Since I last posted this in 2018, I've lost a lot of my audience for middle grade nonfiction. So many kids struggle nowadays with comprehension, focus, and the mechanics of reading, that there's just not a lot of call for it. When I pull nonfiction for schools I'm usually looking at expository or lower-level titles. However, I think it's still important to have a strong nonfiction collection and I look forward to seeing interest revive as kids recover from the pandemic slump in reading.
I have a lot of go-to choices for middle grade nonfiction, but in some ways it's trickier to recommend than fiction - they can get outdated faster, especially science titles, and the layout can make parents and teachers reluctant to pick them up because they look like picture books. Below are the titles that I regularly recommend and have had generally good responses from readers and adults.
- This publisher offers a lot of series nonfiction that's very accessibly and well-researched, primarily narrative history. Some recent series include
- National Geographic
- You really can't have a nonfiction section without National Geographic. They do so much more than browsing nonfiction and have been doing more and more narrative nonfiction in addition to their popular series.
- Scientists in the Field
- This series is my go to for kids who need high lexile books. They have a huge variety of subjects, a great layout for introducing kids to real scientists and science problems, and a really good track record of recognizing native/local input and involvement. Some of the latest entries:
- Sarah Albee
- Albee writes narrative nonfiction that focuses on some of the smaller aspects of history - that have big effects. I've reviewed several including Dog Days.
- Carlyn Beccia
- Writes hilarious histories - my favorite is They lost their heads.
- Georgia Bragg
- How they croaked and How they choked.
- Nancy Castaldo
- These are geared towards the older end of the middle grade spectrum. She's explored dogs, seeds, and several aspects of animals.
- Nathan Hale
- Hale writes dense, informative, and very entertaining graphic history. He's written titles on World War I, the Alamo, the Donner Party, and many more.
- Rebecca Johnson
- Among others, she's done some great titles for Milbrook, the only drawback being how expensive this imprint is. Definitely worth a little extra $$ though. When Lunch Fights Back and Zombie Makers are my favorites so far.
- Sandra Markle
- Great science titles for the younger end of the middle grade spectrum, especially those not yet ready to tackle Scientists in the Field. She has a whole series about the efforts to save different animals, many of them set up like mysteries. Penguins is one of the most recent I read.
- Patricia Newman
- Very accessible science titles. Sea otter heroes is my favorite.
- Steve Sheinkin
- His history books will take a strong reader, but they're worth a little extra effort. I actually put Port Chicago 50 into teen, as there is more mature content, but most strong middle grade readers could handle Bomb or Lincoln's Grave Robbers.
- Citizen Scientists by Loree Griffin Burns
- Giant Squid by Mary Cerullo
- Ghosts in the fog by Samantha Seiple
- Girl who drew butterflies by Joyce Sidman
- Blizzard of Glass by Sally Walker
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