Searching for Great Nonfiction Picture Books

Look for my favorite nonfiction titles, as well as cool science news, historical discoveries, and wild and wonderful nature in upcoming Show & Tell posts.

Look for my favorite nonfiction titles, as well as cool science news, historical tidbits, and wild and wonderful nature discoveries in upcoming Show & Tell posts.

Over the holidays, I had more than one person mention the difficulty of finding good, read-aloud nonfiction books. This makes me sad, because there are so many fabulous books out there, but I also understand the difficulty.

If you find a new fiction author you love, you can walk to that person’s spot on a library or bookstore shelf and grab up all their titles. Nonfiction authors don’t have this luxury—we are shelved by topic rather than last name. This sometimes makes it harder and more time-consuming to collect a stack of library books by your favorite author.

The other factor that makes it harder to find those stellar read-aloud titles is the two-pronged nature of nonfiction books. The majority of the nonfiction books in the library are written for the school/library market. They are fine books in their own right, but they are designed primarily to be resources for students writing reports. They aren’t meant to be books you curl up with and read for the beauty of their language or their stunning illustrations.*

Books that meet these criteria are usually what we call “trade” publications. They have more of an emphasis on “read-aloud-ability” and great illustrations. They can be found at the library, but they are all but missing from bookstores like Barnes & Noble.

The best place to browse these books for purchase are independent booksellers—little corner shops or, if you’re lucky like me, behemoths like Powell’s. There you should find a hand-selected collection of nonfiction titles with lovely language and stunning illustrations.

There are a couple very good websites to help you find great nonfiction titles. You can use them make a list to take to your local library or bookshop. Happy reading!

*I should note that there is an effort within the school/library market to create books that are both informative AND beautifully written/illustrated, but the fact remains that we need different types of books for different purposes. A “just-the-facts-ma’am” book is no less valuable, it just doesn’t have the same “cuddle up and read” factor that this discussion addresses.