Nonfiction Picture Books for Little Guys

We all know many boys are very visual learners; sparking cross-brain communication is a key to sparking boys’ brains. We also know that many boys prefer true books to story books. So Nonfiction picture books should be a part of every little guy’s library. Here are some recent winners to choose from:

American Museum of Natural History, illustrated by Steve Jenkins. 1-2-3 Dinosaurs Bite!: A Prehistoric Counting Book. (Sterling, 2012)
Learn to count… or these dinosaurs will eat you!

Artie Bennett, illustrated by Pranas T. Naujokaitis. Belches, Burps, and Farts, Oh My! (Blue Apple, 2014)
What’s better than a book about gas? One with unforgetable pictures and easy-to-memorize rhymes! In typical Artie Bennett fashion (Do you remember The Butt Book and Poopendous?) this book puts the logical in scatological, making sense of the things we all have in common without ever lessoning the gut-busting humor. Watch out! If your kids laugh too hard they might slip up and learn something!

Fred Bowen. No Easy Way: The Story of Ted Williams and the Last .400 Season. (Dutton, 2010)
Bowen tells, in spare text and with illustrations reminiscent of Norman Rockwell, the simple story of Ted Williams, who wouldn’t go into the record books with a tainted record and anything less than a full season of hitting .400, a feat that has not been matched in seven decades. This is a baseball biography for even the very young; read this to a future Hall of Famer in your life.

John Coy, illustrations by Joe Morse. Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball. (Carolrhoda, 2013)
And you thought YOUR class was bad! This one was HISTORICALLY bad. But one great teacher turned one tough class into one of the most popular games in the world.

Doris Fisher, illustrated by Julie Buckner. Army Camels: Texas Ships of the Desert. (Pelican Publishing, 2013)
Just picture a line of huge, humpy camels in Texas, eating the spiny cacti that were supposed to fence them in, scaring horses, dogs, mules, and, well, Texans! How did THOSE animals get in THAT place? Before the railroad, before the Civil War, before camels even made it to American zoos, the Army brought a little piece of Africa to the western desert.

Nancy Bo Flood. Sand to Stone and Back Again. (Fulcrum, 2009)
For those young explorers who are obsessed with the question “How?”, here is a stunning look at the natural wonders of the desert. The words seem to gladly sink into the background as pictures of rock formations and minerals just dance across the page. It looks like fantasy, and reads like nonfiction. How can you go wrong?

Bruce Goldstone. That’s a Possibility!: A Book About What Might Happen. (Holt, 2013)
Okay, I hate to jump on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) bandwagon, because we need to concentrate more on developing the habit of reading than on skills, but this one is just fun! Possible, impossible, probable, not likely, not a chance! Cats batting around balls of yarn, dogs scarfing up treats, and gumballs – who could resist gumball-based math? All concepts and virtually no numbers, starting from the very basics and getting steadily more complicated, so you can do one page together, or try to get all the way through the brain teasers in the back. Pull it out with a three year old or a thirteen year old.

Steve Jenkins. Actual Size. (Houghton Mifflin, 2004)
Put your hand up against the hand of a gorilla. Go eye to eye with a giant squid. Lay your whole arm along the back of the world’s biggest insect. Too cool!

Steve Jenkins. Eye to Eye: How Animals See The World. (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014)
The endless variations on how animals see, and just enough general information to see how it all fits together. For those kids who can name EVERY animal at the zoo, Jenkins consistently finds new and fascinating corners of the natural world.

William Kamkwamba and Brian Mealer, pictres by Elizabeth Zunon. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. (Dial, 2012)
“Magesti a mphepo,” he whispered. “I will build electric wind.” And that is exactly what he did.

Sara C. Levine, illustrated by T.S. Spookytooth. Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons. (Lerner, 2013)
Oh sure, that little kid knows all the animals… from the outside. But can you tell an animal from just the bones? Here is a first nature challenge for that budding little naturalist.

Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by C.F. Payne. To Dare Mighty Things: The Life of Theodore Roosevelt. (Disney-Hyperion, 2013)
He may have started out small, but Teddy Roosevelt made himself strong, and made the world listen. He became one of the truly big men in history. And you are never too small to dream big.

Sports Books for Middle Readers

John Feinstein, The Walk On. [The Triple Threat, Book 1] (Knopf, 20014)
John Feinstein, always a good bet for those middle reader sports fans, has started a series with a different take. Instead of following a character through several years of one sport, he is following a character through several sports in one year. Alex Myers just wants his shot to show what he can do on his new school’s football team, and when the team’s best player takes one look at his arm and dubs him “Goldie”, you would think he’d get his show. So why doesn’t he? Could be he’s a freshman. Maybe it is because the team is focused on running, not passing. Or maybe it has something to do with the starting quarterback being the coach’s son. Before Alex Myers can be a three=sport star, he has to just get on the football field.

More Recent Sports Books for Middle Readers:

Fred Bowen. Double Reverse. [Fred Bowen's Sports Stories] (Peachtree, 2014)
Everyone who plays team sports has to face the priority question at some time. Are you a quarterback, or a football player? Are you a member of the offense, or a member of the team? But in Fred Bowen’s latest, priorities get challenged, stretched, and tied in knots when a soccer defenseman becomes a goalie to become a football player to become a kicker and end up as a running back?? And SHE’s not even the main character! Keep your eye on the ball in this high-fun, high-action sports tale.

Cal Ripken. Wild Pitch. [Cal Ripken, Jr.'s All-Stars] (Disney-Hyperion, 2013) [Baseball]
What kind of sports book starts half-way through a season with no wins? Oooh, wonder if they’ll make the playoffs? Not likely bub. Robbie, the Orioles’ pitcher, would like to just get through the season without killing anybody. Cal Ripkin, Jr., the one baseball player who played through more thick and more thin than anybody else, tells a real story of real kids trying really hard not to really suck.

Marissa Moss, illustrations by Yuko Shimizu. Barbed Wire Baseball. (Abrams, 2013)
There is something freeing about launching a long home run and running easily around the bases and back to home while the ball sails over the fence. But what if the fence is made of barbed wire, and even if the ball can fly away, you can never go home? People scoff at the idea that sports are life, but what if baseball is all you have of your life? This is the true story of a man who played with babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and then was imprisoned with his whole family, his whole community. His crime? He was Japanese, and America went to war with Japan.