2013 Best Children’s Nonfiction

Here are my 20 picks for the best of children’s nonfiction this year.  There were a lot that I didn’t read, so please share your favorites in the comments!

africa is my home brush of the gods eat like a bear

Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad by Monica Edinger, illustrated by Robert Byrd

Beautifully written and illustrated, this book gives a first-person account of the Amistad, looking beyond the revolt into the trial and what happened to one little girl caught in history.

Brush of the Gods by Lenore Look

This is a very impressive biography of an incredible artist that few children will be aware of before reading this book, making it perfect to share with children in art classes.

Eat Like a Bear by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Steve Jenkins

A glorious look at bears, this book is a fantastic introduction to a creature, its habitat and its diet.

etched-in-clay frog song

Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet by Andrea Cheng

This powerful book informs middle grade readers about a man who could have been one of the many lost faces of slavery but who through art and bravery had a voice.

Frog Song by Brenda Z. Guiberson

Beautiful, intriguing and great fun to read, this book is an impressive testament to the importance of frogs in our ecosystems.

henry-and-the-cannons lifetime

Henry and the Cannons by Don Brown

Strong and noteworthy, this picture book nonfiction title has history and also plenty of action and adventure.

Lifetime by Lola M. Schaefer

One of the most visually stimulating and smart concepts for a nonfiction picture book, this one is sure to beat the averages and be read more than once.

locomotive look up nelson mandela

Locomotive by Brian Floca

Gorgeous illustrations, fascinating facts and a clear love of the subject make this a riveting read whether you are a train buff or not.

Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raul Colon

This picture book biography invites children to follow their own passions and get involved in science as well.

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

This is the story of Nelson Mandela captured fully in a picture book that celebrates all of his accomplishments and what he stands for as a human being.  Beautiful.

on a beam of light parrots over puerto rico

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

A great read about a great man, this picture book biography should be welcomed by young scientists as well as in science classrooms.

Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore

A dazzling nonfiction book that will be welcome in classroom discussions and units about conservation and environment.

picture a tree price of freedom primates

Picture a Tree by Barbara Reid

An awesome addition to any Arbor Day, Earth Day, tree-related or seasonal story time or unit, this book should inspire all of us to wonder about trees.

The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery by Dennis Brindell Fradin and Judith Bloom Fradin, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

This is a nonfiction picture book that is sure to inform children about an aspect of slavery that they will not have heard of as well as a tale of what a group of brave citizens can do.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks

A great graphic novel, this is a stellar pick for school libraries and public libraries that will have children learning about scientific history without even realizing it!

rotten pumpkin splash of red

Rotten Pumpkin: A Rotten Tale in 15 Voices by David M. Schwartz, photos by Dwight Kuhn

Perfect for autumn and Halloween, this book will have kids looking at their slumping pumpkins with new eyes.

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Another very successful collaboration of these two masters, this biographical picture book should serve as its own splash of red on every library’s shelves.

when the beat was born when thunder comes wild boy

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III

A great nonfiction picture book biography, this book will help fill in gaps in library collections and will speak to the history of the music kids are listening to right now.

When Thunder Comes by J. Patrick Lewis

Strong and powerful, this book of poetry deserves to be shared widely and these names known and understood.

Wild Boy: The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron by Mary Losure, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering

An engaging, wrenching read that brings history to life in the form on one amazing person.

2 thoughts on “2013 Best Children’s Nonfiction

  1. THANK YOU for the nonfiction list; I’m all about good and silly fiction-y picture books for the nephews, but my understanding is that they need to be taught to appreciate non-fic, too – I always thought it was a drudgery and that’s because no one told me or showed me it was awesome, so thanks for this. ☺


    1. You are welcome! Some of these books are just as amazing and fun as fiction. In fact, that’s a big part of what I look for in good non-fiction.


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