Are you looking for some of the very best non-fiction books for children? You’re in the right place! Here are some of my favourite non-fiction books for children that I’ve read over the last year.
Most of these books have appeared in my monthly email newsletter. Subscribe here if you want fabulous, author-recommended kids’ books (and other fun bits) coming straight to your inbox every month.
By the way, what do you tend to call kids’ non-fiction? I know a lot of authors of non-fiction books for children prefer to call them ‘fact books’ or ‘information books’ because they think ‘non-fiction’ sounds like it’s defined by not being fiction, like it’s second-best. I totally see their point but personally I’m not really bothered either way! I’m just happy to see that kids’ non-fiction, by any name, has been getting a lot more attention and prestige in the last few years.
Non-fiction books for children are also so creative nowadays, often blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction in all sorts of wonderful ways. You’ll see that a few books on this list might be ones that you wouldn’t typically consider to be non-fiction, but they have accurate real-world facts at their heart and that’s what counts.
I’ve given age suggestions as a guide, but they really are just suggestions. All kids are different and suggested ages don’t really take that into account, so just go with what feels right for the child you have in mind.
I hope you and the kids in your life love these non-fiction books for children as much as I do. And if you want to write your own children’s non-fiction book, about anything from fun crafts to saving the planet, take a look at my 1-to-1 author coaching packages. You might see your own book in one of these lists before too long!
Picture books (0-6+)
By the way, if you want to find a mix of lovely fiction and non-fiction picture books, check out this post.
Amara and the Bats
SIMON & SCHUSTER, 2021
Many people wouldn’t call this non-fiction. And, traditionally speaking, it’s not. But this beautifully illustrated story is so full of accurate, inspiring facts and tips (plus a fab info section at the end) that I firmly believe it deserves that name. It’s a great example of how combining fiction and non-fiction can create something magical.
Excitable, caring, bat-obsessed Amara is a total joy, and her journey from sadness to inspiration to action feels really relatable and accessible for kids. It’s too much pressure to ask children to change the world, but helping them to create change locally – on a visible, achievable scale – is so empowering. P.S. Check out Emma’s Etsy shop for signed copies and v cute bat stickers!
Somebody Swallowed Stanley
SARAH ROBERTS, ILLUS. BY HANNAH PECK
Look, it can be really hard to think of ways to keep things positive and fun for kids when talking to them about the environmental crisis. Right? We don’t want to terrify them but we also want them to know the truth about how important it is.
Enter creative non-fiction! Where a polluting, wildlife-destroying plastic bag can become the innocent, charming Stanley. It’s not his fault he’s ended up in the ocean – he’s just trying not to get eaten! But the colourful, interactive story still shows how dangerous this mismatch can be for the animals around him, and how it’s up to humans to help put things right. I just love the illustration, too – so many great undersea creatures!
Old Enough to Save the Planet
by Loll Kirby, illus. by Adelina Lirius
Magic Cat Publishing, 2020
It’s pretty overwhelming to think about how much needs to be done to help our planet, right? Especially for a child who’s only been on Earth for a few years, but already knows that the future won’t be safe unless we take serious action. What can they even DO? This delightful book has some great ideas and inspiration, from kids around the world who’ve come up with practical, positive answers.
Bite-sized chunks of text are perfectly pitched for young readers, showing how these activists’ projects – from composting schools’ food waste in Ukraine to planting natural flood defences in Indonesia – are impressive but achievable. The illustrations are fun, friendly and colourful, and a ‘How to help’ section at the end gives kids clear actions to get them started.
Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets
by Hena Khan, illus. by Mehrdokht Amini
Chronicle Books, 2018
I read this gorgeous book through a couple of times, lost in its jewel-like colours and singing text, before noticing the illustrator’s dedication: ‘To all the truth seekers of our time, in hope of a better future’. Well, that got me.
This book shows tiny truth-seekers the gentle, familiar beauty of the shapes and rituals at the heart of Muslim art and daily life around the world. An oasis in the barren desert of prejudice that still so often surrounds Islam in our society.
