The Best Non-Fiction Picture Books of 2018
The Children’s Book Review | January 8, 2019
The abundance of smart, engaging, and digestible non-fiction picture books—as well at the variety of topics and people represented in the pages—has been on the rise … and we love it! Here are 19 of our favorite non-fiction picture books from 2018—and be sure to check out our list of the best fiction picture books from 2018.
Written and Illustrated by Christy Hale
Publisher’s Synopsis: A lake turns into an island. A cozy bay into a secluded cape. A gulf with sea turtles transforms into a peninsula surrounded by pirate ships.
This unique information book for the very young switches between bodies of water and corresponding land masses with the simple turn of a page. Readers will delight as the story of Water Land unfolds and will see just how connected the earth and the water really are.
Ages 3-6 | Publisher: Roaring Brook Press | May 22, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1250152442
Written by Kate Messner
Publisher’s Synopsis: All it takes is one: one coral gamete to start a colony, one person to make a difference, one idea to change the world. The ongoing efforts to save and rebuild the world’s coral reefs—with hammer and glue, and grafts of newly grown coral—are the living legacy of Ken Nedimyer, founder of the Coral Restoration Foundation. Kate Messner and Matthew Forsythe tell the true story of the coral restoration pioneer in this brilliant tribute to the wonders of nature and the power of human hope.
Ages 6-9 | Publisher: Chronicle Books | May 8, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1452133508
Written and Illustrated by Jenni Desmond
Publisher’s Synopsis: In this, Jenni Desmond’s third nonfiction children’s book about one of the large, endangered animals of Earth, we join a young boy as he learns about The Elephant.
From Africa to Asia, the elephant makes its home. Light on their feet, despite their great weight, these magnificent creatures appear light and graceful because they’re always walking on their tip-toes. They have excellent hearing and can detect the rumblings of other elephants from six miles away. And, just like humans being right handed or left handed, elephants can be right tusked or left tusked! The recipient of the 2016 New York Times Best Illustrated award for her book The Polar Bear, Desmond creates illustrations that are scientifically accurate, strikingly detailed, and beautifully rendered in collage, paint, and colored pencil.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books | November 6, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1592702640
Written by Susan Hood
Illustrated by Multiple Illustrators
Publisher’s Synopsis: Fresh, accessible, and inspiring, Shaking Things Up introduces fourteen revolutionary young women—each paired with a noteworthy female artist—to the next generation of activists, trail-blazers, and rabble-rousers.
From the award-winning author of Ada’s Violin, Susan Hood, this is a poetic and visual celebration of persistent women throughout history.
In this book, you will find Mary Anning, who was just thirteen when she unearthed a prehistoric fossil. You’ll meet Ruby Bridges, the brave six-year-old who helped end segregation in the South. And Maya Lin, who at twenty-one won a competition to create a war memorial, and then had to appear before Congress to defend her right to create.
And those are just a few of the young women included in this book. Readers will also hear about Molly Williams, Annette Kellerman, Nellie Bly, Pura Belprè, Frida Kahlo, Jacqueline and Eileen Nearne, Frances Moore Lappè, Mae Jemison, Angela Zhang, and Malala Yousafzai—all whose stories will enthrall and inspire. This book was written, illustrated, edited, and designed by women and includes an author’s note, a timeline, and additional resources.
With artwork by notable artists including Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper, Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Sara Palacios, LeUyen Pham, Erin Robinson, Isabel Roxas, Shadra Strickland, and Melissa Sweet.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: HarperCollins | January 23, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0062699459
Written by Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Julia Sarda
Publisher’s Synopsis: The inspiring story of the girl behind one of the greatest novels — and monsters — ever, perfectly timed for the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein. For fans for picture book biographies such as I Dissent or She Persisted.
How does a story begin? Sometimes it begins with a dream, and a dreamer. Mary is one such dreamer, a little girl who learns to read by tracing the letters on the tombstone of her famous feminist mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, and whose only escape from her strict father and overbearing stepmother is through the stories she reads and imagines. Unhappy at home, she seeks independence, and at the age of sixteen runs away with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, another dreamer. Two years later, they travel to Switzerland where they meet a famous poet, Lord Byron. On a stormy summer evening, with five young people gathered around a fire, Byron suggests a contest to see who can create the best ghost story. Mary has a waking dream about a monster come to life. A year and a half later, Mary Shelley’s terrifying tale, Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus, is published — a novel that goes on to become the most enduring monster story ever and one of the most popular legends of all time.
A riveting and atmospheric picture book about the young woman who wrote one of the greatest horror novels ever written and one of the first works of science fiction, Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein is an exploration of the process of artistic inspiration that will galvanize readers and writers of all ages.
