There are too many great nonfiction books for kids that I found it really hard to limit the list to only 18 titles. Admittedly, several wonderful nonfiction books for kids are missing from this collection but for practical reasons and space constraints, I limited the selection to what I think are the top first tier of nonfiction books for kids.
As is the case with all the book lists I share here in Selected Reads, my decisions as to what to include and exclude are informed by things such as reader reviews, similar popular lists published in expert sources such as Goodreads and Bookriot, sales history, ratings, and many more. This is no whimsical list, for sure! This is the fruit of several hours of extensive research and analysis. I hope you will find it helpful.
[Related: Best books on American revolution for kids]
During the preparation of this collection, I tried to include books that cover a wide range of topics, from history to science to social justice. The purpose is to provide a multi-educational resource that is sure to educate and inspire young readers. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the best 18 nonfiction books for kids.
Table of Contents
1. A Ticket Around the World, by Natalia Diaz, Melissa Owens
A Ticket Around the World is a fun and informative picture book for children by Natalia Diaz and Melissa Owens. It features a young boy as he journeys to 13 different countries, introducing readers to the cultures, languages, foods, and environments of each place. A dedicated spread per country presents small maps that show geography and landmarks, allowing readers to imagine they are traveling, too.
The illustrations have a stylized realism that presents readers with an inviting view of each locale. A Ticket Around the World helps young readers understand how people live in different parts of the world by highlighting similarities and differences between countries. At the end of the book, children will feel like they’ve explored the globe without ever having left home.
2. I am Neil Armstrong, by Brad Meltzer
Neil Armstrong was an American engineer and pilot who became the first person to walk on the moon. He was born on a farm in Ohio and grew up to be an excellent student. He studied engineering in college and then joined the military, where he became a test pilot. He was selected for the Apollo program and was the commander of the mission to the moon.
On July 20, 1969, Armstrong made his famous first step on the moon and uttered the now-famous phrase: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. The I Am Neil Armstrong biography, written by Brad Meltzer, celebrates this heroic figure and his incredible achievements.
3. I am Jane Goodall, by Brad Meltzer
I am Jane Goodall, by Brad Meltzer, is a biography of the eponymous scientist and conservationist who is renowned for her work with chimpanzees. The book is part of a series of picture books that use simple, conversational language to narrate the life stories of historical figures in the first-person present tense.
4. Babies Around the World, by Puck
Babies Around the World by Puck is an adorable and educational board book designed to introduce young readers to different cultures. Readers travel from city to city, starting in New York City and ending in San Francisco, and meet babies who greet them in different languages. This is a great book for any little one interested in learning about the world around them.
5. Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera, by Candace Fleming
Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera, by Candace Fleming is a delightful exploration of the life of the Honeybee. Readers are taken on an incredible journey as Apis emerges from her cell and embarks on a fantastic voyage. Through captivating illustrations and storytelling, readers follow along on Apis’ journey as she collects nectar, builds wax combs, and defends her hive from invaders.
6. The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin, by Julia Finley Mosca
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca tells a remarkable story of determination and success. Diagnosed with autism as a young girl, many did not expect her to develop the ability to speak. However, through sheer determination and an ability to think in pictures, Temple became one of the most influential voices in modern science.
The book details her life and how she used her unique visual thinking to create groundbreaking improvements for farms around the world. The Girl Who Thought in Pictures is an inspiring story that serves as a reminder of the potential within each and every one of us.
7. Mama Built a Little Nest, by Jennifer Ward
Mama Built a Little Nest, by Jennifer Ward, is a delightful book that celebrates the variety of birds and their nests. Through bouncy rhymes, Mama Built a Little Nest looks at different types of nests—from large to small, silky to cottony, muddy to twiggy—and the birds that lay their eggs in them.
Mama Built a Little Nest is an interactive book, inviting children to explore nests of different shapes and sizes while learning about the birds that build them. The book encourages young readers to think more deeply about the world around them and appreciate the beauty of nature.
8. Over and Under the Snow, by Kate Messner
Over and Under the Snow, by Kate Messner, is a book about a secret kingdom beneath winter’s snowy landscape. It follows the story of animals that live through the winter safe and warm, awake and busy, under the snow.
The book reveals the beauty and activity that lies beneath the snow and provides readers with a magical adventure that exposes them to the wonders of the winter season.
9. I Am Martin Luther King Jr., by Brad Meltzer
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a prominent civil rights activist who worked to end discrimination and bring about racial equality in America. He grew up witnessing the discrimination and unfair treatment of African Americans, which motivated him to take action as an adult.
He promoted non-violent protests and marches, encouraging people to come together peacefully for a better future. With powerful words, he spoke of the need for love for all human beings, and a brighter future that would be free from discrimination. His inspiring speech about his dream of a kinder tomorrow is remembered today as one of the most influential moments in civil rights history.
I Am Martin Luther King Jr., by Brad Meltzer, introduces children to the activist’s incredible story in a friendly and engaging way. Through this book, kids will learn about the importance of standing up for what is right and having the courage to dream big.
10. Her Right Foot, by Dave Eggers
In Her Right Foot, Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris explore the meaning behind the Statue of Liberty’s iconic right foot. By examining the statue’s footsteps and its place in America’s history, they trace the story of how acceptance has been at the foundation of an entire nation.
