If you are looking for the best nonfiction books for kids ages 6 – 12 in elementary school, I’ve put all my favorite nonfiction book reviews on this page and broken them into categories such as animals, science, sports, famous people, and facts.
Best Nonfiction Books for Elementary Age Kids (Ages 6 – 12)
Nocture: Creatures of the Night by Traer Scott PICTURE BOOK
Orangutan Houdini by Laurel Neme illustrated by Kathie Kelleher PICTURE BOOK
What an interesting picture book story based on real life story! Fu Manchu, the orangutan, keeps escaping from his enclosure in the zoo. He doesn’t leave the zoo, just hangs out in the trees and always returns when his keeper comes to get him. Fu is one clever orangutan! Written like a story in narrative format, this is an excellent nonfiction picture book.
Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond between a Soldier and his Service Dog by Former Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan, USA with Bret Witter, photographs by Dan Dion PICTURE BOOK
Man, this book made me tear up right away – it’s powerful to witness the bond between a service dog, Tuesday and his person, Luis who experiences post-traumatic stress disorder and other disabilities like how Tuesday helps Luis’ nightmares and helps him balance as he walks down the subway stairs. This picture book follows a typical day in the life of Luis and Tuesday from breakfast to bedtime. The photographs are gorgeous! The text is totally perfect — not too much, just right. I highly recommend this amazing nonfiction book — it will tug at your heart strings. And, if you want to read about Luis and Tuesday, get his full-length memoir, Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him.
Tiger by Suzi Eszterhas PICTURE BOOK
I love how this nonfiction picture book is told as a story, following tiger cubs as they grow up in India. It’s an easier way for kids to relate and store the information they’re learning. And the photographs are spectacular! We see the tigers in their rocky cliff cave, learn that the cubs won’t grow into all their stripes for two years, watch the family move to a new forest den, follow as the cubs learn to hunt, and find ourselves in awe as we see how big the tigers get in two short years. A page of tiger facts finishes out this book.
Animal Planet Animals A Visual Encyclopedia by Animal Planet
Beautiful photographs and bite-sized chunks of information showcase more than 2,500 animals from the seven major animal groups: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and arachnids, invertebrates, and fish are featured in 1,050 stunning full-color photos, plus dynamic illustrations, maps, and charts.
Snakeopedia (Discovery Channel)
Gorgeous photos that gross me out and enchant snake lovers fill Snakeopedia. While I might say yuck, this is a terrific snake book filled with amazing photography and fascinating facts about the 12 snake families, the features of different snakes, which are dangerous, and other snaky stuff. I highly recommend this book. If you’re not afraid like me. 🙂
Winnie The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker, illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss PICTURE BOOK
Hippos Are Huge! by Jonathan London, illustrated by Matthew Truman PICTURE BOOK
Excellent writing and illustrations make this one of the best nonfiction animal books because you don’t realize you’re learning so much about hippos because it’s so interesting and well-layed out! Bigger text pairs with smaller factual text to give readers maximum learning. Hippos are COOL and DANGEROUS — you’ll find out when you read this book.
If an Egg Hatches . . . and Other Animal Predictions by Blake A. Hoena PICTURE BOOK
I like this nonfiction book for two reasons. First, the fantastic color photographs. Second, the questions that get the reader to engage fully with the text before they flip the page to read the answer. For example: “Every animal in nature is important. Imagine if there weren’t any predators like wolves. What would happen to the populations of elk and deer?”
Show Me Dogs My First Picture Encyclopedia by Megan Cooley Peterson PICTURE BOOK
Do your kids love animals? This book, and others like it in this well-designed series will entice your kids to devour facts all about the animal they love — like dogs!
Hippos Can’t Swim and Other Fun Facts by Laura Lyn DiSiena and Hannah Eliot, illustrated by Pete Oswald PICTURE BOOK
My daughter loved this book so much she read all the facts to me throughout her reading of it. It’s in a picture book format with lovely illustrations making it enticing to read. Did you know that . . .
. . . zebras are attracted to things that are black-and-white striped – just like they are. If you painted black-and-white stripes on a wall, a zebra would walk toward it.
. . . worker ants in a colony don’t sleep all day or all night. Instead, they each take about 250 naps throughout the day, each nap lasting just longer than a minute.