Ages 5-8 | Publisher: Tundra Books | August 28, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1770495593
Written by Monica Clark-Robinson
Illustrated by Frank Morrison
Publisher’s Synopsis: I couldn’t play on the same playground as the white kids.
I couldn’t go to their schools.
I couldn’t drink from their water fountains.
There were so many things I couldn’t do.
In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. They protested the laws that kept black people separate from white people. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world. Frank Morrison’s emotive oil-on-canvas paintings bring this historical event to life, while Monica Clark-Robinson’s moving and poetic words document this remarkable time.
Ages 6-9 | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | January 2, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0544704527
Written by Marissa Moss
Illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
Publisher’s Synopsis: From award-winning author Marissa Moss comes the first children’s book about Allan Pinkerton, one of America’s greatest detectives. Everyone knows the story of Abraham Lincoln, but few know anything about the spy who saved him! Allan Pinkerton’s life changed when he helped the Chicago Police Department track down a group of counterfeiters. From there, he became the first police detective in Chicago and established the country’s most successful detective agency. He went on to solve more than 300 murders and recover millions of dollars in stolen money. However, his greatest contribution was protecting Abraham Lincoln on the way to his 1861 inauguration. Though assassins attempted to murder Lincoln en route, Pinkerton foiled their plot and brought the president safely to the capital. The Eye That Never Sleeps is illustrated with a contemporary cartoon style, mixing art and text in a way that appeals to readers of all ages. The book includes a bibliography and a timeline.
Ages 6-9 | Publisher: Harry N. Abrams | November 6, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1419730641
Written by G. Neri
Illustrated by David Litchfield
Publisher’s Synopsis: From childhood friendship to brief teenage stardom, from early failures to musical greatness — the incredible story of how Simon & Garfunkel became a cherished voice of their generation.
Long before they became one of the most beloved and successful duos of all time, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were just two kids growing up in Queens, New York — best friends who met in a sixth-grade production of Alice in Wonderland and bonded over girls, baseball, and rock ’n’ roll. As teens, they practiced singing into a tape recorder, building harmonies that blended their now-famous voices until they sounded just right. They wrote songs together, pursued big-time music producers, and dreamed of becoming stars, never imagining how far their music would take them. Against a backdrop of street-corner doo-wop gangs, the electrifying beginnings of rock ’n’ roll, and the rise of the counterculture folk music scene, G. Neri and David Litchfield chronicle the path that led two young boys from Queens to teenage stardom and back to obscurity, before finding their own true voices and captivating the world with their talent. Back matter includes an afterword, a discography, a bibliography, and a fascinating list of song influences.
Ages 7-10 | Publisher: Candlewick | 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0763681746
Written by Patricia Valdez
Illustrated by Felicita Sala
Publisher’s Synopsis: For fans of Ada Twist: Scientist comes a fascinating picture book biography of a pioneering female scientist–who loved reptiles!
Back in the days of long skirts and afternoon teas, young Joan Procter entertained the most unusual party guests: slithery and scaly ones, who turned over teacups and crawled past the crumpets…. While other girls played with dolls, Joan preferred the company of reptiles. She carried her favorite lizard with her everywhere–she even brought a crocodile to school!
When Joan grew older, she became the Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum. She went on to design the Reptile House at the London Zoo, including a home for the rumored-to-be-vicious komodo dragons. There, just like when she was a little girl, Joan hosted children’s tea parties–with her komodo dragon as the guest of honor.
With a lively text and vibrant illustrations, scientist and writer Patricia Valdez and illustrator Felicita Sala bring to life Joan Procter’s inspiring story of passion and determination.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers | March 13, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0399557255
Written by Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Julie Morstad
Publisher’s Synopsis: A dazzling picture book biography of one of the world’s most influential designers, Elsa Schiaparelli.
Elsa dared to be different, and her story will not only dazzle, it will inspire the artist and fashionista in everyone who reads it.
By the 1930s Elsa Schiaparelli had captivated the fashion world in Paris, but before that, she was a little girl in Rome who didn’t feel pretty at all. Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli is the enchanting story for young readers of how a young girl used her imagination and emerged from plain to extraordinary.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: HarperCollins | February 6, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0062447616
Publisher’s Synopsis: An intricately crafted journey through four seasons of flora and fauna.
Helen Ahpornsiri’s intricate artwork transforms leaves, petals, and seeds into bounding hares, swooping swallows, and blossoming trees. Using nothing but pressed plants, this journey through the seasons captures the wonder and magic of the natural world between the pages of a book. This standout title with beautiful nonfiction text will take readers through an extraordinary year in the wild.
Ages 6-9 | Publisher: Big Picture Press | March 13, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0763698980
Words and Photographs by April Pulley Sayre
Publisher’s Synopsis: Acclaimed children’s book author and photographer April Pulley Sayre’s love letter to Earth is a stunning exploration of the beauty and complexity of the world around us. Remarkable photographs and a rich, layered text introduce concepts of science, nature, geography, biology, poetry, and community.
