The best middle grade non-fiction is just as absorbing as middle grade fiction. My favorite brand of middle grade non-fiction is memoirs, especially graphic memoirs. I also enjoy the “self-help” genre, such as books geared to help kids write better, improve their entrepreneurial methods, or find better friendships.
If you’re looking to add more middle grade non-fiction to your reading list, then this list will help. I’ve included food books, graphic memoirs, historical stories, books to help kids write better, and much more.
The Best Middle Grade Non-Fiction Books
Here are 25 best middle grade non-fiction books:
Yummy: A History of Desserts
Published: October 19, 2021
Have you ever wondered who first thought to freeze cream? Or when people began making sweet pastry shells to encase fruity fillings? Peri is excited to show you the delicious history of sweets while taking you around the world and back!
The team-up that made ice cream cones!
The mistake that made brownies!
Big Apple Diaries
Published: August 17, 2021
It’s the year 2000 in New York City. For 12-year old Alyssa, this means splitting time between her Puerto Rican dad’s apartment in Manhattan and her white mom’s new place in Queens, navigating the trials and tribulations of middle school, and an epic crush on a new classmate. The only way to make sense of it all is to capture the highs and lows in doodles and hilarious comics in a diary.
Then life abruptly changes on September 11, 2001. After the Twin Towers fall and so many lives are lost, worries about gossip and boys feel distant and insignificant. Alyssa must find a new sense of self and purpose amidst all of the chaos, and find the strength to move forward with hope.
Published: November 2, 2021
Young Sophia has lived in so many different countries, she can barely keep count. Stationed now with her family in Central America because of her parents’ work, Sophia feels displaced as an American living abroad, when she has hardly spent any of her life in America.
Everything changes when she reads a letter she was never meant to see and uncovers her parents’ secret. They are not who they say they are. They are working for the CIA. As Sophia tries to make sense of this news, and the web of lies surrounding her, she begins to question everything. The impact that this has on Sophia’s emerging sense of self and understanding of the world makes for a page-turning exploration of lies and double lives.
In the hands of this extraordinary graphic storyteller, this astonishing true story bursts to life.
Published: June 22, 2021
Hudi needs to lose weight, according to his doctors. Concerned about the serious medical issue Hudi had when he was younger, his parents push him to try out for sports. Hudi would rather do anything else, but then he meets Chunky, his imaginary friend and mascot. Together, they decide to give baseball a shot.
As the only Mexican and Jewish kid in his neighborhood, Hudi has found the cheerleader he never had. Baseball doesn’t go well (unless getting hit by the ball counts), but the two friends have a great time drawing and making jokes. While Hudi’s parents keep trying to find the right sport for Hudi, Chunky encourages him to pursue his true love—comedy.
But when Hudi’s dad loses his job, it gets harder for Hudi to chart his own course, even with Chunky’s guidance. Can Chunky help Hudi stay true to himself or will this friendship strike out?
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Young Readers Edition)
Published: February 5, 2015
When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba’s tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season’s crops, leaving them with nothing to eat and nothing to sell. William began to explore science books in his village library, looking for a solution. There, he came up with the idea that would change his family’s life forever: he could build a windmill. Made out of scrap metal and old bicycle parts, William’s windmill brought electricity to his home and helped his family pump the water they needed to farm the land.
Retold for a younger audience, this exciting memoir shows how, even in a desperate situation, one boy’s brilliant idea can light up the world. Complete with photographs, illustrations, and an epilogue that will bring readers up to date on William’s story, this is the perfect edition to read and share with the whole family.
Published: September 10, 2019
Instead of giving him lunch money, Rex’s mom has signed him up for free meals. As a poor kid in a wealthy school district, better-off kids crowd impatiently behind him as he tries to explain to the cashier that he’s on the free meal program. The lunch lady is hard of hearing, so Rex has to shout.
Free Lunch is the story of Rex’s efforts to navigate his first semester of sixth grade―who to sit with, not being able to join the football team, Halloween in a handmade costume, classmates and a teacher who take one look at him and decide he’s trouble―all while wearing secondhand clothes and being hungry. His mom and her boyfriend are out of work, and life at home is punctuated by outbursts of violence. Halfway through the semester, his family is evicted and ends up in government-subsidized housing in view of the school. Rex lingers at the end of last period every day until the buses have left, so no one will see where he lives.