The Night Flower
by Lara Hawthorne
Big Picture Press, 2019
One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever had the joy to lay my eyes on, and a great reminder that nature can be as magical and mysterious as any fictional world.
Children journey into the Sonoran desert in pursuit of a night-blooming cactus flower that shows itself just once a year. And they’re not the only ones waiting in anticipation… there are all sorts of fascinating animals to meet there, too.
by JOANNE LIU
WHAT a gloriously clever, joyful and utterly gorgeous book this is. There are no words, but the big bright illustrations perfectly tell the story of a young child’s visit to an art museum. Sometimes it’s easy to feel pressure, for ourselves and for kids, to look at art ‘properly’. I mean, what are kids getting out of a gallery visit if they won’t even focus on the art?
This book has some ideas! As the happy child freewheels through the rooms, they see and make art in their own imaginative ways, which often play on the great works ignored behind them. From following snails’ Cy Twombly-like trails to making Miro-esque stars on a cold window, the child’s go-go-go creative energy reminds us some art can’t be framed or tamed.
How are you feeling?
MOLLY POTTER, ILLUS. BY SARAH JENNINGS
I love love love the interactive, dip-in dip-out format of this book. At the start, the child chooses how they’re feeling, and is directed to a double-page spread with some advice and ideas about what they could do while they’re feeling this way.
The suggested activities are simple, practical and child-led, and the illustrations are wonderfully friendly and colourful. At the bottom of each spread, there’s a short explanation about the feeling. It’s really thoughtfully done, and makes it clear – in part by including positive feelings such as excitement – that feelings aren’t a problem to be fixed. It also has helpful ‘parent notes’ at the end.
ABC of Feelings
UPSIDE DOWN BOOKS, 2020
This is essentially an A-Z of feelings, from anxious to zany, but it works a lot harder than a lot of ABC books. The text is both impressively precise and easily relatable for young kids. The illustrations are fun, sweet, colourful and bursting with feeling and character. It’s already become a big favourite with my toddler.
Being able to name their feelings helps kids identify them and communicate them to others as they’re happening. And knowing that it’s OK to have and talk about their feelings helps kids feel confident enough to do that. I honestly think these skills are as important as learning to read or count, and I’m so happy to have found such a beautiful, enjoyable book to help get kids started.
‘Betweeny’ Books (6-7+)
A quick note: I call these ‘betweeny’ books because they’re somewhere between picture books and middle-grade books. If they were fiction, I’d call them ‘chapter books’ but that doesn’t really work for non-fiction!
It can be notoriously tricky to find inspiring reads for this age group. Kids are often asked to plod through lots of dull sold-in-a-set readers that are strong on target vocabulary but lacking in the other things that make kids actually want to read books.
So extra kudos to these writers and their brilliant offerings for this under-served age group! And if you’re trying to find more books for this age group, here are some great options (including some of the non-fiction books for children featured here).
I Am Not a Label
ILLUS. BY LAUREN MARK BALDO
WIDE EYED, 2020
It can be really, frustratingly tough to find children’s books with good representations of disabled people. Books that don’t pity or stereotype or turn people’s complex lives into one-dimensional stories of ‘inspiration’. That’s just one reason that I’d call this an essential non-fiction read for any home or library.
This stunningly illustrated and designed book features a diverse range of 34 disabled people who have all achieved great things, in areas including art, activism, science, sport and tech. The writing is spot-on – concise and thoughtful, upbeat and human – and the book’s overall feel is really fresh and contemporary. It’s also inclusive in terms of chronic illnesses and mental health.
I learned so much from this book, and it’s so cleverly done that I would fully recommend it for older kids and young (or not!) adults too.
Africa, Amazing Africa
by Atinuke, illus. by Mouni Feddag
Walker Books, 2019
An amazing book about amazing Africa! Atinuke masterfully celebrates this great continent’s variety and complexity, its mingling of modernity and tradition, its harsh realities and incredible achievements.