April Pulley Sayre, award-winning photographer and acclaimed author of more than sixty-five books, introduces concepts of science, nature, and language arts through stunning photographs and a poetic text structured as a simple thank-you note.
Touching on subjects from life cycles to weather, colors, shapes, and patterns, this is an ideal resource for science and language art curriculums and a terrific book for bedtime sharing. Thank You, Earth is a great choice for Earth Day celebrations, as well as family and group read-alouds.
Includes backmatter with kid-friendly ideas for conservation projects information about the photographs, and additional resources.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Greenwillow Books | February 20, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0062697349
Written by Kate Hannigan
Illustrated by Alison Jay
Publisher’s Synopsis: Written in the same vein as the recent best-selling titles I DISSENT and SHE PERSISTED, here is a nonfiction picture book biography of Belva Lockwood, a lawyer, activist and presidential candidate who devoted her life to overcoming obstacles and demanding equality for women.
Activist Belva Lockwood never stopped asking herself the question Are women not worth the same as men? She had big dreams and didn’t let anyone stand in her way–not her father, her law school, or even the U.S. Supreme Court. She fought for equality for women in the classroom, in the courtroom, and in politics. In her quest for fairness and parity, Lockwood ran for President of the United States, becoming the first woman on the ballot. In this riveting nonfiction picture book biography, award-winning author Kate Hannigan and celebrated artist Alison Jay illuminate the life of Lockwood, a woman who was never afraid to take the floor and speak her mind.
Ages 7-10 | Publisher: Calkins Creek | February 20, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1629794532
Written by Barb Rosenstock
Illustrated by Katherine Roy
Publisher’s Synopsis: The suspenseful, little-known true story of two determined pioneers who made the first dive into the deep ocean.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | June 5, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0316393829
Written by Michelle Cusolito
Illustrated by Nicole Wong
Publisher’s Synopsis: Climb aboard Alvin, the famous deep-sea submersible credited with helping to find the Titanic, and take a trip two miles down to the bottom of the ocean.
Experience a day in the life of an Alvin pilot and join scientists at the seafloor to collect samples and conduct research. Along the way, discover what one wears, eats, and talks about during a typical eight-hour trip in a underwater craft and find out more about the animals that live deep in our oceans. Extensive back matter explains how Alvin works, describes the author’s research, and includes a glossary and further reading.
Ages 5-9 | Publisher: Charlesbridge | May 22, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1580898119
Written by Diane Lang
Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis
Publisher’s Synopsis: Come along on a rhyming tour through the amazing animal kingdom—from mammals to millipedes and everything in between—with this engaging picture book about how all creatures are connected!
There are so many wild and wonderful animals in our world. Some have fur, some have feathers, some have fins, but all are connected. This fact-filled rhyming exploration of the diversity of the animal kingdom celebrates mammals, birds, insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and more! It’s a perfect match for budding naturalists and animal enthusiasts everywhere.
Ages 3-6 | Publisher: Beach Lane Books | May 1, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1481447096
Written by Helaine Becker
Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
Publisher’s Synopsis: The bold story of Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA during the space race and was depicted in the film Hidden Figures.
You’ve likely heard of the historic Apollo 13 moon landing. But do you know about the mathematical genius who made sure that Apollo 13 returned safely home?
As a child, Katherine Johnson loved to count. She counted the steps on the road, the number of dishes and spoons she washed in the kitchen sink, everything! Boundless, curious, and excited by calculations, young Katherine longed to know as much as she could about math, about the universe.
From Katherine’s early beginnings as a gifted student to her heroic accomplishments as a prominent mathematician at NASA, Counting on Katherine is the story of a groundbreaking American woman who not only calculated the course of moon landings but, in turn, saved lives and made enormous contributions to history.
Ages 5-9 | Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. | June 19, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1250137524
Written and Illustrated by Owen Davy
Publisher’s Synopsis: Owen Davey’s dynamic art and witty informational tidbits shine a light on the toughest bugs in the insect world: those brawny beetles!
Did you know that there are roughly 400,000 different species of beetles? These incredible creatures make up about 25% of all animals on our planet! Beetles are superbly adapted to life in various climates across the world, wherever trees and flowers are found. From the mighty Goliath beetle to the beautiful iridescent scarab beetle, this captivating and stunningly illustrated guide will teach you everything you need to know about these fascinating insects.
Ages 5-9 | Publisher: Flying Eye Books | June 5, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1911171980
Written by Cheryl Bardoe
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
Publisher’s Synopsis: The true story of eighteenth-century mathematician Sophie Germain, who solved the unsolvable to achieve her dream.
Ages 6-9 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | June 12, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0316278201