Long gone are the days of dry, dull non-fiction books for children (yippee!!). Non-fiction books now are some of the most fun, interactive and down-right fascinating books around. It’s non-fiction November (yes, ALL month!) so I thought I would showcase some of the most fantastic factual books around right now. You know, in case you might be looking for any gift ideas for birthdays or (dare I mention it) Christmas.
Chews Your Own Tasty Adventure – Dr Sai Pathmanathan (author), Lucia Vinti (illustrator), Faber & Faber Limited (publisher)
Well, this book is just ingenious! Whipped up together in the pages of one book is fact, game and cookbook! Filled with nourishment for the body and brain, this book is the perfect blend of fun, fact and cooking adventure. Perfect for beginner cooks and budding bakers, each recipe contains a maximum of six key ingredients and has clear and easy to follow step by step instructions. And the best bit? The icing on the cake? The cherry on the top? Your child gets to choose (ahem, sorry, chews!) each ingredient by playing the fun interactive game and turning the relevant pages to see which recipes they can create.
And not only is there yummy goodness to cook or bake but there are fun verses, some fascinating facts and lots of top tips for experimenting with cookery and foods. My eldest ended up choosing garlic bread, chocolate chip cookies and Appelbeignets (which we had never heard of before!) -delish! There are lots of recipes for foods that we haven’t experienced previously and lots of firm favourites for us. There’s also a fun glossary, recipe index and useful notes page at the back of the book.
The fun and vibrantly colourful illustrations make this a stunning book to pore over. Interactive, filled with humour and eye catching illustrations, this would be the perfect book to gift any child who likes to experiment, be master of their own destiny, or wants to have fun with food. Brilliant.
Size Wise – Camilla de la Bedoyere (author), Vasilisa Romanenko (illustrator), Buster Books (publishers)
How would your little reader like to compare their hand size to a gorilla’s, or their little mitt to a tiger’s paw? How about marvelling at the huge eye of the colossal squid? Or the sheer vastness of the brilliantly big bloom, the Rafflesia Flower?
We just love books that have life-size drawings contained within them to go alongside the mind-blowing facts (and this book is certainly one of the best) but this book also does something extra. It also focuses in on the minuscule as well as the ginormous. Because, well, both big and small are welcome in the natural world!
So, not only can your reader be fascinated by the life-size talons of an eagle owl, they can be terrified by the sheer size of the Goliath Bird-Eating Spider and compare their gnashers to a T-Rex’s teeth but they can also marvel at some of the unbelievably small natural wonders of the world which have been zoomed in for extra interest and awe.
There’s the teensy weensy Dwarf Blue Butterfly, and the microscopic green algae plants that can be found in water, as well as eggstremely small eggs to examine.
This book is fascinating in the extreme and we have all learnt so much in the most engaging of ways. Each two page spread is vibrantly colourful and filled with the most exquisite illustrations of the wonders of the natural world, whether they be large or small.
A brilliant book for non-fiction November, this would make a superb present for any animal enthusiast.
A Jungle in your Living Room – Michael Holland (author), Philip Giordano (illustrator), Flying Eye Books (publisher)
Answer this question honestly: are you green-fingered? Can you manage to keep your houseplants alive?! I confess, I am not great with plants and only the hardiest survive in my house!! I blame it on the fact I have lots of other things I need to keep alive! But I adore plants and I think they can transform a room so this book hugely called to me and my children have been captivated too.
This book is truly unique in that it educates young readers all about houseplants (in fact, it tells us that a houseplant isn’t really a “thing” because plants have been around for so much longer than houses and we’ve just cleverly chosen how to bring the outdoors in!) and does so in the most interesting of ways. The book is split up into three parts – all about houseplants, the world of houseplants and houseplant care – and contains vibrant spreads of the most beautiful and eye-catching illustrations that cannot fail to captivate your young reader. These are combined with fascinating facts (did you know that about 90% of all plant species are poisonous) and terrific tips on how to keep your houseplants happy.
But on top of all of this, there are superb, try-this-yourself experiments and activities – from making desert gardens to growing a citrus plant- for your young reader to help experience the concepts firsthand.
Ooo, and we also love the handy colourful guide at the back of the book which helps you choose a plant to suit your level of green-fingeredness. From beginner to advanced, there is a plant for everyone!
This book is fascinating non-fiction at its best. It’s bold, beautiful and informative and will give young readers the education, hints and tips to become a successful houseplant expert for life. Now, I am off to move my big plant (I obviously don’t know the name of it!!) away from the radiator!