Great Migrations by Elizabeth Carney
Beautiful photographs of Mali elephants, red crabs, butterflies, jellyfish, zebras, army ants, wildebeests, and sperm whales accompany maps, facts and interesting trivia about the migration and life of each group of animals. Plus, as always, you get the gorgeous photography of National Geographic. Amazing.
Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen PICTURE BOOK
Science Comics Coral Reefs Cities of the Ocean by Maris Wicks (ages 8 – 12)
An adorable yellow fish narrates this informative graphic novel 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.
Science Comics Dinosaurs Fossils and Feathers by MK Reed, Joe Flood
Despite the Darwinian leaning, I generally liked this book. We learn about the people who made significant contributions to the study of dinosaurs such as Mary Annie of England, an amateur fossil hunter, and even how dinosaurs got their names. (Did you know there’s a dinosaur named after Hogwarts!?) Readers will enjoy the narrative filled with facts.
Human Body Theater: A Nonfiction Revue by Maris Wicks
This nonfiction graphic novel ROCKS! It should be required reading for students studying the human body because the information presented this way is so memorable and understandable. I love Skeleton’s narration and the awesomely cute illustrations of every body system from the smallest cell parts to the biggest organs.
Strange But True! Our Weird, Wild, Wonderful World DK
This is my favorite nonfiction book recently — I literally couldn’t help but read so many of the pages out loud to my kids, they were just so interesting. First the photographs grab your attention — then the headlines — and then the text. This is a GREAT book for your reluctant readers because it’s practically irresistible to read through it. Love it for a gift idea!
DNA Detective by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, illustrated by Lil Grump
Colorful and easy to read, I very much enjoyed this informational book and it’s kid-friendly layout. Plus it’s packed full of fascinating facts about the science of DNA and how researchers figured it out and use it in practical applications like solving crimes.
Eyewitness Books – Flight
Eyewitness non-fiction books for kids are packed with great information, pictures, diagrams and more – I recommend all their titles. We have several at our house and AJ and I both enjoy the information.
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 down-right enticing! Who knows I’d care about the Archimedes Screw and want to read all about it. Or the Elephant Clock — yes, that was a real thing which was super cool. You’ll learn about these early inventions and more modern inventions such as the space rocket. This is an well-done, readable nonfiction book.
Time for Kids Robots
First of all, I LOVE Time for Kids — and I bet your kids do, too. (Because of their TFK’s classroom newsletters.) Robots is such a cool book. First because of the topic. We all are curious about robots and how soon we can get one in our homes, right? And second because of the way TFK presents the material in an easy-to-read, enticing format. Learn about robots used in factories and hospitals, robot toys, robot kits, flying robots and more! STEM is the future, this is a great book for your STEM kiddos.
I, Fly The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas PICTURE BOOK
The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic by Kanani K.M. Lee & Adam Wallenta
I highly recommend this well-written and educational comic book! George, a normal skate boarder kid, is also Geo, a superhero who can transport back in time to learn about geology. In this story, he’s back to Pangea where he learns about plate tectonics first hand! The story goes back and forth between George and Geo seamlessly. Fantastic!
Time for Kids All Access Your Behind the Scenes Pass to the Coolest Things in Sports
Your kids are going to LOVE the lift and look pages – they are tra translucent ges that lift up to reveal another image underneath. Like the page of a downhill skier, lift the top page and you can see her body’s muscles and organs. SO cool. From monster trucks to stadiums that convert from football to ice, this is one of the best nonfiction books that will keep your kids learning and reading.
Dogsledding and Extreme Sports: A nonfiction companion to Magic Tree House #54 by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce, illustrated by Carlo Molinari
I learned a lot from this little nonfiction book; it’s packed full of interesting information about many extreme sports such as open water swimming, the Iditarod, and the X Games.
Sports Illustrated Kids What Are the Chances? The Wildest Plays in Sports
Stats and sports go hand in hand for sports enthusiasts, right? Flip through this dense book of photographs and you’ll see numbers pop out —
277 No-Hitters. At the start of the 2014 season, a total of 277 n0-hitters had been thrown in major league baseball history. . .
