Nonfiction Youth Books: Not Just for Kids

Tricky VicBlame it on my stage in life as a mother to two young children (I do) but my attention span at the end of a long day isn’t what it used to be. Enter the nonfiction children’s book. Savior to my beleaguered brain.

I can’t tell you how much I love a good nonfiction read. And in the format of a youth book, I am giddy. These are quick, entertaining reads, because they have to be. Kids need to be amused, intrigued, and informed… no simple task. Nonfiction youth books do a fantastic job of highlighting truly interesting facts in engaging, simple language, and generally rely heavily on quirk and beautiful illustrations to keep the ball moving and the child reading. And yet! These books are not just for kids. I have no shame in picking up one of these texts as a great transition between larger texts, or for a nice read on a night when I don’t feel like falling asleep 20 pages into a good book. Completing 20 pages in a youth nonfiction book means I’ve completed an entire book before bed.

When I open these gems, I am instantly informed and feel useful to the world again. Wonder of wonders – my brain does work.  And I can nonchalantly offer an entertaining fact at my next play date. “Oh, you didn’t know that an octopus has a brain in each of its limbs?  Isn’t that fascinating?” Secret’s out, folks. It’s not television that fuels this brain, it’s good old books, in any form.

For your entertainment, here are a few of my top picks from our new nonfiction youth collection:

The Book of LanguagesThe Book of Languages: Talk Your Way Around the World by Mick Webb

Wide sweeping overview of 25 languages, with helpful pronunciation points and a short history of each.

AnAn Ambush of Tigers Ambush of Tigers: A Wild Gathering of Collective Nouns by Betsy R. Rosenthal

Reading like a picture book, this text reveals exactly what we should be calling groups of animals (a prickle of porcupines, really??).

I See a Pattern HereI See a Pattern Here by Bruce Goldstone

Finding patterns in everyday objects, moving to more complicated patterned concepts.  Covers simple math concepts in an easy to understand manner.

The Founding Fathers!The Founding Fathers! : Those Horse-Ridin’, Fiddle-Playin’, Book-Readin’, Gun-Totin’ Gentlemen Who Started America by Jonah Winter

Conversationally written with heavy doses of humor.

Tricky VicTricky Vick: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower by Greg Pizzoli

The true story of a con man who worked with Al Capone in America before arriving in France to set in motion a scheme I can’t believe I never knew about.

Enormous SmallnessEnormous Smallness: A Story of E.E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess

The illustrations add so much to this overview of the life and work of E.E. Cummings.  Pay close attention because this book has so many layers.

Could An Octopus Climb a Skyscraper?

Could an Octopus Climb a Skyscraper?…and Other Questions by Camilla De la Bedoyere

Chock-full of interesting facts and funny illustrations.

A Nest Is Noisy

A Nest is Noisy by Dianna Hutts Aston

I never knew there were so many different categories of nests, nor that animals could build and create them in so many different ways. Gorgeous illustrations!


MeaghanBlogMeaghan Choisnet is a library assistant in Youth Services. If you read any fun new facts, pass your knowledge along to her atat mjchoisnet@cityofportsmouth.com.

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