Illuminoceans – Barbara Taylor (author), Carnovsky (illustrator), Wide Eyed Editions (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
Who knew there was a Cookiecutter shark, or a Magician’s Cone snail? Well, we do now!! This book looks at marine life in a kaleidoscope of colour which will blow your young reader’s mind! This wonderful watery work of non-fiction reveals the awesome worlds of ancient and modern day ocean creatures, from the teensiest of starfish to whopper-sized whales. Using the different coloured lenses, your child can take a look at this watery world and explore the secrets of the deep in one of the most interactive and fun ways.
It is split into sections for each ocean of the world and it journeys through each of these (whilst also taking a look at the ocean deeps and the shallow seas, plus a prehistoric section) with a magical three-colour lens (well, it’s not magic but it seems like it is!) and helps your reader discover fascinating facts about these ocean creatures and what might be threatening their world. There is a section at the beginning of the book which explains how to use the colour lens: look through the red part to see the fishes, the green part showcases the habitat and the blue lens details other ocean creatures. The different sections on the oceans have key statistics and facts about each location or habitat and there is lots of short text blocks of information contained within the black and white two page species guide spreads.
The artwork is dazzling – hugely detailed drawings to explore and be amazed by – and the interactive element of the book makes it one of the most engaging and interactive non-fiction reads around. It’s aimed at readers of age 6 and above and it has been a huge hit with all of my children, as well as me! It’s a carnival of colour, bursting with beauty and filled with fabulous fishy facts – what’s not to love?!
Butterfly Skies – Lauren Fairgrieve (author) and Kate Read (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
Oh My Goodness. I mean, seriously, why weren’t non-fiction books this much fun when I was little?!! This book is the ultimate in terms of engaging, interactive non-fiction. Produced in conjunction with The National Trust, this book contains ten exquisitely illustrated, vibrant cardboard cut-outs for your little one to press out the pieces and make into three dimensional beautiful butterflies to play with. Following a section on how to make the butterflies (it’s very easy – there are only four parts to slot together), there are ten stunningly colourful butterflies to fit together. At the back of the book there is a beautifully illustrated two-page spread on each butterfly where your reader can learn some fascinating facts about these ten fluttering friends. In fact, I had not ever seen some of the butterflies mentioned. The factual information is set out in short paragraph blocks of text, surrounded by superb drawings of the butterflies in their natural habitats, providing maximum engagement for readers. Not only can they learn about various habitats and homelands of these butterflies but there is some fascinating factual information on the history and the beliefs surrounding some of these butterflies and how they have been seen across the ages. Did you know that sailors used to believe that spotting a yellow butterfly was bad luck? Or that Japanese culture links sightings of pairs of butterflies as a symbol of a strong marriage? Or how about the fact that some people try and bait Purple Emperor butterflies by using stinky nappies?! Gross.
Containing all these wonderful flutters of information and much more, I don’t think I have come across a more joyful and interactive work of non-fiction. My children adore it.
Little People, Big Dreams – Freddie Mercury – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Ruby Taylor (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
If you have been following this blog for a while then you will know just how much we adore this fantastic series of non-fiction books. And this bold and beautiful book is no exception. Born Farrokh Bulsara, as a young child Freddie Mercury always showed a talent for music and an impressive vocal range. After political unrest in his home country of Zanzibar (now Tanzania), he moved to London with his family. There, Farrokh met Brian May and Roger Taylor and became the lead singer of their band, Smile. When John Deacon joined the group, they became known as the iconic band Queen. Around this time, Farrokh legally changed his name to Freddie Mercury. This work of non-fiction tells the reader about what an international phenomenon Queen was, with Freddie’s stage presence and their huge hits such as Bohemian Rhapsody. Yes, this book touches on Freddie’s death owing to AIDS but it ends on a truly inspirational and positive note about how Freddie is a star that keeps shining in the hearts of his millions of fans.
As usual, there is a fantastic further facts and black and white photo section at the back of the book where your little reader can learn more and be inspired by the lifetime achievements of this superstar. I cannot sign off without mentioning the artwork. It absolutely stunning: vibrant colours and gorgeous illustrations of happy people and fabulous outfits. If you would like to find out more about this wonderful series, do take a look at the Little People, Big Dreams website Little People, BIG DREAMS – Be Bold, Be Brave, DREAM BIG! (littlepeoplebigdreams.com) to subscribe to their newsletter so you can stay up to date with the latest releases.
