombe Family Scrapbook at the end with some of the significant chimps in Jane’s life. I also found it really interesting to learn how this English girl read about Africa as a child and fell in love with it.

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods written 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 style. Remember all the hilarious chapter titles in Riordan’s Percy Jackson books? And the witty, sarcastic voice of Percy? Yup. All here.

Norse Mythology: Enter a world of gods, giants, monsters, and heroes written by Tom Birkett, illustrated by Isabella Mazzanti
Each of the 30 Norse featured characters has its own dynamically illustrated portrait along with a full page of descriptive information explaining the character’s background, skills and features, and a story. Whether it’s Loki in the lava-filled fortress, the Valkeries watching over every battle in the world, or Gullveig moving between homes and teaching women magic arts, you’ll meet gods and monsters in the middle of their stories.

It's so important for 10-year-olds in 5th grade to read for meaning in nonfiction texts. 5th graders need practice, lots of practice, in well-written nonfiction books for 5th graders like the ones I recommend on this list.

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