Great Nonfiction Books for 7th Graders

This post may contain affiliate links.

Find the best nonfiction books for 7th graders (12-year-olds in 7th grade) with this book list of highly recommended nonfiction books for middle-grade young readers.

It’s essential that kids read a variety of genres, including nonfiction. This list will help!

nonfiction books for 7th graders 12 year olds

Nonfiction Books for 7th Graders

Never Caught, The Story of Ona Judge: Young Readers Edition written by Erica Armstrong Dunbar and Kathleen Van Cleve
This is a VERY well-written narrative nonfiction book. At age 10, Ona becomes Martha Washington’s personal slave. After 13 years of this thankless work with no pay, no days off, and no freedom, Ona learns that Martha plans to send Ona as a “gift” to Martha’s unkind granddaughter. Ona escapes north with the help of other freed slaves living in the city. Washington is so mad he wants to break his own law —the fugitive slave act— by capturing her without a trial and returning her to his wife. But that doesn’t happen, and even though Ona lives in poverty with many losses, she lives free.

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation adapted by Ari Folman, illustrated by David Polonsky
The diary bits and dialogue are well-balanced into a cohesive graphic novel story that feels seamless, well-written, and insightful. Anne’s personality really shines through as she sets the historical context and describes her daily life in hiding which isn’t always very exciting but does result in a romance with the boy her age who lives there, too.

Escape from Alcatraz: The Mystery of the Three Men Who Escaped From the Rock by Eric Braun
What an interesting nonfiction book for 12-year-olds! The author puts together the background and plans of each of the men who escaped from the inescapable prison of Alcatraz. Photographs throughout add realism to the historical events.

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, and the other art heists from the poorly guarded Louvre. Interestingly, the Mona Lisa wasn’t a well-known painting until this art heist in 1911. And the Louvre wasn’t well-attended until after this dramatic theft. The theft was dramatic because the thief simply walked out with the stolen painting tucked under his shirt. A highly recommended book!

The Making of America: Susan B. Anthony by Teri Kanefield
Susan B. Anthony worked tirelessly to advocate for women’s rights and the rights of African Americans. Anthony was raised as a Quaker and highly educated which was rare for girls at the time. She even went to seminary for a short time until her family’s financial situation changed her direction. Because of her, women can own property, vote, divorce abusers, have custody of their children, and are citizens because of the efforts of Susan B. Anthony and others. I hope this book becomes required reading for middle schoolers — both boys and girls. It’s also beneficial for kids to know how much one person can do to make a difference in the world.

Girl CEO Priceless Advice from Trailblazing Women by Ronnie Cohen and Katherine Ellison
The 40 fascinating female biographies in this book will inspire your girls and boys to see their dreams as possibilities. Because many of the CEO (chief executive officer) girls and women in this book are also entrepreneurs that came up with their own original ideas for a company. Each featured story contains illustrations, an important quote, and 3-4 pages about the woman which reflect the authors’ depth of research and personal interviews with the women.

Black Heroes of the Wild West by James Otis Smith
This exceptional graphic novel contains three compelling biographies of little-known historical black individuals who lived during the Old West. Smith is an exceptional storyteller and you’ll be pulled into the stories immediately. Read about Stagecoach Mary, a former slave who had the most interesting life that included many jobs, and Bob Lemmons whose horse training skills helped him capture a wild mustang stallion.

Issac The Alchemist Secrets of Issac Newton, Reveal’d by Mary Losure
Newton had a difficult childhood but his curiosity and genius were always present throughout his life. After living at an apothecary, for several years he had a chance to go to the university, and eventually, Newton became one of the world’s most well-known scientists, the father of physics. I highly recommend this for a narrative nonfiction reading choice.

The Tapir Scientists Saving South America’s Largest Mammal written by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop
Best for upper elementary or middle school, the writing in The Tapir Scientist is excellent, making for an enjoyable read. Montgomery shares about the scientists who are studying the tapirs and makes their work, their struggles, and their successes interesting to readers. You’ll get an in-depth look at what life for a scientist is like, the day-to-day experience.

The Big Book of Monsters: The Creepiest Creatures from Classic Literature written by Hal Johnson, illustrated by Tim Sievert
Learn about the scariest monsters from literature! Packed full of information, The Big Book of Monsters features 25 monsters from many cultures, some as ancient as you can imagine starting with Apep who comes from The Book of the Dead, 16th Century BC. Like all the monsters in this book, you’ll read who he is (Yikes!) and then supporting information in a “Beyond the Book” section which in this case is about translating the hieroglyphics and Egyptian short stories.

Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Journey to Justice written by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Whitney Gardner 
Introduce young readers to the fascinating life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg with this clearly-written graphic novel that shows her life from childhood to adulthood including her family life. Based on her experiences and quest for fairness, Ginsburg became passionate about civil liberties, specifically gender discrimination. Not only was she a lawyer and judge but she also became a Supreme Court Justice. Readers will see how Ginsburg was true to herself and her goals and persisted despite difficulties and used her career to fight for equal rights. Well-crafted and highly recommended.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu
Brazen stands out among the crowd because it is written in comic stories rather than the expected one page of expository text plus one illustration. Kids love stories. Kids love graphic novels. Put those together and you’ve got one must-read book! Oh, and I’m fascinated by the colors used to illustrate these comics — they’re unusual and very visually appealing. Some of these stories will be familiar (Temple Grandin) but most of them will be new to you (Clementine Delait, Nzinga, or Sonita Alizadeh.)

Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life by Kwame Alexander
First, there are essays with life lessons. Then, there are quotes from famous athletes and artists along with the Rules written by Kwame Alexander. The one that stuck out to me the most was Rule #30, “There is no single formula for winning but you must have a game plan” accompanied by the quote “I never worry about the problem. I worry about the solution.” – Shaquille O’Neal. But imagine reading this with kids, each child will find something that will stand out.

Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport by Emma Carlson Berne
Memorable, gripping short stories tell about some of the 10,000 children who escaped the Nazis without their parents, traveled to England, and lived with host families until the war was over. Some were reunited with families while others were not, but they were all saved.

Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children by Kath Shackleton, illustrated by Zane Whittingham
Read about sixordinary kids who experienced the hardest things a child could face…being torn from their homes, separated from family, captured as a prisoner, and/or forced to hide. Graphic storytelling with unique artwork supports the clear, compelling narratives that will stay with you. It’s pretty sad to witness the tragedies in these children’s lives. Powerful, emotional, and deeply disturbing that leaves us with a sense of loss, even with these children’s survival. We need more books like this. We must never forget. Buy this book for your classrooms and libraries!

The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin
If only all nonfiction books for children were this engaging and well-written! This reads like a story, a narrative. Thank you, Mr. Sheinkin!

Bomb: The Race to Build –and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Another knock-out nonfiction book from the talented Steve Sheinkin perfect for 12-year-olds! I’m so impressed with how Sheinkin makes this story come ALIVE like it’s an adventure/mystery/thriller and not real life. Well, they do say truth is stranger than fiction. But usually, it’s written like it’s duller than dirt. This book is a great exception — totally engaging and keeps readers’ attention.

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 style. Remember all the hilarious chapter titles in Riordan’s Percy Jackson books? And the witty, sarcastic voice of Percy? Yup. All here. 12-year-olds will GET this humor.

The Way Things Work Now From Levers to Lasers, Windmills to Wi-Fi, a Visual Guide to the World of Machines Revised and Updated by David Macaulay with Neil Ardley
You won’t believe how much there is in this illustrated 400-page informational guide to the inner workings of machines and devices! It starts with simple machines and moves on to more complex machines and technology such as helicopters, digital videos, electric circuitry, automatic transmission, and even the Internet. I think it would take months, if not years, to read everything in this enormous, updated book. A must-own for schools and libraries.

Girl Activist: Winning Strategies from Women Who’ve Made a Difference by Louisa Kamps, Susanna Daniel &  Michelle Wildgen, illustrated by Georgia Rucker
Read short biographies about women who have taken a stand against injustice of some kind; injustices like the conditions of migrant farmworkers (Dolores Huerta) or forced marriages of young girls (Sonita Alizadeh) or polluted, toxic tap water (LeeAnne Walters). These 40 inspirational women demonstrate how one individual can change things for the better because they care. Readers will learn how each woman used different strategies whether social media, art, protest, petitions, or something else.

books for teen readers

Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive by Laura Hillenbrand
Louis Zamperini’s life is almost unbelievable. In his early years, he was a hoodlum, then he became an Olympic runner, and most memorably, an airman who was shot down. His story shows that he is a man who has great strength of character (growth mindset) to persevere despite all of life’s challenges.

Boys in the Boat (Young Readers Adaptation): The True Story of an American Team’s Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics by Daniel James Brown
It’s hard to imagine overcoming as many obstacles as Joe Rantz (homelessness included) but he is determined to get a college education. He and his crew teammates are also determined to be the best rowers but they never expected to beat the Germans. This is an exemplary true story of grit that will inspire your 12-year-olds.

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.

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.

Human Body Learning Lab: Take an Inside Tour of How Your Anatomy Works by Betty Choi, M.D.
Colorful pages with kid-friendly writing, illustrations, diagrams, labels, photos, and more add up to my new favorite book on the human body! Start reading about the body’s cellular building blocks and continue reading about subjects like the circulatory system, respiratory system, nervous system, the five senses, the reproductive system, and more. Written by pediatrician Dr. Betty Choi. I absolutely love this book!

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.

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!

nonfiction books for 7th graders 12 year olds

You Might Also Like:

ALL Nonfiction Book Recommendations for Kids

Fiction Book Recommendations for 7th Graders / 12 Year Olds

Book Series for 7th Graders

Nonfiction Reading Comprehension Strategies


All Picture Book Biographies

Similar Posts