What’s new in children’s nonfiction? Of the most recent publications, here are my favorites for you to share with the children in your lives.
Picture Books ages 4 – 8
Good Eating The Short Life of Krill by Matt Lilley, illustrated by Dan Tavis
Written in the second-person point of view, this picture book speaks directly to you, a krill. You grow from an oval, then get eyes and legs, keep growing, and swim constantly– only to be eaten eventually by whales. Engaging writing in a surprisingly delightful and enlightening little story.
One Wish Fatima al-Fihri and the World’s Oldest University by M.O. Yuksel, illustrated by Mariam Quariashi
This is the beautifully-written and inspiring biography of a woman who opened the world’s oldest university. Fatima loved learning and studied hard during her childhood in Tunisia. She enjoyed the discussions with scholars in her new home of Morocco, too. When her husband and father died, she decided to honor them by building a school for her beloved community where students of all incomes and backgrounds could study.
The Mystery of the Monarchs by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Erika Meza
Using the scientific method, a teacher named Fred and his wife Norah decided to research his burning question about where the monarchs went in the winter. Because they couldn’t do it alone, they enlisted the help of kids and teachers throughout North America to track monarch butterfly sightings. It took years to find out where they went–which turned out to be a small area in Mexico. Their story shows the fascinating and exciting process of a scientific inquiry.
Nour’s Secret Library by Wafa Tarnowska, illustrated by Vali Mintzi
In the war-torn city of Damascus, two children leave the safety of a basement to find food. While searching for food, they also find books in the rubble of the buildings. They collect the books and start a secret library that offers people safety, shelter, and books.
Cher Ami: Based on the World War I Legend of the Fearless Pigeon by Melisande Potter, illustrated by Giselle Potter
This is a pigeon’s hero’s journey story that takes place during World War I. This pigeon gets shot but continues to fly until reaching her destination with the important message that would result in many lives saved.
Celia Planted a Garden: The Story of Celia Thaxter and Her Island Garden by Phyllis Root and Gary D. Schmidt, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Careful prose and poetry with exquisite illustrations and design from three illustrious creators share how young Celia fell in love with nature through gardening on Appledore Island and how her love and longing for nature’s beauty birthed her poetry and paintings. Every year, Celia’s island garden grew as she planted and cultivated it with passion.
Take Off Your Brave: The World Through the Eyes of a Preschool Poet by Nadim, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail
Poignant wisdom and playfulness from a small poet show us life through the eyes of young Nadim. Free verse poems about his cat, mom, teacher, school, feelings, and more capture the life of a young child in a new, precious way. Very sweet.
Same Here! The Differences We Share by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Sophie Casson
CHILDREN AROUND THE WORLD
Organized by common needs like food, family, shelter, school, and play, see how kids from different parts of the world share these in common yet experience them differently. Narrated in first person, kids from Ireland to Burundi to Tanzania and Equador will broaden your world with stories about their lives. Readers will be fascinated and see the world differently by learning about so many other cultures, countries, and circumstances. Use this informative book to discuss similarities and differences with other children from different cultures and geographies.
Pirate Adventure by Lily Murray, illustrated by Stef Murphy
PIRATE / STORYTELLING
Invent a pirate story as you read each page and make choices about your destination, your route, your enemy, your reward, and more.
Before Music Where Instruments Come From by Annette Bay Pimentel, illustrated by Madison Safer
In this oversized book, read about the music of rocks and found objects like shells and gourds which were made into instruments. Readers will find the inspiring true stories of string instruments, bells, reed instruments, and all the innovations over the years that led to the instruments of today. Fascinating!
Yes We Will: Asian Americans Who Shaped This Country by Kelly Yang, illustrated by various artists
BIOGRAPHY / AAPI
An inspiring tribute to Asian Americans who said yes to belonging and thriving in this country despite prejudices. Each page features a person who made a difference whether it was leading, telling stories, cooking, or going to space along with the person’s name, title, and a gorgeous illustration from one of the many artists.
Amazing Plants of the World by Stepanka Sekaninova, illustrated by Zuzana Dreadka Kruta
Narrated by an enthusiastic, quirky gardener, read about weird plants that stink, look peculiar, eat meat, mimic other things, and many more such oddities. The illustrations are accompanied by a lively description that gives pertinent facts while engaging readers with the gardener’s strong voice.
Frida Kahlo Discover the Artist Behind the Masterpiece by Lucy Brownridge, illustrated by Sandra Dieckmann
I’m impressed with this biography about Frida’s life– her ups and downs and love for art, Mexico, Diego, and individuality. What’s more, the book’s illustrations capture Frida’s art and life in a vivid, compelling way. This book is a great introduction to Friday Kahlo’s life and artwork.
Chapter and Middle Grade Ages 6 – 12
Frida Kahlo Little Guides to Great Lives by Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Marianna Madriz
This well-written beginning chapter book holds nothing back about the difficult life of Frida Kahlo but in a simplified way. So yes, it tells how Diego had a relationship with her sister but doesn’t explain what that means per see. It details Frida’s poor health and love of life and art– and gives you a full picture of Frida’s life of challenges and passions.
Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for The World’s Most Adventurous Kid 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.
Wild Life! a Look at Nature’s Odd Ducks, Underfrogs, and Other At-Risk Species by Re:Wild and Syd Robinson
This gorgeous guide introduces us to 100 little-known animals on every continent. Full-color photographs or illustrations show the animal and give helpful information about them and their status in the world — conservation breeding, how to save them, and so forth. It’s the kind of book that readers will want to savor.
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 keep 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, you’ll learn about different systems of the body and then apply what you learned with projects like making a cell, building a DNA model, testing for color blindness, building an ear model, and filling the capillaries, all written in easy-to-follow, step-by-step directions with photographs. I absolutely love this book!