Each country has its own beautifully illustrated page with upbeat, fact-packed text that helps kids discover what contemporary life looks like everywhere from Angola to Zimbabwe.
Moth: An Evolution Story
by Isabel Thomas, illus. by Daniel Egnéus
This stunning picture book (also suitable for younger children) tells a true tale of evolution in action – the drama of human history playing out on the wings of the peppered moth. It’s an amazing example of how creative non-fiction can be, making it easy for children to understand science but also to see its beauty and magic.
It also, importantly, gives hope – by showing that humans can change the way we live, and that the rest of nature can respond to that change. The natural world is not a brittle, static thing; it’s resilient, adaptable and ingenious in ways that we don’t even fully understand yet. We just need to give it a fighting chance to recover and thrive. A totally unique reading experience.
by Kimberlie Hamilton
Look, life can be pretty stressful and serious sometimes – even for kids. I think we can all agree that what we really need at the end of a long day is to read about the daring adventures of history’s very finest cats.
Prepare to meet Nora the piano virtuoso, Pitoutchi the Nazi-tricking war hero, Stubbs the town mayor, and a whole host of explorers, life-savers, survivors and good-luck charms. There are all sorts of fun feline facts and other snippets, too – from ‘Mystical Moggies’ to ‘Record-Breaking Cats’. The downside? Pretty unimpressed with my cat’s lazy lolling-about now – come on, Luna, the world needs saving!
The Magic of Sleep
Dorling Kindersley, 2021
I’ve always kind of resented the amount of time I ‘waste’ sleeping when I could be doing something more fun (apparently it’s an extremely common ADHD thing), but having a baby has made me appreciate sleep a LOT more.
Even without this new outlook, I feel like I would always have been a big fan of this book. It’s great fun, brilliantly illustrated and packed with facts about everything sleep: from what beds have looked like through history to how sea creatures slumber. (Cutest award goes to sea otters snuggling under seaweed blankets.) It also has fun quizzes to help kids understand sleep better, plus practical tips to help them get a better night’s sleep.
Drawing on Walls
MATTHEW BURGESS, ILL. BY JOSH COCHRAN
ENCHANTED LION BOOKS, 2020
I’ve always loved Keith Haring’s art, and the fun squiggly energy of his work is so immediately engaging for kids. But I had no idea how deep his bond with children really was – from collaborating with kids on public art (he drew, they coloured) to helping them to this day through his foundation’s work.
This book does an amazing, uplifting (and just a bit heartbreaking) job of showing how Haring strove to fill his life and the world with freedom, love and creativity. The illustration is stunning, and the writing magically infuses simple sentences with so much thought and feeling. I feel like I know Haring and his work far better now. What a gift he was to the world, what a loss to have him leave so soon, and what a brilliant celebration this book is.
The Clue Is in the Poo
by Andy Seed, illus. by Claire Almon
WHAT a title. And what a fun, useful book to back it up! It’s all about tracking wildlife and it revels in the things that so many kids love – animals, adventuring and, of course, POO!
It’s full of practical guides and tips to help children identify animal prints, poos, nests or burrows and more – plus plenty of quizzes, jokes and odd facts for indoor fun, too.
The Book Itch
by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illus. by R. Gregory Christie
Carolrhoda Books, 2015
There’s not much in the world better than a really great bookshop, right? And this is a story of a truly legendary one – The National Memorial African Bookstore in New York City, owned by Lewis Michaux and known by the community as ‘Michaux’s’.
The book cleverly gives a child’s-eye view of the bookshop and the history that wound around and through it – from meeting Muhammad Ali to watching Malcolm X’s rallies outside, then chatting with him in the store’s back room, and later hearing the tragic news of his death. The beautiful painted illustrations are full of emotion and totally immersive, and bold typography pulls out quotes for kids to remember.
There’s so much love in this book – for family, for learning, for community, for Black pride, and for this very special bookshop that brought them all together.
Middle-grade books (8/9–12+)
Looking for a mix of fiction and non-fiction middle-grade books? Check out this post.
