HomeBooks by AgeAges 4-8Best Non-Fiction Picture Books of 2014
Best Non-Fiction Picture Books of 2014

Best Non-Fiction Picture Books of 2014

The Children’s Book Review | March 21, 2015

The best non-fiction picture books of 2014, as picked by the editors and contributors of The Children’s Book Review.

Alexander Calder- Meet the Artist By Patricia GeisAlexander Calder: Meet the Artist 

By Patricia Geis

Publisher’s Synopsis: No artist can put a smile on your face quicker than Alexander Calder. A sense of playfulness animates all of his work—from his signature hanging mobiles to his endlessly creative toys, drawings, and jewelry. Alexander Calder: Meet the Artist! is an exciting hands-on introduction to this beloved American sculptor. Calder’s whimsical world is brought to life by imaginative pop-ups, pull tabs, lift-the-flaps, and cutouts. A universe of artistic possibilities opens up as young readers explore Calder’s creative evolution, play with his toy designs, and even create their own sculptural circus.

Ages 7-12 | Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press | 2014 | ISBN-13: 978-1616892258

The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art By Barb RosenstockThe Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art

By Barb Rosenstock; Illustrated by Mary GrandPre

Publisher’s Synopsis: Vasya Kandinsky was a proper little boy: he studied math and history, he practiced the piano, he sat up straight and was perfectly polite. And when his family sent him to art classes, they expected him to paint pretty houses and flowers—like a proper artist.

But as Vasya opened his paint box and began mixing the reds, the yellows, the blues, he heard a strange sound—the swirling colors trilled like an orchestra tuning up for a symphony! And as he grew older, he continued to hear brilliant colors singing and see vibrant sounds dancing. But was Vasya brave enough to put aside his proper still lifes and portraits and paint . . . music?

In this exuberant celebration of creativity, Barb Rosenstock and Mary GrandPré tell the fascinating story of Vasily Kandinsky, one of the very first painters of abstract art. Throughout his life, Kandinsky experienced colors as sounds, and sounds as colors—and bold, groundbreaking works burst forth from his noisy paint box.

Backmatter includes four paintings by Kandinsky, an author’s note, sources, links to websites on synesthesia and abstract art.

Read TCBR’s summary of The Noisy Paint Box in our roundup “Biographies for Young Readers: Dip into the Minds of the Greats.”

Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers | 2014 | ISBN 978-0307978486

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California's Farallon Islands By Katherine RoyNeighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands

By Katherine Roy

Publisher’s Synopsis: Up close with the ocean’s most fearsome and famous predator and the scientists who study them–just thirty miles from the Golden Gate Bridge!

A few miles from San Francisco lives a population of the ocean’s largest and most famous predators. Each fall, while the city’s inhabitants dine on steaks, salads, and sandwiches, the great white sharks return to California’s Farallon Islands to dine on their favorite meal: the seals that live on the island’s rocky coasts. Massive, fast, and perfectly adapted to hunting after 11 million years of evolution, the great whites are among the planet’s most fearsome, fascinating, and least understood animals.

In the fall of 2012, Katherine Roy visited the Farallons with the scientists who study the islands’ shark population. She witnessed seal attacks, observed sharks being tagged in the wild, and got an up close look at the dramatic Farallons–a wildlife refuge that is strictly off-limits to all but the scientists who work there. Neighborhood Sharks is an intimate portrait of the life cycle, biology, and habitat of the great white shark, based on the latest research and an up-close visit with these amazing animals.

Ages 7-11 | Publisher: David Macaulay Studio | 2014 | ISBN 978-1596438743

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold (Junior Library Guild Selection) By Joyce SidmanWinter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold

By Joyce Sidman; Illustrated by Rick Allen

Publisher’s Synopsis: In this outstanding picture book collection of poems by Newbery Honor-winning poet, Joyce Sidman (Song of the Water Boatman, Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night)discover how animals stay alive in the wintertime and learn about their secret lives happening under the snow. Paired with stunning linoleum print illustrations by Rick Allen, that celebrate nature’s beauty and power.

Ages 6-9 | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | 2014 | ISBN-13: 978-0547906508

Pablo Picasso- Meet the Artist By Patricia GeisPablo Picasso: Meet the Artist 

By Patricia Geis

Publisher’s Synopsis: Pablo Picasso: Meet the Artist! takes young readers on an interactive journey through the remarkable life of the legendary Spanish painter. This engaging book uses a multitude of lift-the-flaps, cutouts, and pull tabs to explain how his art evolved over his lifetime—from his earliest painting at age seven to the great masterworks of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Guernica. Readers are encouraged to make their own cubist collage using an enclosed sheet containing an eclectic collection of images.