The Firefly’s Light – Sarah Horne (author and illustrator), Scholastic (publisher)
Wow! Just wow! This book is both beautiful and mind-blowing! Do you know what biomimicry is? Be honest! I hadn’t got a clue but I do now. It’s about how humans have created inventions inspired by the amazing innovations of the natural world and it is what this book is all about.
If you have ever wondered how a polar bear stays warm in such freezing temperatures, or why burrs stick so well to animal fur, or even why all spiders spin silk (even if they don’t all make webs)? Well, look no further, because this book has the answer to all of these questions, and many more.
Your reader can delve into the stories of how famous inventions came to be- from kingfishers inspiring the Bullet Train, to turtles inspiring tanks; from the iron-clad scaly-foot snail being behind design of protective headgear for humans, to slime mould and brainless computing. The illustrations used are vibrantly beautiful, making this a stunning and eye catching work of non-fiction. The incredible stories and factual information are set out in easy to digest paragraphs, surrounded by amazing artwork. This really is a celebration of nature at its best. A celebration of how scientists, designers, engineers and mathematicians have observed nature and looked to it to find stunning solutions to every day problems. It’s a celebration of the power of the natural world which will open your eyes and expand your mind. Wonderful.
Celebrate – Laura Mucha (author), Hannah Tolson (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
What a riot of colour and beauty this book is. It brings the biggest smile to your face just to look at it! I defy you not to do a little celebratory happy dance after turning its vibrant, fun pages!!
Your young reader is invited to quickstep around the world with this fabulous book, learning all about some of the planet’s most fascinating festivals. From worldwide festivals, such as Passover and Diwali, to some of the lesser-known celebrations around the world, this book is a joyful feast for the eyes.
Whether your reader is learning about the Lotus Lantern Festival in South Korea, or the Dancing Devils of Yare, there is so much to discover packed within the pages of this book. I know my children would love Las Parrandas, which takes place in Cuba and involves children running around making lots of noise, fireworks, floats and fierce competition! With fifty festivals to choose from, your children can also find out more about the origins of the celebrations that are familiar to them, as well as discovering festivals that they have never heard of, like the biggest flower parade in the world, Bloemencorso Zundert.
The artwork is simply stunning: exquisite representations of fabulous festivals which cover each two-page spread of the book. With festivals from each continent inhabited by humans, and fascinating paragraphs of information set across the joyful pages, this book would make a beautiful gift for any child.
Little People, Big Dreams – Leo Messi– Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Florencia Gavilán (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
My little boy doesn’t know much about football but he loves pretending in the playground when he is playing with his friends that he is Messi!! So, when this book dropped through the door for review, I had a rather hard time prizing it away from his pudgy grasp!
We love the message of this story: that problems, obstacles, health issues and failures are all part of life’s journey and can make us more determined to reach our dreams.
Born in Rosario, Argentina, little Leo Messi learned football on the streets and his passion for the sport grew. Encouraged by his doting grandmother, he joined a local youth team but it was discovered at the age of 9 that he suffered from a medical condition which meant his body didn’t make enough growth hormones. Leo took all of this in his powerful stride as he injected himself daily with medication. He went on to play for FC Barcelona’s youth academy, La Masia, and they even offered to pay for some of his medical treatment. His first few months there were anything but smooth though as he was beset by further injury but with determination and grit he built himself back up again. He went on to join the senior team and scored over 600 goals for the club and held over 35 trophies but his proudest moment was leading his country, Argentina, to win the World Cup in 2022. He’s considered by many to be one of the greatest footballers of all time but his off the pitch generosity and spirit are equally inspirational as he supports vulnerable children through his charity and work with UNICEF.
The artwork in this book is vibrant and colourful and filled with wonderful illustrations of the footballing world and some of its key players. Simply stunning. As usual, there is a fantastic further facts and black and white photo section at the back of the book where your little reader can learn more and be inspired by the lifetime achievements of this footballing legend. For any football mad little one, this would be a wonderful gift for Christmas.
The Wonder Garden – Jenny Broom (author), Kristjana S. Williams (illustrator), Wide Eyed Editions (imprint of The Quarto Group) (publisher)
What a jewel in the non-fiction crown this book is!! It is jaw-droppingly stunning and I defy anyone not to see this book and want to open it immediately, so captivatingly beautiful is its cover!
This visually stunning book is a guide to five dazzling habitats around the world and will take your young reader on a breathtaking discovery of some of the flora and fauna these areas contain. Your child is taken on a magical journey across the world looking at some of the harshest and most beautiful landscapes on earth: The Chihuahuan Desert, The Black Forest, The Great Barrier Reef, The Himalayan Mountains and The Amazon Rainforest. Each section has a few text blocks of information, set out across exquisitely illustrated two page spreads with the most striking colours, all about the extraordinary habitat where your reader can learn some fascinating facts (did you know that the plants in the Amazon produce 20% of the world’s oxygen?!). Following this are two two page spreads filled with amazing artistry and fabulous facts about various animals and plants that survive in these beautiful habitats.
