Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud

There are so many ways to categorize nonfiction books – by theme, by category (i.e. question and answer) by author, etc. Depending on the purposes for sharing titles, the lists will look different. Will they be a mentor text for writing? Will they be used to launch a unit? Are they books used to teach aspects of curriculum?

Thinking purely of read alouds – used to inspire questions, wonder and learning, here are some of my favourites by theme:

Listed in order of publication date.

Animals: Characteristics, Habits and Interactions (General)

 Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud  There's a Book for That

Actual Size by Steve Jenkins (2004)

An Egg is Quiet written by Dianna Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long (2006)

How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (2010)

Time to Sleep by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (2011)

Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons written by Sara Levine with illustrations by T.S. Spookytooth (2013)

My First Day by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (2013)

Best Foot Forward: Exploring Feet, Flippers, and Claws by Ingo Arndt (2013)

Creature Features: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (2014)

Eye to Eye: How Animals See The World by Steve Jenkins (2014)

Mama Built a Little Nest written by Jennifer Ward and illustrated by Steve Jenkins (2014)

How to Swallow a Pig: Step-by-Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (2015)

Pink is for Blobfish: Discovering the World’s Perfectly Pink Animals written by Jess Keating with illustrations by David DeGrand (2016)

Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers written by Sara Levine and illustrated by T.S. Spookytooth (2016)

Animals by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins (2016)

Feathers and Hair, What Animals Wear written by Jennifer Ward and illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong (2017)

Can an Aardvark Bark? written by Melissa Stewart with illustrations by Steve Jenkins (2017)

What Makes a Monster?: Discovering the World’s Scariest Creatures (The World of Weird Animals) written by Jess Keating with illustrations by David DeGrand (2017)

Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones written by Sara Levine and illustrated by T.S. Spookytooth (2018)


 Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud  There's a Book for That

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Éric Puybaret (2008)

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jaques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino (2009)

Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story Of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way To Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History! written by Shana Corey and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham (2009)

Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell (2011)

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet (2011)

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A Nivola  (2012)

On A Beam of Light- A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky (2013)

Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter (2013)

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman (2013)

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins and illustrated by Jill McElmurry (2013)

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker’s Strike of 1909 written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (2013)

Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit up the World written by Elizabeth Rusch and illustrated by Oliver Dominguez (2013)

The Boy who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos written by Deborah Heiligman and illustrated by LeUyen Pham (2013)

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore created Libraries for Children written by Jan Pinborough and illustrated by Debby Atwell (2013)

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse written by Patricia MacLachlan with illustrations by Hadley Hooper (2014)

The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (2014)

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson (2014)

Dare the Wind written by Tracey Fern and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully (2014)

Grandfather Gandhi written by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus and illustrated by Evan Turk (2014)

Josephine written by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Christian Robinson (2014)

The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert (2014)

The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art written by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Mary Grandpré (2014)

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah written by Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Qualls (2015)

Winnie: The True Story of the Bear that Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh written by Sally M. Walker and illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss (2015)

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear written by Lindsay Mattick and illustrated by Sophie Blackall (2015)

In Mary’s Garden by Tina and Carson Kugler (2015)

The Sky Painter written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Aliona Bereghici (2015)

Trombone Shorty written by Troy Andrews and illustrated by Bryan Collier (2015)

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López (2015)

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova written by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Julie Morstad (2015)

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled all of France by Mara Rockliff with illustrations by Iacopo Bruno (2015)

Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man who Sold the Eiffel Tower by Greg Pizzoli (2015)

Dorothea’s Eyes by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Gérard DuBois (2016)

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (2016)

Ada’s Ideas: The story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robertson (2016)

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (2016)

Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor written by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Raúl Colón (2016)

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay written by Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport (2016)

Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Boris Kulikov (2016)

Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin by Matt Tavares (2016)

Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice written by Susanna Reich and illustrated by Adam Gustavson Forward by Peter Yarrow (2017)

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist written by Jess Keating and illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns (2017)