When Stars Are Scattered
by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
(Faber & Faber, 2019)
I couldn’t agree more with the reviewer who said that this graphic novel, based on co-author Omar Mohamed’s childhood years spent with his brother in Dadaab refugee camp, ‘does everything one can ask of a book, and then some.’ It’s hopeful and heart-wrenching, a glimpse of what life really looks like when you’re stuck waiting for help and change that keeps not coming.
Please don’t think this will be too harsh and depressing for kids, because it’s not. It’s funny, warm and expertly crafted, the extremity of the brothers’ frustrations and hardships part of a whole life also filled with loving people and light, familiar moments. Although conflict, violence and death are unavoidably behind why the boys, and the other people in the camp, can’t return to their homes, there is no explicit violence shown on the page.
This book also has a bittersweet but ultimately happy ending that would seem almost unbelievable if it wasn’t based on real-life events, with photos included to show what really happened.
by Lily Dyu, illus. by Amy Blackwell
(Nosy Crow, 2018)
So this is definitely a great book for kids, no question. Gorgeous and impeccably written, balancing hope and realism, emotion and facts, in page-turning style. But this is definitely one that us adults need to be reading, too. The stories are genuinely inspirational, a bum-kicking reminder that there’s no excuse not to try in your own way and that, with patience and persistence, the results can be extraordinary.
I often feel paralysed by the complexity of how to tackle environmental problems on a big enough scale to matter. Cleaning up a bit of waste here, saving one habitat here, it feels like playing planetary destruction whack-a-mole. But just like patchwork pieces eventually make up a quilt, this book shows how smaller steps and successes can end up creating really meaningful change.
CLimate change and how we’ll Fix it
by Alice harman, illus. by Andres lozano
Oh hello! OK yes, this is one of mine. But to be honest, I wouldn’t put a book out into the world if I didn’t think it was worth kids reading it. So here’s a quick low-down so you can decide what you think…
We know what we need to do – so why don’t we just sort out climate change? Many kids (and quite a few adults) have asked the question. This book answers it with a positive, realistic vision of how we can solve this global crisis.
After a recap of the science behind climate change, the book delves deeper, looking at the social and political factors standing in the way of a solution and then exploring how we can work together fairly, sensitively and decisively to save our planet. Recommended by Nat Geo Kids, The Climate Museum and the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, among others.
Black and British
Ooh, two covers! Well, not quite. These are actually two different versions of the same book, for children and teens/young adults. And there’s an adult version, too.
Essential and long-overdue, it shows the true British history that is still so often erased, glossed over (when it shows up Britain’s ‘glories’ for the evils they were built on), and just not celebrated as it should be. The clear, flowing text is full of fascinating details and emotive stories, showing how Black British history connects with histories around the world, while being specifically its own.
by Rashmi Sirdeshpande, illus. by Adam Hayes
Wren & Rook, 2020
YES. This book (published as Cash in the USA) is just what kids – and lots of adults, myself included! – need to navigate the tricksy ins, outs, ups and downs of money.
It’s chatty and contemporary, ethical and non-judgmental. And it covers everything from big ideas about what money is – and how we can use it for good – to practical guides about compound interest, the stock market and starting a business.
The Incredible Ecosystems of Planet Earth
by Rachel Ignotofsky
Wren & Rook, 2019
I’m usually okay with being comically, almost unbelievably bad at drawing. But there’s something about Rachel Ignotofsky’s books that makes me wild with envy that I can’t do what she does. Each spread is like a perfect tapestry, every inch of its woven world busy with facts, illustrations, typography and infographics
This works particularly well for ecosystems, for obvious reasons. There’s so much information here, in a good way. Kids can really dig in and lose themselves in the fascinating scientific specifics of how our world works. The book also looks at how different ecosystems benefit humans, and the biggest threats they face because of our actions.
Who do you think you are?
by alice harman
wide eyed, 2020
It’s another one of mine! An extremely fun one to write – and the illustrations are just amazing, aren’t they?
