I’ve been saving the nonfiction books from the last few months so I hope you’re ready to read a long post about 27 nonfiction books you need to know about for summer 2020.
If you’re looking for a biography, you’ll find many good choices.
Below the biographies are nonfiction books about biomes, yoga, history, and more!
Nonfiction Picture Book Biographies
The True Story of Zippy Chippy: The Little Horse That Couldn’t by Artie Bennett, illustrated by Dave Szalay
RACE HORSE BIOGRAPHY / GROWTH MINDSET
You’ll fall in love with this horse and trainer who persist in racing despite being, well, terrible. Felix, Zippy’s owner, believes in Zippy, the rambunctious escape artist who loses 70 straight races. Then breaks a record at 86 races with no wins. Felix tries everything to change Zippy’s luck but nothing works. Interestingly enough, Zippy becomes a well-known, celebrated legend with a total of…100 losses! “Zippy showed us that you can lose and lose and lose and still be a winner.“ What a great story for discussion!!
Our House Is On Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter
In this impactful book written, Greta learns about environmental problems and her education leads her to take small actions which grow into something bigger. Simple text narrates this story that crescendos into a climactic call to action moment. “What will you do?”
Jonas Hanway’s Scurrilous, Scandalous, Shockingly Sensational Umbrella by John Crute, illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen
HISTORY / INVENTION
Inspired from a trip to Persia, Englishman Jonas Hanway brings an umbrella back to London to protect his clothes from the constant rain. He is mocked and it doesn’t catch on for over 30 years. Until, it does– and soon umbrella’s are everywhere. Love the playful, colorful illustrations.
Immigrant Architect Rafael Guastavino and the American Dream by Berta de Miguel, Kent Diebolt, and Virginia Lorente, illustrated by Virginia Lorente
Immediately attention-grabbing, you’ll read all about a brilliant Spanish architect and his son who immigrated to the U.S. from Spain. The father teaches his son a unique way to construct vaulted ceilings in the interior of buildings with thin brick ceramic tiles. Beautiful illustrations and a fascinating subject.
Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Michele Wood
SLAVE TO FREEDOM BIOGRAPHY
Brilliantly written in poetic stanzas with evocative, textured folk art, this dramatic retelling of Henry Brown’s life is a memorable, powerful biography. Born into slavery, he lived a life at the mercy of his cruel owners. After his wife and children were sold away, Henry feels that there’s nothing more to fear and plans his escape. He asks a friend to help and ships himself in a wooden box where he’s turned upside down, hurt, cramped, and finally FREE in New England. where he becomes a mesmerist performer.
Mamie on the Mound: A Woman in Baseball’s Negro Leagues by Leah Henderson, illustrated by George Doutsiopoulos
ATHLETE BIOGRAPHY / GROWTH MINDSET
Mamie loves playing baseball and even though she is rejected by the white league, she gets the chance to play baseball for a Negro League, a men’s team, where she holds her own with her teammates for three seasons before retiring.
Itzhak: A Boy Who Loved the Violin: The Story of Young Itzhak Perlman by Tracy Newman, illustrated by Abigail Halpin
In early childhood, Itzhak was paralyzed by polio. He spent his time learning and playing his violin, showing that he was a musical prodigy. His beautiful playing led to worldwide success.
A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISM
Sharon Langley narrates her childhood growing up in a community whose amusement park wouldn’t allow people of color. People, both black and white, protested at the park, even getting arrested. Their stories made the TV and papers and eventually, the park’s owners agreed to let everyone into the park. And guess who was the first child of color to go? Sharon Langley! Her story shows the power of peaceful protests to make social change.
Ben of All Trades: The Most Inventive Boyhood of Benjamin Franklin by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Matt Tavares
This biography focuses on the boyhood of Benjamin Franklin who was a dreamer and wanted to be a sailor which was not approved by his father. His childhood led him to his later successes at many different jobs and inventions that we know him for.
For Spacious Skies: Katharine Lee Bates and the Inspiration for “America the Beautiful” by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Olga Baumert
Katharine saw the summery of people and the beauty of nature after traveling across the country and visiting Pike’s Peak. She wrote a poem to reflect her feelings and this became the famous song.
William Wallace: The Battle to Free Scotland by Molly McPherson illustrated by Teresa Martinez
This is the inspiring story of a Scottish leader who fought for Scotland’s freedom against the English rule.
The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
The modern illustrations bring meaning and clarity to this poem about a hardworking blacksmith. It’s an accessible way to understand this poem.
On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
A lovely, on-point biography of a girl who put all her faith and belief in nature. She wrote poems about her inner world and nature. It’s written in a way that is somewhat confusing because it’s so abstract. I would only recommended it for intermediate and up.