The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zana Hadid by Jeanette Winter (2017)

Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey written by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes and illustrated by Sue Cornelison (2017)

Creature Features: Birds

 Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud  There's a Book for That

Two Blue Jays by Ann Rockwell illustrated by Megan Halsey (2003) 

Bird Talk What Birds are Saying and Why by Lita Judge (2012)

Look Up! Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate (2013)

Feathers Not Just for Flying written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen (2014)

SkyDiver: Saving the Fastest Bird in the World by Celia Godkin (2014)

Have you Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray illustrated by Kenard Pak (2014) POEMS

A Bird Is a Bird by Lizzy Rockwell (2014)

A Nest Is Noisy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long (2015)

Emu written by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Graham Byrne (2015)

A Chicken Followed Me Home! Questions and Answers About a Familiar Fowl by Robin Page (2015)

Woodpecker Wham written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins (2015)

Penguin Day: A Family Story by Nic Bishop (2017)

Creature Features – Creepy (or not ) Crawlies 

 Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud  There's a Book for That

The BumbleBee Queen written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne (2005)

Yucky Worms by Vivian French illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg (2010)

A Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long (2011)

Ladybugs by Gail Gibbons (2012)

Step Gently Out by Helen Frost illustrated by Rick Lieder (2012) POEMS

Big City Bees written by Maggie de Vries and illustrated by Renné Benoit (2012)

The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins (2012)

Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber and illustrated by Brian Lovelock (2013)

Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey written by Loree Griffin Burns with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz (2014)

I’m Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton (2015)

A Beetle is Shy by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long (2016)

Cricket in the Thicket: Poems about Bugs by Carol Murray and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (2017)

Give Bees a Chance by Bethany Barton (2017)

Creature Features – Mammals

 Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud  There's a Book for That

Big Blue Whale written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Nick Maland (1997)

Little Lost Bat written by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Alan Marks (2006)

Ape written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White (2010)

See What a Seal Can Do written by Chris Butterworth and illustrated by Kate Nelms (2013)

A Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke (2013)

Eat Like a Bear written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins (2013)

Wild about Bears by Jeannie Brett (2014)

Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and their Parents by Lita Judge (2014)

A Baby Elephant in the Wild written by Caitlin O’Connell with photographs by Timothy Rodwell and Caitlin O’Connell (2014)

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas written by Lynn Cox and illustrated by Brian Floca (2014)

Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue written by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Wendell Minor (2015)

Hippos are Huge! written by Jonathan London and illustrated by Matthew Trueman (2015)

The Blue Whale by Jenni Desmond (2015)

Mad About Monkeys by Owen Davey (2015)

Otters Love to Play written by Jonathan London and illustrated by Meilo So (2016)

Coyote Moon written by Maria Gianferrari and illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline (2016)

Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins (2016)

A Bear’s Life by photographer/author Ian McAllister and author Nicholas Read (2017)

Moto and Me: My Year as a Wildcat’s Foster Mom by Suzi Eszterhas (2017)

Dinosaurs/Prehistoric Creatures

 Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud  There's a Book for That

Prehistoric Actual Size by Steve Jenkins (2005)

Born to Be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World by Lita Judge (2010)

How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland (2011)

How Big Were Dinosaurs? by Lita Judge (2013)

Earth Science

 Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud  There's a Book for That

The Pebble in my Pocket written by Meredith Hooper and illustrated by Chris Coady (1996)

A Rock is Lively written by Diana Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long (2012)

Volcano Rising written by Elizabeth Rusch and illustrated by Susan Swan (2013)

A Rock Can Be . . . by Laura Purdie Salas with illustrations by Violeta Dabija (2015)

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin (2017)

Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up by Sally M Walker and William Grill (2018)

Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by David Litchfield (2017)

Endangered/Extinct Animals

 Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud  There's a Book for That

Ice Bear (In the Steps of the Polar Bear) written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Gary Blythe (2005)

