Fantastic Non-Fiction Picture Books for Older Readers

We often think of picture books for preschool aged children.  There also are many visual appealing books for elementary aged kids as well that are more enjoyable to read than textbooks and provide enriching information.

Here is a sample of five non-fiction picture books of famous and not-so-famous people.

Me and the Sky, Captain Beverley Bass, Pioneering Pilot by Beverley Bass

When Beverley Bass was a young girl in the late 1950s, she told her parents she wanted to fly planes.  They told her that girls could not be pilots, but encourage her to take flying lessons when she was a teen.  After decades of gaining experience flying and refusing to take no for an answer, Beverley became the first female pilot promoted to captain by American Airlines in 1986.

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Secret Engineer, How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge by Rachel Dougherty

Emily Roebling was married to the chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, Washington Roebling. Emily studied math, science and engineering and insisted on learning all about the dangerous new technique involved in building the bridge. When Washington fell ill mid-construction, her knowledge came in handy. Emily supervised every aspect of the project while he was bedridden.

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Antsy Ansel, Ansel Adams, A Life in Nature by Cynthia Jenson-Elliot

Ansel Adams struggled in the early 1900’s in traditional school. He was an antsy young boy who constantly got into trouble. His father thought that Ansel needed open air, not discipline. Homeschooling allowed Ansel more time outdoors. At 14, Ansel received a camera and began photographing Yosemite Valley and documented other American landscapes.

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Wood, Wire, Wings, Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane by Kirsten Larson

Even as a child, Emma Liilian Todd loved to solve problems. She took apart and reassembled clocks just to figure out how they worked. While the Wright brothers are known for inventing the first airplane, Emma designed an airplane that was more practical. This is her story.

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Paper Son, The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist by Julie Leung

In 1921, nine year old Wong Geng Yeo traveled on a ship from China to the U.S. under the identity of Look Tai Yow, a merchant's son, in order to evade the restrictions of the Chinese Exclusion Act. After an extended detention on Angel Island, he joined his father and moved to Sacramento.  Wong studied calligraphy then attended art school where he learns to draw in a Western style.  Wong blended Chinese and Western styles of art while working at Disney that inspired scenic design for the 1942 film, Bambi. 

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Animal heroes are celebrated in these six non-fiction books.

Step Right Up, How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman

In 1833, William Key was born a slave. After the Civil War, Key, a self-taught veterinarian, began to be known as “Doc”.  Doc used gentle, non-coercive training, to teach Jim, a horse, to read, spell, write, and do sums in Doc's traveling shows. Doc and Jim raised money for the newly founded humane societies and inspired two million children to sign the Jim Key Pledge: 'I promise always to be kind to animals.”

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Lost and Found Cat, The True Story of Kunkush's Incredible Journey by Doug Kuntz

When an Iraqi family is forced to flee their home, they secretly carry their beloved cat, Kunkush, to Greece.  During the crowded boat crossing to Greece, Kunkush’s carrier breaks and the frightened cat runs away. After an unsuccessful search, the heart-broken family continues their journey. When aid workers in Greece find the lost cat, they spread the word that the cat has been found on the Internet and in the news media.  After several months, Kunkush and his family are reunited.

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Sergeant Reckless, The True Story of the Little Horse Who Becomes a Hero by Patricia McCormick

During the height of the Korean conflict, a unit of U.S. Marines found an abandoned horse.  The Marines named the horse Reckless and taught her to carry ammunition.  During one battle, Reckless made 51 trips and carried 9,000-pounds of ammunition.  Reckless became the only animal ever to officially hold military rank and receive two Purple Hearts.

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Avalanche Dog Heroes, Piper and Friends Learn to Search the Snow by Elizabeth Rusch

Piper, a border collie, trains with a team of four other dogs and their human handlers to become certified rescuers. Piper learns to take the ski lift up the mountaintop, master 80 cues, and learns rescue drills to search for people after an avalanche. The dogs use their keen sense of smell to locate people hiding in snow caves. 

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The Hen Who Sailed the World by Guirec Soudee

Guirec Soudée, age 24, was the youngest navigator to voyage through the Northwest Passage alone with his hen, Monique.  This book is full of photographs of the 3,400 mile sea journey by Guirec and Monique.  

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The Skydiving Beavers, A True Tale by Susan Wood

This book describes the successful 1948 effort of Elmo Heter of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to transport beavers from an overcrowded town, McCall, Idaho, to the remote Chamberlain Basin region by parachuting seventy-six beavers into the area.

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Learn the story behind some inventions in these books.

The Hold Story of the Doughnut by Pat Miller

In 1847 aboard a ship, Hanson Gregory used a pepper canister to remove the hard-to-cook centers of indigestible cakes known as "sinkers" and created the doughnut. 

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The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle, The Cool Science Behind Frank Epperson's Famous Frozen Treat by Anne Renaud

Frank spent much of his youth experimenting in his basement laboratory -- mixing and measuring, testing and inspecting, studying and scrutinizing. One of his favorite things to experiment with was soda water. One day after discovering the perfect flavoring for his most recent invention, he left it outside on his back porch with a spoon in it. The next morning, the drink had frozen solid.

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The Boo-Boos that Changed the World, A True Story about an Accidental Invention (Really!) by Barry Wittenstein

In the 1920s, Earle Dickson worked as a cotton buyer for Johnson Johnson. His wife, Josephine, was an accident-prone klutz who frequently injured herself in the kitchen. Earle worked on finding easier ways to wrap Josephine's injuries with cotton and tape creating the first band-aid. 

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A Green Place to Be, The Creation of Central Park by Ashley Benham Yazdani

In 1858, New York City was growing so fast that the open space was disappearing quickly.  People needed a green place to be-a park with lakes for rowing, trees, and bridges. Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted entered a citywide contest to design and create a park out of barren swampland.

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Magic Ramen, The Story of Momofuku Ando by Andrea Wang

When Momofuku Ando saw long lines of people waiting for food near his home in Osaka, Japan, shortly after World War II, he wanted to create the perfect bowl of noodles to feed hungry communities around the world. After years of trying and failing, Ando finally perfected his magic ramen-a perfectly fried noodle-broth combination that can be made in minutes by simply adding water. 

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Make new discoveries as you read these books!

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