This is a funny, stylish book of twenty illustrated psychological tests exploring all kinds of ideas about what makes us who we are – some of them scientific, some of them a bit strange!
Young people can try out the quizzes on themselves and their friends – and learn a bit more about what ‘personality’ is and what impact it can have on the way we each think, live and relate to others.
Longlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2021 and recommended by BookTrust, School Reading List, School Library Journal and many quiz-loving book bloggers!
by David Long, illus. by Kerry Hyndman
Faber & Faber, 2019
You’d expect this big beauty of a book, about real-life rescues around the world, to be full of excitement and danger. And it is! But it’s much cleverer than that, too.
Kids get the full stories behind the headlines, and discover that it’s things like teamwork, patience and professional expertise – all often underrated in a world that loves flashy, go-go-go dramatics – that actually save lives.
A note for younger or more sensitive readers (I’m the latter!): the stories do sometimes include injuries, disasters and deaths. However, this is handled very sensitively and respectfully. The overall tone is always hopeful, celebrating what humans can achieve when we care for each other and work together.
Women in Art
HACHETTE CHILDREN’S GROUP, 2020
Anyone else a bit sick of seeing the same faces staring out of books about ‘great artists’? I like a Van Gogh as much as the next person but come on, let’s mix it up! This book is JUST the antidote. It has a fabulous range of artistic talent, from 13th-century poet and painter Guan Daosheng to contemporary sculptor and installation artist Chakaia Booker. (Google her wearable art if you aren’t familiar – WOW)
It’s a really interesting selection, with big hitters like Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keefe alongside women I didn’t know at all, like fascinating architect and sculptor Maya Lin. And every page is entirely covered with facts and beautiful artwork, like a modern illuminated manuscript.
Big Ideas for Young Thinkers
by Jamia Wilson, illus. by Andrea Pippins
Wide Eyed, 2020
I know this book pretty inside-out because I copy-edited it (so any typos are my fault – eek!) I love how the author totally gets the huge scope of kids’ ideas and ambitions. The book takes on all sorts of big questions, from ‘Why do I exist?’ and ‘Is race real?’ to ‘What happens when we disagree?’
The book’s tone is perfect – clear, friendly and age-appropriate without ever talking down. And although it introduces loads of brave forward-thinkers from history, it doesn’t feel too worthy or educational. The artwork and design are fabulous, too – it’s a real looker.
Modern Art Explorer
by Alice Harman, illus. by Serge Bloch
Thames & Hudson, 2020
Hey, this is one of mine! I hope you forgive the cheekiness but I’m sneaking one last book of my own into this list. It’s all about the amazing ideas, techniques and stories behind 30 of the world’s greatest modern artworks.
It features world-famous artists such as Frida Kahlo, Henri Matisse and Andy Warhol and introduces children to all sorts of exciting and beautiful artworks – from giant colourful cloths woven from bottle caps (El Anatsui) to topsy-turvy mirror sculptures (Anish Kapoor). My mission is to make art as fun and accessible as possible for kids, so the book is chatty and full of fun details – and wonderful little jokey sketches from the masterful Serge Bloch.
The big ideas are all there, and children will learn a lot about modern art, but I also encourage them to be more confident in their own thoughts and takes on art. Which, in my experience, are absolutely amazing! I’ve had some really lovely reviews for this book from parents, children, authors, art critics – and even The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. It’s also, excitingly, on the prestigious 2022 UK Literacy Association (UKLA) Awards quality longlist. So if you know a wonderfully artistic or creatively minded child, they might well get on with it too. It’s also a great book to explore together with a child, as well as for them to read alone.
Of course, there are many more amazing non-fiction books that I just haven’t had a chance to read yet. If you haven’t already, subscribe to my monthly email newsletter below to hear about them, and equally lovely fiction books, when I do get to them!
And if you want to write your own amazing non-fiction books for children, check out my 1-to-1 author coaching packages. I can help you turn your writing dreams into reality, so you can help kids learn about our amazing world! If you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ll even get a special discount code.
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