Tale of a Great White Fish: A Stugeon Story by Maggie De Vries illustrated by Renné Benoit (2006)

A Place for Butterflies by Melissa Stewart illustrated by Higgins Bond (2006)

Almost Gone: the World’s Rarest Animals by Steve Jenkins (2006)

Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors poems by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beckie Prange (2010) *creatures that are NOT endangered but survivors POEMS

Can We Save the Tiger? written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White (2011)

Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears written by Jill Robinson and Marc Bekoff; illustrated by Gijisbert van Frankenhuyzen (2013)

Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Cindy Trumbore and Susan L. Roth (2013) Winner of the 2014 Sibert Meda

Abayomi The Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison and Kitty Harvill (2014)

Galapágos George written by Jean Craighead George and illustrated by Wendell Minor (2014)

A Boy and A Jaguar written by Alan Rabinowitz and illustrated by Cátia Chien (2014)

Wandering Whale Sharks by Susumu Shingu (2015)

Counting Lions: Portraits from the Wild is written by Katie Cotton and illustrated by Stephen Walton. Virginia McKenna (from the Born Free Foundation) (2015)

The Polar Bear by Jenni Desmond (2016)

Fabulous Frogs written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Tim Hopgood (2016)

If Sharks Disappeared by Lily Williams (2017)

How to Be an Elephant: Growing up in the African Wild by Katherine Roy (2017)


 Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud  There's a Book for That

Sea Otter Inlet by Celia Godkin (1999) 

Fire! The Renewal of a Forest by Celia Godkin (2006)

Meadowlands – A Wetlands Survival Story by Thomas F Yezerski (2011)

Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm (2012)

A Place for Turtles by Melissa Stewart illustrated by Higgins Bond (2013)

Luna & Me: The True Story of a Girl Who Lived in a Tree to Save a Forest by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw (2015)


 Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud  There's a Book for That

How Many Jelly Beans? A Giant Book of Giant Numbers written by Andrea Menotti and illustrated by Yancey Labat (2012)

Infinity and Me written by Kate Hosford and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska (2012)

Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animals’ Lives written by Lola Schaefer and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (2013)

If: A Mind Bending Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers written by David J. Smith illustrated by Steve Adams (2014)

What in the World?: Numbers in Nature written by Nancy Raines Day and illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (2015)

How Much Does a Ladybug Weigh? by Alison Limentani (2016)


 Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud  There's a Book for That

One Tiny Turtle written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Jane Chapman (2001)

The Journey: Stories of Migration written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Lambert Davis (2006)

Bird, Butterfly, Eel with story and paintings by James Prosek (2009)

The Long,  Long Journey The Godwit’s Amazing Migration written by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Mia Posada (2012)

Is This Panama? A Migration Story written by Jan Thornhill and illustrated by Soyeon Kim (2013)

Here Come the Humpbacks written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Jamie Hogan (2013)

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands by Katherine Roy (2014)


 Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud  There's a Book for That

A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long (2007)

Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move by JoAnn Early Macken (2008)

No Monkeys, No Chocolate written by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young with illustrations by Nicole Wong (2013)

How Does a Seed Sprout? And other Questions about . . . Plants by Melissa Stewart A Good Question book (2014)

Weeds Find a Way written by Cindy Jenson-Elliott and illustrated by Carolyn Fisher (2014)

Science Concepts (Various) 

 Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud  There's a Book for That


The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring: The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation by Gilbert Ford (2016)


Astronaut Handbook by Meghan McCarthy (2008)

A Black Hole Is Not a Hole written by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano with illustrations by Michael Carroll (2012)

Bright Sky Starry City written by Uma Krishnaswami and illustrated by Aimée Sicuro (2015)

If You Were the Moon written by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Jaime Kim (2017) 


Just a Second (A Different Way to Look at Time) by Steve Jenkins (2011)

One Day: Around the World in 24 hours written by Suma Din and illustrated by Christiane Engel (2012)

The Same Moment Around the World by Clotilde Perrin (2014)


