Gift Ideas for Fact Finders!

Kids have questions. Lots of questions. Books can help answer them. If you have a reluctant or uncertain reader, a nonfiction book may be just the ticket to get them to love reading.

Illustrated nonfiction stories are not only interesting, they tap young readers’ insatiable curiosity for learning. Start with books about people, places, and subjects they already love.

There’s no way to capture every subject in a blog post. Instead, we tried to pick books for different audiences that present information in fun and unique ways. Go here to find nonfiction books, then use the “genres” box to find the topic you’re looking for.

over in the arctic marianne berkesOver in the Arctic Where the Cold Wind Blows by Marianne Berkes | Ages: 2 to 6 |

Each of 10 animal mothers call to their children and instruct them to “do” something. Baby polar bears roll; wolves howl; and whales click. The rhyme matches the song “Over in the Meadow” and the music is provided at the back.

This is a great picture book when you want to read and your child wants to move around. Lots of action words will have toddlers and preschoolers wanting to imitate the baby animals that are described. Readers learn about the specific habitat of these creatures and how to count to 10, too.

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Pair with winter clothing accessories like these adorable mittens, a fun hat, slippers, or socks.

up and away jason henryUp and Away!: How Two Brothers Invented the Hot-Air Balloon by Jason Henry
| Ages: 8 to 12 |

Joseph needed a break from his studies, so he decided to take a walk. He was lost in thought and forgot to close the door! As a result, the wind blew his papers into the fireplace. Joseph (always curious) decided to study the fire and figure out what happened.

Then it struck him: if the gases in the air of fire could lift the papers, could a bigger fire lift a vessel? Could he create a flying machine? With the support of his brother Etienne, Joseph did just that. The aerostat was so amazing that even the King of France wanted a demonstration. Now that they had successfully created a flying machine, was it safe enough for a man to travel in it?

Fascinating! The story weaves together facts about scientific discoveries in the late 1700s, examples of the scientific method (testing hypotheses), and the brother’s personal stories. Joseph and Etienne had different personalities and interests, but they loved and supported each other. They also worked together to make the aerostat a reality, giving readers examples of perseverance and teamwork.

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Pair with a plane or aeronautics-themed model-building kit or a science/experiments kit.

birthday party moon joyce lapinIf You Had Your Birthday Party on the Moon by Joyce Lapin | ages: 9 and Up|

Come aboard with these partygoers to see what it would be like to celebrate your birthday in outerspace. From a weightless birthday cake (which is just fine upside down) to party balloons that won’t float and why you can’t hear music on the Moon. All your questions are answered in this picture book.

There is a TON of science in these pages. The story is far less about the party and more about the Moon itself. Readers who love science, are curious about space and/or dream of traveling to the moon will really enjoy this book. The tie-in to birthday activities will help them bring abstract concepts into relevance and make the science more meaningful to them.

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Pair with space-related toys, child-safe telescope, an IOU with plans to visit a planetarium.

big bad ironclad nathan haleBig Bad Ironclad! Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale | 10 and Up |

Did you know that the Civil War had a military technology race? When the North realizes that the South has gained a powerful new war-winning weapon, the Yankees must race against time to create their own powerful ironclad ship. Sometimes, these ships work as needed. Other times, it all depended on the wits of the sailors to bring the North to victory.

Teen reader (13): I like how descriptive yet clear the narration is. The author uses humor and comic-style storytelling to introduce lesser-known Civil War history. Even without drawings, the book would be highly entertaining and informational. The illustrations make it even more appealing to students who characterize history as “boring names and dates.”

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Pair with history trivia games like the Professer Noggin’s series, a 3-D puzzle of a ship, or IOU with plans to visit a naval ship or naval museum.

See all the titles in the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales Graphic Novel series.

faithful spy john hendrixThe Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix | 13 and Up |

By age 18, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was studying to become a theologian. By all measures, he was a devoted Christian and a loyal German. While studying in New York, Bonhoeffer befriended two other seminarians, who opened his eyes to other ways of thinking. It wasn’t long after returning to Germany that he realized Adolph Hitler’s Nazism was moving beyond rhetoric into a dangerous reality. Having watched how Hitler’s agenda was destroying people and his homeland, Bonhoeffer could not sit on the sidelines. After much soul-searching, Dietrich agreed to become a spy against Hitler.

Yes, that cover illustration DOES look like a 3-D image. That’s what makes this graphic novel so eye-catching for teens. It mixes up the presentation style and is JAM packed with information. The author moves beyond a biography and Hitler to help readers understand how personal experiences can influence decisions and how our beliefs evolve over time. Bonhoeffer was a theologian, yet he signed on to be a murderer.

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Pair with a calendar of inspirational and/or positive messages.

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