Fascinating Fact-Based Titles for Children

Southwest LibraryStaff Picks

Fascinating Fact-Based Titles for Children

For Common Core (and Even More)

Some young readers have always loved non-fiction--after all, nonfiction is the home of books about dinosaurs, space, paper airplane building and many other fascinating topics.  On the other hand, those who love story-telling and narrative may have a preference for fiction.  These days, though, all kinds of young readers are likely to encounter more nonfiction due to the adoption of the Common Core curriculum framework in many schools.  Here are a variety of nonfiction titles for all ages and interests--and not one reads like a textbook!

Upper Elementary/Middle School:
Cover of What Color is My World?What Color is My World?
By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Because it has a fictional framing story, this title won't be found in the nonfiction section. However, the facts shared are quite real.

Through the tale of Herbie and Ella, two tweens helping a mysterious handyman named Mr Mital fix up their new home, author Abdul-Jabbar reveals the fascinating true stories of African-American inventors and innovators in a kid-friendly way. From the first successful open-heart surgeon (Daniel Hale Williams) to the inventor of the Super Soaker water gun (Lonnie Johnon) their stories help kids see their world in a new way. 

Cover of Titanic: Voices From the DisasterTitanic: Voices from the Disaster
By Deborah Hopkinson

Kids, like adults, have long been intrigued by the tale of this enormous ship's sinking and rediscovery. In fact, when I first saw this book, I wondered: Did the world really need another Titanic title?

The answer is yes, if it's this one!

The author focuses on oral history, weaving in accounts of survivors and building suspense so that the book reads almost like a novel. The extensive end-notes explain the author's research process in an accessible way and encourage kids to ask questions and think like historians. The book's one limitation is that the photographs are small and not in color; try pairing it with Explore Titanic: Breathtaking New Pictures Re-Created with Digital Technology, a title that is sure to appeal to the more visually-oriented reader. 

Cover of Energy IslandEnergy Island
By Allan Drummond

Renewable energy might seem like a difficult subject to make interesting to kids, but Drummond's lively text and bright illustrations make it look easily.

The book tells the story of how one passionate teacher inspired his students (and, later, whole community) on the Danish island of Samso to change the way they use and produce energy. Readers will enjoy watching formerly skeptical grown-ups get excited about building the island's biggest and smallest wind mills and achieving 100 percet energy.

Drummond's warm, friendly art style readily conveys the spirit of the community working together.

Cover of Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin FranklinNow & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Ben Franklin
By Gene Barretta

Benjamin Franklin is a popular subject of children's biographies, perhaps because he lived such an interesting life.

This title is focused specifically on the impact of his inventions, and the book's sets itself apart with its clever use of pictures and page formatting. For example, one side of a full-page spread states that "Now...our world relies on electricity," and pictures show its modern uses. The other side of the spread states, "Ben...was one of the scientists who discovered the true nature of electricity," and depicts Franklin's famous kite experience.

Barretta uses the "Now...Ben" parallel throughout the book, which helps young readers visualize how Franklin's accomplishments have affected the way we live today.  

Cover of How Much?: Visiting Markets Around the WorldHow Much?: Visiting Markets Around the World
By Ted Lewin

Multicultural titles for young children often focus on some aspect of daily life around the world, such as going to school, cooking, or in this case, shopping.

Lewin's gorgeous, full-page paintings show markets around the world, from a Thai market where everyone arrives on boats, to a camel market in Egypt, an antique market in New Jersey and more.

The text encourages readers to look carefully at the scenes depicted in the pictures and notice details of what people are doing or wearing, which can lead to great discussion. The one limitation of the book is that, despite the title, it doesn't always tell what the various items in the market cost. 

Cover of Clothesline Clues to Jobs People DoClothesline Clues to Jobs People Do
Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook

Many kindergarten and preschool programs study community workers and the jobs that they do. This book offers a fun introduction to this concept through the use of clothing.

Each full-page spread shows a set of clothes hanging on a clothesline, accompanied by a riddle like this one:
Uniform and cap,
an invite for you.
Big bag of letters
What does she do?

Children can interact with the text by sharing their guesses until the reader turns the page to reveal the answer -- a mail carrier!

In addition to the familiar mail carriers and firefighters, I like that this book features a variety of other professions, including chef, artist, and farmer.