Nonfiction and reality-based fiction picture books we’ve been reading

In July, I started an Amazon wishlist of nonfiction and reality-based fiction picture books that I wanted to read to my 5-year-old daughter. When I started the list, I thought it would be hard to find great books in these categories for her age. Wow, was I wrong. The nonfiction and reality-based fiction picture books available today are plentiful and stunning. My wishlist now holds 989 titles, and it’s still growing.

Here’s what we’ve read so far:

  • I Want to Be an Astronaut by Byron Barton – The idea of anti-gravity caught my daughter’s attention. I hope to follow up on the spark with a related title.
  • Train by Elisha Cooper – I love the way the book transitions from talking about one type of train to the next. The illustrations are delightful!
  • Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell – This is a great story about the life cycle of a pumpkin. It inspired us to put a jack-o-lantern in our garden to observe. This is currently free on kindleunlimited.
  • The Storm Book by Charlotte Zolotow – We loved how the pages alternate between all text and gorgeous, 2-page illustrated spreads. This makes good practice for building up to chapter books, and can be used as a wordless picture book with younger audiences.
  • Armadillo Trail: The Northward Journey of the Armadillo by Stephen R. Swinburne – This takes a close look at the life of the armadillo. My daughter likes the part with the armadillo babies.
  • The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins – It’s pretty common to see deer where we live, so this book served as a reminder to make it special when we see these beautiful creatures.
  • Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey – There’s a lot to spark wonder for our natural world in this one.
  • No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart – This is good for reinforcing the lifecycle of a tree. It does have bookworms talking in the margins, which isn’t very “based in reality.” However, my daughter liked the bookworms and the rest of the book was excellent nonfiction.
  • People by Peter Spier – This book provides an endless source of conversation topics.
  • A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry and Marc Simont – This book helps inspire kids to plant a tree. It would make an especially good read for Arbor Day.
  • The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot July 25, 1909 by Alice and Martin Provensen – This is an inspiring story of trial and error.
  • A Single Pebble: A Story of the Silk Road by Bonnie Christensen – This is a great story to help develop a child’s interest in history.
  • American Boy: The Adventures of Mark Twain – Our library has a bronze statue of Mark Twain out front. Now, every time they see the statue, they can remember some of the details of his life.
  • That’s Papa’s Way by Kate Banks – My daughter could relate to how the girl in the story is a big sister to a little brother.
  • Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! by Jonah Winter – This is not entirely based in reality. Young Pablo jumps out of a painting in the beginning. However, it is a fitting biography for someone who said, “Everything you can imagine is real.”
  • The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert – The beginning of the book warns, “Don’ t read this book unless you love books and art.” My daughter responded, “I just love art.” We read it anyway and both thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Wild Fibonacci by Joy N. Hulme – This book has something for the math lover and for the animal lover. Bonus if you love both those topics!
  • Big Tracks, Little Tracks: Following Animal Prints by Millcent E. Selsam – This wonderful book encourages kids to be nature detectives and gives them some knowledge to do so.
  • Strange Creatures: The Story of Walter Rothschild and His Museum by Lita Judge – This one about one of the world’s richest kids commissioning animals to be brought to him from around the world was a little hard to relate to. I wanted to love it but didn’t.
  • On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne – This book is great at captivating even the youngest readers. My kids especially liked seeing Einstein as a baby.
  • Papa is a Poet by Natalie S. Bober – Lovely story. Kids with some prior exposure to poems by Robert Frost will get the most from this book.
  • The Wild Boy by Mordicai Gerstein – Maria Montessori wrote in one of her books that her children loved the story of the wild boy of Aveyron best of all. This may still hold true. It’s a very captivating story.
  • Up and Down on the Merry-Go-Round by Bill Martin, John Archambault, and Ted Rand – This is a lighthearted, fun read.
  • Edward Hopper Paints His World by Robert Burleigh- My daughter recognized the cover art as the same print that’s in the kitchen of her grandparent ‘s house. This connection made it a great read for her.
  • The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock and Mary GrandPre – My daughter leaned into this one and absorbed every single page.
  • Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudi by Rachel Victoria Rodriguez and Julie Paschkis – This one needs to be supported by prior exposure to Gaudi’s architecture.
  • If You Spent a Day with Thoreau at Walden Pond by Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor – Lovely book.
  • As an Oak Tree Grows by G. Brian Karas – This is a wonderful way to illustrate the passage of time for young children.
  • Sarah and Simon and No Red Paint – This wonderful reality-based fiction picture book makes a nice break from lots of serious nonfiction reading.
  • Matisse the King of Color – This is an awe-inspiring book as it builds up to Matisse’s work on the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence.
  • Stella & Roy by Ashley Wolff – I get asked to read this one over and over again.
  • Stella & Roy Go Camping by Ashley Wolff – This fantastic follow-up to Stella & Roy teaches about using a field guide and identifying animal tracks.
  • As the Crow Flies: A First Book of Maps by Gail Hartman and Harvey Stevenson- This is a really original way to introduce kids to maps. It was a lot of fun to read.
  • What Happens on Wednesday by Emily Jenkins and Lauren Castillo – This would be a really great book for kids who like routines.
  • The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan and Hadley Hooper – This is very enjoyable. It works especially well as a companion to other books about Matisse.
  • In the Wild by David Elliott and Holly Meade – Quick, easy, enjoyable read.
  • Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo – This one was also quick, easy and enjoyable.
  • Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson – This is a fantastic book about Carl Sagan’s childhood with a few great big fold out pages.
  • Has Anyone Here Seen William? by Bob Graham – This is by one of my favorite children’s authors. This character carries through to other stories, so it’s a good first Bob Graham story to read.
  • The Silver Button by Bob Graham – This is a lovely book about things happening in the world as a boy takes his first step.
  • Vanilla Ice Cream by Bob Graham – This book is so original and compelling. To say anything else would spoil the fun.
  • Trudy by Henry Cole – This is a fun and cheerful title that you’ll speed right through.
  • On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole – This is another fun and cheerful one that my kids asked me to read again and again.
  • That Book Woman by Heather Henson and David Small – This is a touching book based on a true story. It brought a tear to my eye.
  • Ish by Peter H. Reynolds – This fantastic book has introduced the suffix “ish ” into our household vocabulary.
  • Unspoken: A Story From the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole – This picture book challenges adults to find the right words to talk about slavery with young children.
  • How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham – Concern and caring are the central emotions for readers as a young boy and his family nurse a pigeon to health.
  • Blackout by John Rocco – My kids are fascinated with flashlights. The idea of experiencing a blackout is pure joy for them. We loved this book.

So, we’ve read 48 books from the wishlist and have at least 941 to go before we finish the list. It looks like we won’t be running out of reading material anytime soon.


2 thoughts on “Nonfiction and reality-based fiction picture books we’ve been reading

  1. Sally, what an amazing resource you have provided for parents, grandparents, teachers…….heck, for anybody and everybody!! Could we have permission to post this on our Facebook page?

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