Ages 7-12 | Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press | 2014 | ISBN-13: 978-1616892517

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus By Jen BryantThe Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus 

By Jen Bryant; Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Publisher’s Synopsis: For shy young Peter Mark Roget, books were the best companions — and it wasn’t long before Peter began writing his own book. But he didn’t write stories; he wrote lists. Peter took his love for words and turned it to organizing ideas and finding exactly the right word to express just what he thought. His lists grew and grew, eventually turning into one of the most important reference books of all time.

Readers of all ages will marvel at Roget’s life, depicted through lyrical text and brilliantly detailed illustrations. This elegant book celebrates the joy of learning and the power of words.

Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers | 2014 | ISBN-13:  978-0802853851

Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla By Katherine ApplegateIvan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla

By Katherine Applegate

Publisher’s Synopsis: In a spare, powerful text and evocative illustrations, the Newbery medalist Katherine Applegate and the artist G. Brian Karas present the extraordinary real story of a special gorilla. Captured as a baby, Ivan was brought to a Tacoma, Washington, mall to attract shoppers. Gradually, public pressure built until a better way of life for Ivan was found at Zoo Atlanta. From the Congo to America, and from a local business attraction to a national symbol of animal welfare, Ivan the Shopping Mall Gorilla traveled an astonishing distance in miles and in impact. This is his true story and includes photographs of Ivan in the back matter.

Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Clarion Books | 2014 | ISBN-13: 978-0544252301

Tuesday Tucks Me In- The Loyal Bond between a Soldier and His Service DogTuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond Between a Soldier and His Loyal Dog 

By Luis Carlos Montalván and Bret Witter; Photographs by Dan Dion

Publisher’s Synopsis: As narrated by Tuesday, Tuesday Tucks Me In is a day in the life of this service dog extraordinaire and tail-wagging ambassador for all things positive and uplifting in the world. The book takes us through a typical day of adventures, starting with Tuesday waking Luis in the morning and greeting him with dog breath in the face, and then ending with Tuesday cuddling up to Luis on their bed, the last moment they spend together before sleep.

Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Roaring Brook Press | 2014 | ISBN-13: 978-1596438910

Love Will See You Through- Martin Luther King Jr.'s Six Guiding Beliefs (as told by his niece) By Angela Farris WatkinsLove Will See You Through: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Six Guiding Beliefs

By Angela Farris Watkins; Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

Publisher’s Synopsis: The niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. reveals six timeless and universal principles that encompass the civil rights leader’s greatest legacy: Love will see you through.

Growing up as the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Farris Watkins witnessed firsthand the principles and values that “Uncle M.L.” practiced and lived by throughout his fight for equality. Drawing from experiences and episodes both personal and well-known, Dr. Watkins artfully details the guiding beliefs of one of the greatest men in history. Including “have courage” and “love your enemies,” these six hallmarks of virtue and nonviolence reinforce the truth that “the universe honors love” and will inspire readers of all ages.

Ages 6-11 | Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | 2014 | ISBN-13: 978-1416986935

Grandfather GandhiGrandfather Gandhi

By Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus; Illustrated by Evan Turk

Publisher’s Synopsis: Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson tells the story of how his grandfather taught him to turn darkness into light in this uniquely personal and vibrantly illustrated tale that carries a message of peace.

How could he—a Gandhi—be so easy to anger?

One thick, hot day, Arun Gandhi travels with his family to Grandfather Gandhi’s village.

Silence fills the air—but peace feels far away for young Arun. When an older boy pushes him on the soccer field, his anger fills him in a way that surely a true Gandhi could never imagine. Can Arun ever live up to the Mahatma? Will he ever make his grandfather proud?

In this remarkable personal story, Arun Gandhi, with Bethany Hegedus, weaves a stunning portrait of the extraordinary man who taught him to live his life as light. Evan Turk brings the text to breathtaking life with his unique three-dimensional collage paintings.

Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers | 2014 | ISBN-13: 978-1442423657

Best Non-Fiction Picture Books of 2014

If you like our list of the best non-fiction picture books of 2014, see our list of all the best kids books of 2014 (Coming soon!) or check out our articles and reviews tagged with “non-fiction books.”

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Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

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