Tried and True: The Nonfiction Books Children’s Booksellers and Book Experts Are Recommending

by Sophie McNeill

There has always been a place for nonfiction in the hearts of fact-loving kids. Children are naturally curious about themselves and world around them, so topics such as vehicles, the human body, animals, and space (to name just a few) hold big kid-appeal. In addition, nonfiction books typically have plenty of interesting illustrations and bite-sized chunks of text, making them ideal for early or reluctant readers.

In the last couple of years, adoption of the Common Core State Standards has cast a new spotlight on nonfiction. Common Core Standards expect children to become adept at reading for information, encouraging teachers to introduce more nonfiction into the classroom. Even non-Common Core states like Texas are seeing a steady resurgence of interest in nonfiction, perhaps because there are so many great nonfiction books around right now.

We talked to some of our favorite book experts about the nonfiction titles and trends they are most excited about.

Pretty as a Picture
Bookstores in particular have been excited to see more nonfiction picture books arriving on the scene. Suzanna Hermans of Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck, New York notes: “In the last couple of years, we’ve seen some gorgeous, oversized, illustrated nonfiction titles such as Maps and Animalium. We find that these art-heavy, informative books appeal to all age groups, even adults!”

Meghan Goel of BookPeople in Austin, Texas adds: “We have created more space in our bookstore to feature some of the new, beautifully illustrated picture book titles we are seeing. My favorites include Water Is Water, The Blue Whale, and Mesmerized, which is a really well-designed book for younger readers about Ben Franklin.”

Kristy Raffensberger, Children’s Librarian at New York Public Library’s Hudson Park Branch, loves the fact that nonfiction picture books can be easily read aloud to younger kids: “It’s great to be able to read nonfiction at library storytime, for example we recently read Brian Floca’s Moonshot”.

Graphic Formats
Another interesting trend has been the introduction of graphic novel-style formats to subjects such as history, science, biography, and memoir. Teri Lesesne, Library Science Professor at Sam Houston State University, Texas tells us: “The use of graphic formats, even manga, is an incredible move forward for kids’ nonfiction. Survive! Inside the Human Body is a series of manga-like science books that explores the systems of the human body. It’s like “Magic School Bus” but for older kids.”

Becky Anderson of Anderson’s Bookshop in Illinois recommends Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales “Nathan’s books take interesting historical events such as the Donner Party and the Underground Railroad into a graphic novel format.”

Meghan Goel adds: “Initially people viewed graphic novels as ‘book candy’ but librarians saw a legitimate place for them as a way to build readers who were struggling to engage with other books. New graphic memoirs such as Smile, Roller Girl, and El Deafo are so great that they appeal to both reluctant and avid readers.”

A Global Perspective
Teri Lesesne has been excited to see biographies and memoir broadening in range: “It has been wonderful to see a much wider range of subjects for biography and memoir than just the standard George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. For example the popular Who Was series has books on Maria Tallchief and Genghis Khan. Susan Campbell Bartoletti has some great titles, including a recently published book on Typhoid Mary.”

Meghan Goel adds: “We have a lot of interest in our global section, which celebrates many countries’ cultural heritage. Books like Same, Same But Different are really important because kids need to explore other places and points of view in order to prepare them for the world.”


What other nonfiction books have your kids been obsessing over lately?