This is a book that will captivate both children and adults. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful masterpiece filled with interesting information which really brings the earth’s Wonder Garden to life. It’s taking pride of place on my coffee table!
A World of Dogs – Carlie Sorosiak (author), Luisa Uribe (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
On my daughter’s Christmas wishlist (yes, she has had one written since August!!), she has put that she would like a fact book which contains every dog breed in the entire world!! Well, this book maybe doesn’t have *every* dog breed in it but it is the most gorgeous celebration of our canine cuties. Wrapped within the most stunning endpapers detailing the most delightful dogs, is a mine of fascinating information and wonderful words about real-life canine capers that is rapturous reading for any dog lover.
Your little reader can learn just how pawsome dogs really are. Within the pages of the book they can read about how dogs came to be, whether they can really understand us, whether they can smile (the answer is definitely yes from my Labradors if you are tickling their tummy!), what their doggy language means, whether they have feelings, important breeds of dogs, heroic dogs, legendary dogs, war dogs, famous dogs and much, much more. The information is set out in short paragraphs spread across each colourful two page spread and there are stunning and brilliantly detailed illustrations throughout which provide maximum engagement and “awwww” factor for the reader.
For any animal lover, this is a gorgeously illustrated, fascinating fact book filled with some inspiring and wonderful real-life stories about our canine companions that is sure to leave a paw print on your heart.
What was it like to be an ANCIENT ROMAN, David Long (author), Stefano Tambellini (illustrator), Barrington Stoke Ltd (publisher)
My old primary school was built on the site of an old Roman fort (ooo, and there is a section on forts in this book!) called Petriana so I have long been fascinated by all things Roman! And this book is no exception. Printed on off-white, heavier paper to reduce visual stress, with an accessible layout and spacing, and unique font size, this is a brilliant book about what it was like to be an Ancient Roman. Is your child fascinated by the Ancient Romans like me and my eldest? Or by their mythology? Or do they want to explore how the Romans have influenced our world today, including reading about all the words they have handed down and the sensationally straight roads they have built? From the winner of the Blue Peter Book Award comes this wonderful work of non-fiction. Split into ten chapters and interspersed with plenty of brilliant black and off-white illustrations, your young historian can learn about life in a Roman town, bloodshed in the amphitheatres and the bathhouses, life in the countryside, what fabulous and innovative architects, engineers and builders they were, the gods and goddesses they worshipped, as well as looking at their magnificent fighting army and all it conquered, as well as many more fascinating facts. Your little reader will learn that, yes, they were a terrifying force that rampaged the globe and changed history across the world, but they were so much more than that; they were amazing inventors and were responsible for so many things we now take for granted, like the postal system, newspapers, concrete and surgeons’s tools!
The illustrations are superb, really bringing to life what it must have been like back in Roman times and making this a really engaging read. Our favourite chapter was the one all about public entertainment as it was so interesting to read about the bathing, theatres and fighting. Fascinating, thoroughly absorbing, a brilliant blend of text blocks of information with super illustrations, we love the format and content of this work of non-fiction.
Little People, Big Dreams – Princess Diana – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Archita Khosla (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
Are you old enough to remember where you were when Princess Diana died? I remember exactly where I was when I heard and I stood in line at our local library for an hour or so to write in the memory book about her.
This book is a beautiful and moving tribute to a lady who had kindness at her very core.
As a young girl, she was known for her selflessness, even winning a prize for being the kindest girl in her school. After she married Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, she used her status as a princess to spread her kindness around and she became an advocate for all kinds of different charities.
This work of non-fiction explains her relationship with Prince Charles in an uncomplicated way and explains her lack of self-esteem and affliction with bulimia in a sensitive way for children to understand. This book shines a beautiful light on Princess Diana and her kindness and compassion, highlighting all the work she did for charities and sharing her struggles with a world that were then charmed by her even more. Her death is mentioned in the facts and photo section at the end of the book, simply stating that she died, aged 36, in a car accident and her loss was felt all over the world.
The illustrations in this book match the beauty of the person and her story told throughout. They are bold and striking and wonderfully evocative of a passionate life lived by a compassionate woman. The brilliant facts and black and white photo section at the back of the book provides your little reader with a little more information about the “People’s Princess”.