Her Right Foot dives into both the literal and metaphorical significance behind the statue’s powerful message. The book is both an informative and entertaining read that provides insight into the core beliefs of America.
11. Who Was Albert Einstein?, by Jess Brallier, Who HQ
Who Was Albert Einstein?, written by Jess Brallier of Who HQ, tells the story of Albert Einstein and his life. From his childhood expulsion from school to his revolutionary discoveries in the fields of physics and mathematics, this book dives deep into the world of one of history’s most famous scientists. The book discusses Einstein’s impact on society and how his work has changed our understanding of the world.
12. Locomotive, by Brian Floca
Locomotive, by Brian Floca, is a chidlren’ s book about the summer of 1869 and the transcontinental railroad. It follows the journey of trains and their crews, as well as the families who travel with them. The story details the sights, sounds, and sensations of the trip.
It is an immersive experience that captures the power of the locomotives, the hard work of the crews that keep them going, and the excitement of traveling through different landscapes. Locomotive is a thrilling ride across America’s early days and a must-read for anyone interested in history or transportation.
13. Malala Yousafzai, by Jenni L. Walsh
Malala Yousafzai is an inspiring figure and an advocate for girls’ rights and education. She was born in Pakistan and from a young age had a desire to become a doctor. Unfortunately, her home country was overrun by extremists who wanted to stop girls from going to school, but Malala wasn’t deterred.
She spoke out in defiance of their views and was eventually attacked on a bus for her beliefs. Malala recovered from the attack and continued to fight for educational rights, eventually becoming the youngest-ever Nobel Prize winner.
Jenni L. Walsh’s biography Malala Yousafzai captures Malala’s incredible journey with vivid narrative and full-color photographs. It also includes educational information to help readers understand Malala’s story and the importance of girls’ rights and education.
Malala Yousafzai is a must-read for anyone looking for an inspiring account of courage in the face of adversity. It truly stands as a symbol of hope and determination.
14. Why Do Animals Hibernate?, by David Martin
Why Do Animals Hibernate? by David Martin, is an informational book that explores the fascinating world of hibernation. With large color photographs illustrating burrows, dens, caves and animals in hibernation, this book provides readers with interesting facts about how and why animals go into hibernation.
It also explains the biological processes of hibernation, including how animals slow their heart rate and metabolic rate. Why Do Animals Hibernate? is correlated to the Common Core State Standards for English/Language Arts, making it a valuable tool in teaching students about hibernation.
15. The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read, by Rita Lorraine Hubbard
The Oldest Student, by Rita Lorraine Hubbard tells the inspiring story of Mary Walker, an African American woman who lived through the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement.
Born into slavery, she was freed and married at 20. She worked various jobs throughout her long life, including cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and selling sandwiches to raise money for her church. At age 116, Mary Walker defied expectations by learning to read. The book celebrates Mary’s resilience and determination in the face of adversity as an example of never being too old to learn.
16. Dreamers, by Yuyi Morales
Dreamers, by Yuyi Morales, is a celebration of finding strength and resilience in the unknown. This lyrical and lovingly-illustrated picture book memoir follows one family’s journey of leaving their home and adjusting to a new place. Through vibrant illustrations, Dreamers captures the difficulty of navigating an unfamiliar world while still finding hope and joy in it.
Dreamers encourages readers to never stop dreaming and to always carry their own strengths wherever they roam, just like Dream Big Little One by Vashti Harrison. Yuyi’s book is both timely and timeless – offering a reminder that we are all Dreamers and can bring our own gifts with us, no matter where life takes us.
17. Dream Big, Little One, by Vashti Harrison
Dream Big, Little One, by Vashti Harrison is an inspiring board book adaptation of the popular Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. The book features 18 powerful and courageous black women, including both famous historical figures and everyday women who did extraordinary things.
These trailblazers overcame many obstacles to make a lasting impact on the world. Dream Big, Little One inspires young readers and encourages them to pursue their own dreams and make a difference in the world. Dream big, little one!
18. The Water Princess, by Susan Verde, Georgie Badiel
The Water Princess, by Susan Verde and Georgie Badiel, tells the story of Princess Gie Gie and the struggle for clean drinking water in her African village. The book is inspired by the childhood of Georgie Badiel who, like many girls in her village, had to walk miles each day to collect water.
The book shows the hardships faced by those without access to clean drinking water and brings hope for a better future. With vibrant illustrations, The Water Princess encourages readers to work towards the goal of providing safe, potable water to all communities. The book is an inspiring example of how literature can be used as a tool for social change.
19. Signs of Survival: A Memoir of the Holocaust, by Renee Hartman, Joshua M. Greene
Signs of Survival: A Memoir of the Holocaust, by Renee Hartman and Joshua M. Greene, is a vivid and heartbreaking account of the struggles faced by Jews living in 1940s Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust.
The narrative begins with Renee, Herta, and their parents trying to hide from the Nazis while Renee, as the only hearing person in her family, must alert them of any approaching Nazis. Sadly, their parents are taken away and the sisters go on the run trying to find a safe place.
Ultimately they too are captured and sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where they must learn how to survive amidst illness, death, and starvation. Through it all, Renee and Herta are sustained by the power of their sisterhood and love for one another. This harrowing and ultimately uplifting memoir serves as an important lesson in resilience, strength, and hope even in the darkest of times.