20 Wins in a Row. Only 4 teams have ever won 20 or more games in a row during an NBA regular season. . .
100 Assists in a Season. When Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins scored 139 points in 1970-1, . . .
The Book of Why: Amazing Sports and Science
I don’t have this book but I want to get it – it looks totally cool! Especially for sports and science-minded kids.
Weird Zone: Sports
I love books about weird, and I suspect so do your kids. Learn all about the strangest sports in the world. Underwater bike racing? I only that that applied to basket weaving. Fun!
The Boy in Number Four by Kara Kootstra, illustrated by Reagan Thomson
I enjoyed this picture book about Bobby Orr’s life as a young boy playing hockey — how hard he worked and how much he loved playing.
Sports Illustrated Kids Football Then to Wow!
This amazing nonfiction book makes ME, a non-sports fan, get interested in football. The layout and design plus the photographs make me want to devour all the football facts and info. I highly recommend this for any football fan – it’s packed full of information about football back in the day (1930s) and now days. Excellent!
Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya, illustrated by L. C. Wheatley PICTURE BOOK
She’s just a girl in Pakistan but Malala wants to go to school. When she does, she is shot by the Taliban. She becomes an advocate for girls and boys, too, to receive an education.
Untamed The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey, forward by Jane Goodall
This is not your average biography for kids with small font and ugly black and white photos. No, it’s so much better! 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.
I am Martin Luther King, Jr. by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos PICTURE BOOK
This nonfiction biography series for young readers is absolutely fantastic. The latest is this book about Martin Luther King, Jr. whose cartoon illustration will give you a chuckle — since it’s he’s a kid with a mustache. We learn how much an experience with a white friend not playing with him because he was black hurt him. We learn how the injustice in the world bothered Martin and that he wanted to do something about it. The book does NOT end with his death but ends on a positive note of standing strong and facing struggles.
Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Kull, illustrated by David Diaz PICTURE BOOK
After having polio, Wilma was told she wouldn’t walk again, let alone run. But Wilma was determined and she worked hard, becoming the first American woman to win three gold medals at the Olympics.
Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Ariceman PICTURE BOOK
Despite growing up in a time when women were not viewed as equal to men, Elizabeth studied and worked hard to become the first woman doctor. She showed the world that women were just as smart and capable as men– and can be doctors.
Nelson Mandela by Nadir Nelson PICTURE BOOK
Growing up in the prejudicial apartheid South Africa, Nelson Mandela faced horrible racism and a long time in prison. Despite all of this, his spirit continued to be strong. He eventually he realized his dream to improve the country and give equal rights to all people by becoming a strong leader and president of his country.
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick
Malala shares how the Taliban shot her in the face when she tried to go to school, just because she was female. She explains how this changed her life. She shares her determination to continue to advocate for her rights and the rights of girls and boys all over the world.
Seed by Seed The Legend and Legacy of John “Appleseed” Chapman by Esme Raji Codell, illustrated Lynn Rae Perkins PICTURE BOOK
I’ve read a lot of books about Johnny Appleseed and this now my favorite. The illustrations are gorgeous – some textile stitching, some drawings. I love the emphasis of his philosophy which is below:
Use what you have
Share what you have
Try to make peace where there is war
You can reach your destination by taking small steps
Girls Who Rocked the World: Heroines from Joan of Arc to Mother Teresa by Michelle Rohm McCann and Amelie Welden, illustrated by David Hahn
Students will find growth mindset inspiration with any story in this collection about women who made the most of their lives.
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.
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.
HISTORY, FACTS, QUOTES, AND MORE
Treasury of Norse Mythology: Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love, and Revenge by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrations by Christina Balit
This is a large, kid-friendly collection of Nordic myths with colorful illustrations and informative insets explaining more about subjects such as the Berserkers and the Norse diet. Excellent!
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.
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.
LEGO Awesome Ideas What Will You Build?
Awesome barely begins to describe this book — it’s jam-packed with so many ideas from different themes like Outer Space, Modern Metropolis, the Wild West, Fantasy Land, and The Real World. I just love browsing through the ideas. Be warned: Your kids will want you to order A LOT more Legos for these new projects.
Mean Machines Customized Cars The world’s hottest most impressive and exciting customized cars by Kane Miller
So many kids love cars like these (okay, and many of their dad’s do as well). This book highlights cool custom cars, their top speeds, their 0-60 mph, and their horsepower. From an Aston Martin DBS to the Bugatti Veyron, if you have a car lover, he will devour this book.
