Nonfiction picture books to inform and entertain

Picture books aren’t just for little kids. Savvy educators and parents use picture books as a way to share information with kids as old as middle schoolers. Because picture books are fun, quick, and colorful. And like the picture books listed below, they can be filled with information. Reading a picture book about something like, say, mushrooms, just might lead to a curious child’s exploration into the world of fungi. Here are some great choices that might just pique inquisitive minds.

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‘The Forgotten Five: Map of Flames’ by Lisa McMann is the first in a new middle grade fantasy series

The Forgotten Five: Map of Flames

In her new series, “The Forgotten Five: Map of Flames,” Lisa McMann creates an action-filled fantasy with children who have supernatural powers but must survive on their own after the last adult in their group dies. The five children have always lived in a secret hideaway far from civilization as their parents were master criminals who barely escaped with their lives after a heist gone bad. But gradually, the parents have disappeared after returning to civilization, the first few to gather supplies, and then others left to search for the first three adults who disappeared. The last adult, Louis, got sick and died, leaving his daughter a secret message.

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‘Citizen K-9: A K Team Novel’ by David Rosenfelt solves another complicated crime

Citizen K-9 by David Rosenfelt
(dog: Lexi, a Rockpit rescue)

This latest David Rosenfelt novel should come with a warning: Be aware that reading this book will probably cause you to now have a new, must-read series. Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series is much beloved by readers who enjoy the clever mysteries, the canine characters, and main character Andy Carpenter’s self-deprecating humor. In “Citizen K-9,” the second in a spin-off series about the K Team, a group of investigators whom we have met in the Andy Carpenter novels, we still get Rosenfelt’s humor and his wonderful writing, resulting in a mystery that provides enjoyable reading as well as mental exercise in solving crime. And in this novel, the crime is not easy to solve.

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‘Must Love Dogs: Lucky Enough’ by Claire Cook is the latest entry in that popular and charming series

Must Love Dogs: Lucky Enough
by Claire Cook

Some books you read because they teach you something, some books are read for lengthy book club discussions, and some books, like “Must Love Dogs: Lucky Enough,” the eighth book in this engaging and humorous series, you read simply to escape from reality and jump into the life of Sarah Hurlihy as she navigates her at-times fraught relationship with John, with their ever-growing menagerie of pets, and with her often-crazy extended Irish family. Sarah’s life is never dull, and when you factor in her job as a preschool teacher with some very precocious children and their very suburban parents, you get lots of humor as well as many touching moments.

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‘Code Name: Serendipity’ by Amber Smith is a sweet doggy tale of friendship, family, growing up, and most of all, compassion

Code Name: Serendipity by Amber Smith

With her new middle grade novel, “Code Name: Serendipity,” author Amber Smith presents an eleven-year-old fifth grader named Sadie. Sadie doesn’t feel as if she fits in anywhere because now that her best friend, Jude, has moved away, she has no one at school to talk to, ride the bus with, or eat lunch with. At home, her older brother Noah is often unkind and has little time for her. Her two moms are also busy, and her grandfather’s recent declining mental health means they have worries of their own. It doesn’t help that Sadie has a learning disability, even though she prefers to call it a learning difference.

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‘The Lock-Eater’ by Zack Loran Clark is an action-filled fantasy with plenty of twists

The Lock-Eater by Zack Loran Clark

In his debut novel, “The Lock-Eater,” author Zack Loran Clark presents us with a very unusual protagonist. Melanie Gate is an orphan, and she lives with other similarly situated girls at the Merrytrails Orphanage for Girls. Mrs. Harbargain is the kindly woman in charge of the orphanage, and she lives with the children and her cat, Abraxas, who is redeemed neither by his looks nor his personality. Melanie has the strange ability of being able to open any door or lock. Other girls in the orphanage have different abilities; one is a talented baker, another is unusually charming, another a gifted storyteller.

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‘Wayward Creatures’ by Dayna Lorentz is an important story about a boy and how difficult it is to deal with emotions when feeling isolated

Wayward Creatures by Dayna Lorentz

I was captivated by the title and the cover of “Wayward Creatures” by Dayna Lorentz. In all honesty, the cover is a bit misleading — the boy does not interact much with the injured coyote, and, very appropriately, they do not become friends. Nor should they. The story of these two wayward creatures, both juveniles of their species, is told in alternating first person narratives. Gabe and Rill are both suffering, each in their own way.

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Fabulous nonfiction children’s books you need on your bookshelf: Part One

I know from my decades of teaching elementary students that using nonfiction picture books is an amazing way to begin discussions of events and people, and to share information with students in an entertaining way that keeps them interested in learning (and reading). Here are some nonfiction children’s books for children of all ages from picture books through some middle grade books and even a young adult choice. All of them would be great picks for gifts for your children, their teachers, or even the school library. This is a long post, but read it through. You’ll be glad you did as there are some fabulous offerings here.

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‘A Blizzard of Polar Bears’ by Alice Henderson is a combination of mystery, thrills, and wildlife adventure

A Blizzard of Polar Bears by Alice Henderson

It’s not often that a novel can combine thrilling action with fascinating characters and a setting that is depicted so precisely that we shiver while reading about venturing out onto pack ice in Northern Canada. Alice Henderson accomplishes all that and more in “A Blizzard of Polar Bears,” as she shares another adventure for wildlife biologist Alex Carter, who takes a job researching polar bears for a report for Canada’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. Her job in Montana working with wolverines has just ended, so this job offer seems fortuitous.

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‘Flamefall’ by Rosaria Munda is the sequel to the thoughtful and thrilling ‘Fireborne’

Flamefall by Rosaria Munda

You don’t want to miss reading “Flamefall” by Rosaria Munda, the sequel to “Fireborne” and the second book in “The Aurelian Cycle” trilogy. In the first novel, Rosaria Munda created an alternate world populated by overlords and serfs. The overlords could do—and did do—anything they wanted to the peasant families they “owned” in Callipolis. These rulers were aided by their dragons, who were feared for their ability to shoot flames. The revolution that ensued was reminiscent of the Russian Revolution both for its ideals and the blood that was shed. The dragonlord families were slaughtered.

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‘Daughter of the Deep’ by Rick Riordan is thrilling and hugely entertaining

Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan

In an exciting leap that is just as thrilling as any twist Percy Jackson might encounter, Rick Riordan brings us a slightly different kind of adventure with “Daughter of the Deep,” his book about a group of students in a maritime academy who end up on the run for their lives and dive straight into an adventure that is based on Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” We first meet Ana Dakkar when she and her brother go for a swim in the ocean on which their special private school sits. We quickly learn that their parents died in an accident two years previously, and Ana and Dev are close. Dev is several years older than Ana, and at the end of their swim he gives her an early birthday present as she is leaving with the freshman class for a final weekend of trials.

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‘The Forever Dog’ by Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Shaw Becker is the complete handbook for how to help your dog live a longer & healthier Life

The Forever Dog
by Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

The full title of this very weighty tome by Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Shaw Becker is “The Forever Dog: Surprising New Science to Help Your Canine Companion Live Younger, Healthier & Longer.” It’s a mouthful, and this book is not a one-night read. Rather, it’s the kind of book you will skim, and then keep in a safe place for future reference. There’s a huge amount of information in these pages, but to anyone who has read about human health, nothing written here will be shocking or novel.

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