Charlie and Kiwi. . . an evolutionary adventure – created by Peter H. Reynolds and the NewYork Hall of Science (2011)


Gravity by Jason Chin (2014)


Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Emily Sutton (2014)


Swirl by Swirl (Spirals in Nature) written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes (2011)

A Leaf Can Be . . . by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Violeta Dabija (2012) POEMS


A Cool Drink of Water by Barbara Kerley (2002)

One Well: The Story of Water on Earth written by Rochelle Strauss and illustrated by Rosemary Woods (2007)

Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre (2015)

Water Is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Jason Chin (2015)

Specific Habitats 

 Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud  There's a Book for That

Salmon Creek written by Annette LeBox and illustrated by Karen Reczuch (2002)

Forest Explorer: A Life Sized Field Guide by Nic Bishop (2004)

Songs of the Water Boatman written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beckie Prange (2005) POEMS

I See a Kookaburra!: Discovering Animal Habitats Around the World by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (2005)

Redwoods by Jason Chin (2009)

Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea by Steve Jenkins  (2009)

Under the Snow written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Constance R Bergum (2009)

Star of the Sea: A Day in the Life of a Starfish written by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Joan Paley  (2011)

Coral Reefs by Jason Chin (2011)

Even an Octopus Needs a Home by Irene Kelly (2011)

Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin (2012)

Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies illustrated by Mark Hearld (2012) POEMS

Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester (2012)

Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems by Kate Coombs illustrated by Meilo So (2012) POEMS

Forest Has a Song by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater with illustrations by Robin Gourley (2013) POEMS

Beneath the Sun written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Constance R Bergum (2013)

Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen (2014) POEMS

Big Red Kangaroo written by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Graham Byrne (2015)

The Most Amazing Creature in the Sea written by Brenda Z. Guiberson and illustrated by Gennady Spirin (2015)

One Day on our Blue Planet . . . in the Antarctic by Ella Bailey (2016)

Giant Squid written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann (2016)


 Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud  There's a Book for That

Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale (1996)

Dream Something Big: The Story of the Watts Towers by Dianna Hutts Aston with collages by Susan L. Roth (2011)

If You Lived Here: Houses of the World by Giles Laroche (2011)

The Story of Buildings: From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond written by Patrick Dillon and illustrated by Stephen Biesty (2014) 

The World

The Way to School

You and Me Together: Moms, Dads and Kids Around the World by Barbara Kerley (2005)

Every Human has Rights – A Photographic Declaration for Kids A National Geographic book with a forward by Mary Robinson. (2008)

World, One Day by Barbara Kerley (2009)

I Have the Right to be a Child written by Alain Serres, illustrated by Aurelia Fronty (2012)

Healthy Kids (A Global Fund for Children book) by Maya Ajmera, Victoria Dunning and Cynthia Pon (2013)

The Way to School by Rosemary McCarney with Plan International (2015)

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (2015)

The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle written by Jude Isabella and illustrated by Simone Shin (2015)

This is How We Do it: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World by Matt Lamothe (2017)


8 thoughts on “Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud

  1. Categorizing nonfiction books by read alouds is an outstanding idea. This is such a comprehensive list. I plan on referring to it often. Thank you for all of the time and effort to create this excellent resource. ~Suzy Leopold

  2. Pingback: Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud | Through the Prairie Garden Gate

  3. What a thorough and amazing list! Thank you for the inspiration to read more nonfiction as the end of the school year drags…I mean approaches!

  4. Hi Carrie,
    Hope you’ve settled into your new classroom! I’m desperately trying to remember the title of a nonfiction pb about the seasons – I can picture the book – the illustrations show the animals hibernating in the winter under the ground. The language is gorgeous, soft and lyrical. I believe you’ve recommended the book on your blog, but I don’t see it on this list. Do you know which pb I mean?

    Cheryl Lawton Malone

  5. Sorry to have just found this, but this is an amazing list! Thank you for taking the time to make it! I will be referring to it often!

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