Wacky and Wild! Guinness World Records by Calliope Glass
The smallest living horse, a girl with the biggest collection of Hello Kitty items (one 4,000!), and the fastest snowman to run a marathon — all of these wacky facts are fun to read!
The Real Princess Diaries by Grace Norwich
My daughters and I love this fascinating book. It gives us a glimpse into the lives of a variety of international princesses. From historical princesses like Theodora of the Byzantine Empire to current princesses like Sikhanyiso of Swaziland or Victoria of Sweden, each has her own section including basic facts, cool facts, and big achievements. Special sections on royal pets, royal duties, hairdos, princes, and fashion add extra juicy tidbits for kids to enjoy.
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, “Why Did Napoleon Always Have His Hand in His Coat?”
National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016
Do your kids want this every year? It’s worth it. The information is fascinating and not the same that I can tell. Flip through and you’ll discover fascinating information about animals, pets, nature, history, and culture — it’s packed full plus has now has puzzle and activity pages. Plus, you know how good the photos will be – I love that you can always count on that with National Geographic publications. (I totally wanted to be a National Geographic photographer when I was little!)
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.
Time for Kids All Access Your Behind the Scenes Look at the Coolest People, Places, and Things!
A mix of entertainment, history, geography, pop culture, and science, this awesome lift and peel the page book has something for all interests. One of my favorite pages is the cast of The Hobbit with make up, costumes, and wigs on and without. Learn about pandas, the rainforest, the White House, King Tut and how money is made– among other things.
365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts by R. J. Palacio
If you’re like us and love quotes, this is the book for you. Even if you haven’t read the book Wonder, you will still find the quotes ch chosen n here (precepts) meaningful and thought-provoking from Anne Frank, Martin Luther King Jr., Confucius, Goethe, Sappho—and over 100 readers of Wonder who sent R. J. Palacio their own precepts.
Weird But True 3
AJ has the first two Weird But True! non-fiction books and loves them. She told me, “If you get me the third book, I’ll know 900 facts. Because each book has three hundred and I have the first two.” Smart girl. These are super wacky and make great dinner table conversation!
Children’s Activity Atlas
Colorful illustrated maps with flag, animal and landmark stickers, postcards, and a passport book make this a great interactive for geography enthusiasts. (I’ll admit, I wanted to steal it from my children and do the stickers myself.)
National Geographic Kids Get Outside Guide: All Things Adventure, Exploration, and Fun!
Fun activities for kids to do in the backyard, on a road trip, in a park, and more. Filled with amazing photography and designed in a kid-friendly colorful layout, this book is awesome. We LOVE it!
Time for Kids Book of When: 801 Facts Kids want to Know
So when was the Internet invented (and who invented it)? When was popcorn invented? My kids and I love flipping through this book and reading all the cool information in bite-sized chunks that accompany each question. A fun coffee table book for the whole family!
National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas
Another great, eye-catching book from the beloved National Geographic! Each state includes a map, slogan, roadside attractions and lots of impressive attractions and facts. This could inspire your family’s next road trip or trips.
LEGO Harry Potter: Characters of the Magical World by DK Publishing
My kids fight over this book — it’s that cool. All the characters get a page describing that minifigure such as when they were created, by what artist, and the thinking behind the face and outfit. Pretty fascinating stuff to my Harry Potter addicted kids.
Through Time The Olympics From Ancient Greece to the Present Day by Richard Platt, illustrated by Manuela Cappon
This book gives our kids the background information that no one else in your family will know. It’s fascinating stuff — I just learned from my daughter all about the number of swimming pools needed in an Olympic Games. From Paris, 1900 to London 2012, we get a glimpse of each host city as well as information about the Games.
Once Upon a Dream: From Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty to Disney’s Maleficent
This is a dense book for older readers but if you or your kids are curious about the history of Sleeping Beauty starting with the story first published by Charles Perrault in 1697, and continuing on with all the adaptations by various illustrators and writers, then this book is for you.
Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey by Bob McCabe
Last year 9-year old 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 whooping 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.
Download my "Can't Put 'Em Down" book lists for your kids ages 3 - 13.
Also, I'll send you a bonus "23 Reasons to Read" printable poster!