I’m a big fan of encouraging the reading of non-fiction texts, it’s an entirely different reading experience and skill set and one that I don’t think we encourage enough in our young people. Of course there are some young people who only want to read non-fiction but mostly I find that I have to steer (sometimes even coerce) students towards the non-fiction section in my library.
The best books for introducing readers to non-fiction works are the ones that are what we call ‘narrative non-fiction’ – where a narrative structure is the embedded into the text – as in the ‘Nature Storybooks’ series, the ‘Meet…’ series and the ‘Little People, Big Dreams’ series. My own children dip and dive into these three series all the time and I have them on the main shelves in both our kitchen and living rooms spaces as they are ones to always have on hand. You can read more about these series, and my thoughts on the benefits of non-fiction reading here.
I’ve found some really fabulous non-fiction (or information) books in the last few months so I’ve compiled them all here for you – these titles are highly recommended additions to your home or school library. Click on title links or cover images to read more and purchase.
Click on title links or cover images to purchase.
‘Bonkers About Beetles‘ by Owen Davey
This one has been on our kitchen table for weeks now and much adored. It’s just stunning and is jam packed with useful information for young beetle enthusiasts. Full review by ecologist (and my neighbour!) Dr Sam Lloyd is here.
‘High Five to the Boys: A Celebration of Ace Australian Men’ Random House Australia
This one is a book that has been needed for a while now and it doesn’t disappoint. Australia has some seriously ace men who have broken new ground, stood up for what they believed in, achieved incredible things and defied stereotypes. You’ll find some of those men inside the pages of this book – from astronaut Andy Thomas to YouTube maths teacher Eddie Woo, sportsman Johnathan Thurston and dancer David McAllister. Role models for girls or boys, these Great Australian men are profiled with easy-to-read biographies of their incredible achievements.
‘Shout Out to the Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women’ Random House Australia
Like its companion above but celebrating the women this time, ‘Shout Out to the Girls’ profiles 50 awesome Australian women with easy-to-read biographies of their incredible achievements. From Cathy Freeman to Turia Pitt, Edith Cowan to Julia Gillard, Mum Shirl to Vali Myers, plus rally car drivers, molecular biologists and more.
With the school holidays upon us, this is a book which will inspire young people to get outside, if not for a day, at least for an afternoon! From easy-to-do garden projects to more ambitious building projects, there’s an activity to appeal to all and in typical DK style there are clear step-by-step instructions and excellent photographs and graphics. Journal like in style, with a section for taking notes and a few pages of stickers – this is the perfect holiday gift for encouraging a spot of nature nurturing and adventuring.
‘Under the Southern Cross’ by Frane Lessac
Night-time in Australia, animals are waking, people are exploring, discoveries are being made – under the Southern Cross.
Do you ever read a book and think, ‘well for glory goodness sake why hasn’t that been done before?!’. That was my first thought on reading Lessac’s latest book – another sumptuous offering from a talented author/illustrator. This fascinating book takes a look at Australia’s night time attractions. What makes ribbons of colour swirl in the sky? What are the spooky balls of light that bounce across the outback? What animal lays eggs that look like squishy ping-pong balls? Where can you watch a movie with bats circling overhead?
Again I say, DK do non-fiction well – their images and graphic design are fabulous and they seem to just get the amount of information in text form spot on. This one on inventions follows on from a favourite topic in schools, but one that has not really been revisited in book form for some years now. With ‘to the minute’ ideas and inventions – this is a fascinating title to add to a home or school library and one that will become a firm favourite.
‘The Upside Down History of Down Under’ by Alison Lloyd and Terry Denton
This is one of the most accessible history books I’ve found found for students from about 8-12 in some time. Lloyd has taken on the task of covering the story of our country from prehistory to federation and while this is huge historical terrain to cover, she has managed a comprehensive yet engaging text which is full of anecdotes, questions, pronunciation guides and primary source quotations to help bring the information to life ensure it is engaging. Illustrations by The Master, Mr Terry Denton also help to engage young readers and keep the entire tone of the book upbeat, entertaining and informative. Teachers’ notes can be found here.
‘The Short and Curly Guide to Life’ by Dr Matt Beard and Kyla Slaven
If you’ve loved the Podcast as much as my children and I have, then this is a must-have book for the entire family. I’m also buying it for the teacher in charge of our Philosophy Club at school – perfect stimulus material in one handy package! Like the podcast of the same name, the book poses curly questions which bend minds both young and old into spaces and places they don’t often go. You’ll find yourself wondering if it’s okay to break a promise – even if it is in a video game. Questioning whether you would want to spend eternity in an amazing virtual reality. Umming and ahhing over whether there’s anything wrong with keeping the cutest baby fox for a pet . . .and more. Covering topics such as fairness, bullying, bravery, friendship and choice.
‘Limelight’ by Solli Raphael
Age is no barrier to creating poetry that inspires social change and positive action. Thirteen-year-old award-winning slam poet Solli Raphael is taking on the world … one word at a time. The future needs you and me to create equality across all levels of humanity ~ Solli
Limelight is a unique collection of slam poetry paired with inspirational writing techniques. With over 30 original poems in different forms, the book features the viral video sensation ‘Australian Air’, which has been viewed 3.5 million times via Facebook. Solli’s work tackles current social concerns for his generation, such as sustainability and social equality, all the while amplifying his uplifting message of hope.
The book includes several introductory chapters looking at traditional poetry forms and slam poetry, as well as tips on developing writing ideas and performing. Filled with his own experiences of creating poetry and speaking in public, such as Solli’s top 10 ways to manage writer’s block, this book engages kids on their level and encourages them to speak up for a better future of their own.
As a voice of his generation, and at a time when youth movements worldwide hold much importance, this extraordinary book showcases creativity and the power of social consciousness.
‘Zobi and the Zoox’ by Ailsa Wild, Aviva Reed, Briony Barr & Gregory Crocetti
Published by CSIRO and produced in partnership with a number of organisations, including the Australian Society for Microbiology, the book is (of course) soundly based in science – but includes an engaging fictional story to accompany the science. Full review of this wonderful and timely resource is here.