General Nonfiction Books 2020
Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story by Zeena M. Pliska, illustrated by Fiona Halliday
BUTTERFLY / INSECTS
Not only is this a brilliant circular story that shows the life cycle but it’s a sweet friendship story, too. The caterpillar meets a butterfly who tells him all about the world and then must say goodbye. Written in first person with vivid verbs and evocative illustrations, this is an essential picture book for the classroom. “I am graceful and beautiful. I can flit, flutter, and fly.”
We the People: The United States Constitution Explored and Explained by Aura Lewis & Evan Sargent
Detailed information explains to readers about the articles of the Constitution and the Amendments. Colorful illustrations and layouts make this information easy to read. This book will be useful for homeschoolers and classrooms studying government.
Let’s Learn Spanish First Words for Everyone by Aurora Cacciapuoti
Colorful pages of illustrations show preschool and elementary readers words in English and Spanish about topics like animals, fruit, vegetables, the body, school, and much more.
Yoga Animals: A Wild Introduction to Kid-Friendly Poses by Paige Towler
Gorgeous full color illustrations show animals in their poses and children doing a matching yoga pose. Lyrical text like “Playful puppies run and fetch, tumble, tussle, stop, and stretch” make the animal’s antics come alive. Also, read directions for how to do the yoga pose. Bunny, lion, giraffe, crocodile,…there’s a menagerie of animals and yoga poses to do!
Heads and Tails: Insects by John Canty
BUGS / INSECTS
Clues in typewriter text prompt readers to think before they turn the page to discover if they’ve guessed the right insect. Then watercolor, pen and ink illustrations and large text give the answers. Answers like grasshopper, mosquito, praying mantis, and more. Engaging and playful.
In the Woods by David Elliott, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey
WOODS / BIOME
Playful, evocative poems capture the essense of the animals who live in the woods –– like Scarlet Tanager, skunk, fisher cat, millipede, and beaver. The bobcat poem begins, “Those tufted ears, the amber eyes, that ambushed second of surprise when the bobcat leaps!” This oversized poetry book is a gorgeous celebration of nature.
Leap Frog by Jane Clarke, illustrated by Britta Teeckentrup
RAINFOREST / BIOME
Go on an interactive rainforest adventure with Felix the tree frog. He’s started by the noises the other animal makes but learns about the other animals (turtle, beetle, monkey, snake) some who are friendly but one who isn’t — the snake. You can help scare away the snake by clapping. Then help Felix climb the tree by counting the branches he climbs. Lots of wonderful sound words like “rat-a-tat-tat” and “swish-slither“.
What’s That Noise? by Naomi Howarth
A charming adventure in the arctic about a seal named Magnus who is concerned about the rumbling noise he hears. He asks Hare for help — and soon all the friends are trying to figure out the noise. This will give readers an introduction to arctic animals.
If You Take Away the Otter by Susanna Buhrman-Deever, illustrated by Matthew Trueman
CONSERVATION / OCEAN
Learn about the biome under the Pacific Ocean where sea otters hunt for food and live in the kelp forests. But when people hunted sea otters to extinction, it affected the other animals and the kelp. Luckily, with new rules, the otters returned and so did their undersea world.
The Mayflower (History Smashers) by Kate Messner, illustrated by Dylan Meconis
History Smashers Women’s Right to Vote by Kate Messner, illustrated by Dylan Meconis
Crushes: Dating, Rejection, and Other Stuff (American Girl) by Nancy Holyoke, illustrated by Elisa Chavarri
Newly updated, this well-written, easy-to-read, & informational book about crushes is filled with appealing, colorful page designs and illustrations. The advice provided isn’t just readable text but also Q & As, lots of examples, a few quizzes, and more. A recommended book that tweens and teens will actually pick up and read that should comfort them that what they’re going through is normal (even if they don’t have a crush) and should help give them wisdom for new situations.
Race Through the Skies: The Week the World Learned to Fly by Martin W. Sandler
A well-written, well-researched history of the aviation starting with the Wright Brothers that will show the challenges and successes of aviation history with photos, biographies, and sidebars.
Making a Difference: Using Your Talents and Passions to Change the World (American Girl) by Melissa Seymour, illustrated by Stevie Lewis
Beautiful, diverse illustrations in eye-catching page designs make the information in this book appealing to read. Information (What is Activism?), quizzes (How to Help?), biographies (Game-Changing Girls), Fill-in-the-Blank Writing Prompts, Advice (One Action at a Time), this book has everything to help young women become difference makers. Highly recommended.