Get nonfiction book ideas for your 12 year old with this book list of recommendations. Many teachers are requiring (and I agree) that kids read from a variety of genres, including nonfiction. Hopefully this list will help.
Nonfiction Books for 12 Year Olds (7th Grade)
Escape from Alcatraz: The Mystery of the Three Men Who Escaped From the Rock by Eric Braun (ages 8 – 12)
Issac The Alchemist Secrets of Issac Newton, Reveal’d by Mary Losure
This well-written biographical chapter book grabs your attention and holds it. I’m impressed! 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 by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop (ages 10 – 16)
It’s Up to You, Abe Lincoln: How I Made the Biggest Decisions of My Life by Tom & Leila Hirschfeld
Written in the second tense “you,” this book puts you squarely in the driver’s seat as Abe Lincoln. It describes your life starting from childhood with photos, fun facts, and quizzes of “What Would You Do?” For example, when you’re considering marrying Mary What Do You Do? You’ll be given a list of four choices, each with elaboration. The choices, in this case, are: A. Break up with Mary. B. Date other women. C. Marry fast, before your feet get even colder. D. Consult a pastor. Then, you’ll read the reveal — what choice you made. (A. Break up with Mary.) The writing flows smoothly, the layout is eye-catching, and the information is interesting and historically important.
The Book of Heroines by Stephanie Warren Drimmer
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu (ages 13+)
Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life by Kwame Alexander
Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport by Emma Carlson Berne (ages 8 – 12)
Cat Tales True Stories of Kindness and Compassion with Kitties by Aline Alexander Newman (ages 10+)
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:
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! I’m so impressed 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 kept my interest.
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 — a hoodlum, an Olympic runner, an airman shot down, and above all, 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 story of grit that will stay with you.
Two Truths and a Lieby 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. Know that readers will not just be reading and thinking deeply, but they’ll also doing research while they’re immersed in the book… (Because 11 year old readers must know if a prehistoric dinosaur named “Bambi” exists, if the slyrking will take over your picnic, or if doctors really can implant a stimoceiver in the brain to control your behavior.)
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.
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.
Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl
Once I started reading these biographies (which I flipped and read in random order), I got very hooked. Hopefully this book will inspire kids as much as it did me. Plus, it’s really interesting to read about other people, ordinary people who did amazing things.
Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins
Three girls lives, Maria Merian, Mary Anning, and Maria Mitchell, are showcased in this beautiful verse. Each girl’s interest is explained and elaborated. We see how these interests grew into something more, into the passions and discoveries that become their life’s work.
Issac The Alchemist Secrets of Issac Newton, Reveal’d by Mary Losure
This well-written biographical chapter book grabs your attention and holds it. I’m impressed! 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 for 7th graders.
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 move on to more complex machines and technology such as helicopters, digital videos, electric circuitry, automatic transmission, even the Internet. I’m thinking it would take months, if not years, to read everything in this enormous, updated book. A must own for schools and libraries.
Dominion of Giants Coloring Book Behemoths of the Fantasy World by Eric Messinger (ages 12+)
You might think coloring books are only for girls but that is not true. This particular book is a sure-fire hit with fantasy-loving boys and girls — Tolkien and Dungeons and Dragons fans, in particular. Cool quotes from favorite authors plus color palette suggestions pair with amazing illustrations of mages, giants, dwarfs, and more. The artistry is absolutely incredible in this book. These images invite creative coloring — probably displaying afterwards. You’ll like that the sturdy, perforated pages, too. I’m so excited to get coloring in this book myself.
One Minute Mysteries 65 Short Mysteries You Solve with Science! by Eric Yoder and Natalie Yoder
These mysteries will catch your brain’s attention — and help you to learn (or practice) scientific principles about life, earth and space, physical and chemical sciences. Great for in the car or at snack time!
Heroes for My Daughter by Brad Meltzer
The featured 60 individuals are a few familiar faces (Anne Frank, Benjamin Franklin, Sally Ride) but many new, unique people that deserve to be recognized and highlighted. I’m thinking of Joan Ganz Cooney who helped create Sesame Street, Carol Burnett who made it big and gives back big, and Golda Meir, Israel’s first female prime minister. The writing is easy to read, includes dialogue, quotes, and short stories. The author’s intention is to show kids that if you take a chance and work hard “you can do anything in this world.”
Heroes for My Son by Brad Meltzer
In the same format as Heroes for My Daughter, this book focuses on people and their stories that show boys that if they are determined, the “impossible becomes possible.” The book features: Mr. Rogers, Nelson Mandela, Harry Houdini, Mother Teresa, Eli Segal, Muhammad Ali, and others.
How to Be a Scientist (DK) by Steve Mould (ages 9+)
Why Is Art Full of Naked People? by Susie Hodge
My 11-year-old, artistically-inclined daughter thinks this is the BEST book! In fact, she says it’s been much better than this year’s not-so-great art teacher at her school. You’ll find out so many useful facts to questions your probably didn’t even know you had such as: Why is everything blurry? Do artists copy each other? Why is art so expensive? This book takes common kid questions and helps children understand and appreciate art in a deeper way. Very interesting!! I’m glad we own it.
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