Poop Happened!: A History of the World from the Bottom Up
Published: May 11, 2010
Did lead pipes
cause the fall of the Roman Empire?
How many toilets were in the
average Egyptian pyramid?
How did a knight wearing fifty
pounds of armor go to the bathroom?
Was poor hygiene the last straw
before the French Revolution?
Did Thomas Crapper really invent
the modern toilet?
How do astronauts go
History finally comes out of the water-closet in
this exploration of how people’s need to relieve themselves shaped human
development from ancient times to the present. Throughout time, the most
successful civilizations were the ones who realized that everyone poops, and they
had better figure out how to get rid of it! From the world’s first flushing toilet
invented by ancient Minoan plumbers to castle moats in the middle ages that
used more than just water to repel enemies, Sarah Albee traces human
civilization using one revolting yet fascinating theme.
Kid Athletes: True Tales of Childhood from Sports Legends
Published: November 17, 2015
Forget the gold medals, the championships, and the undefeated seasons. When all-star athletes were growing up, they had regular-kid problems just like you. Baseball legend Babe Ruth was such a troublemaker, his family sent him to reform school. Race car champion Danica Patrick fended off bullies who told her “girls can’t drive.” And football superstar Peyton Manning was forced to dance the tango in his school play.
Kid Athletes tells all of their stories and more with full-color cartoon illustrations on every page. Other subjects include Billie Jean King, Jackie Robinson, Yao Ming, Gabby Douglas, Tiger Woods, Julie Krone, Bruce Lee, Muhammad Ali, Bobby Orr, Lionel Messi, and more!
The Boys in the Boat (Young Readers Adaptation)
Published: September 8, 2015
For readers of Unbroken, out of the depths of the Great Depression comes the astonishing tale of nine working-class boys from the American West who at the 1936 Olympics showed the world what true grit really meant. With rowers who were the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew was never expected to defeat the elite East Coast teams, yet they did, going on to shock the world by challenging the German boat rowing for Adolf Hitler.
At the center of the tale is Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, whose personal quest captures the spirit of his generation—the generation that would prove in the coming years that the Nazis could not prevail over American determination and optimism.
All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team
Published: October 13, 2020
On June 23, 2018, twelve young players of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach enter a cave in northern Thailand seeking an afternoon’s adventure. But when they turn to leave, rising floodwaters block their path out. The boys are trapped! Before long, news of the missing team spreads, launching a seventeen-day rescue operation involving thousands of rescuers from around the globe. As the world sits vigil, people begin to wonder: how long can a group of ordinary kids survive in complete darkness, with no food or clean water? Luckily, the Wild Boars are a very extraordinary “ordinary” group. Combining firsthand interviews of rescue workers with in-depth science and details of the region’s culture and religion, author Christina Soontornvat—who was visiting family in Northern Thailand when the Wild Boars went missing—masterfully shows how both the complex engineering operation above ground and the mental struggles of the thirteen young people below proved critical in the life-or-death mission. Meticulously researched and generously illustrated with photographs, this page-turner includes an author’s note describing her experience meeting the team, detailed source notes, and a bibliography to fully immerse readers in the most ambitious cave rescue in history.
Published: October 13, 2020
Starting at a new school is scary, especially with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece’s class was deaf. Here, she’s different. She’s sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends.
Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom but anywhere her teacher is in the school—in the hallway . . . in the teacher’s lounge . . . in the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it’s just another way of feeling different . . . and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?
Published: February 1, 2010
Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there’s still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly.
Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart
Published: February 8, 2011
In alternating chapters, Fleming deftly moves readers back and forth between Amelia’s life (from childhood up until her last flight) and the exhaustive search for her and her missing plane. With incredible photos, maps, and handwritten notes from Amelia herself—plus informative sidebars tackling everything from the history of flight to what Amelia liked to eat while flying (tomato soup)—this unique nonfiction title is tailor-made for middle graders.
It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
Published: April 9, 2019
Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, shares his remarkable story of growing up in South Africa with a black South African mother and a white European father at a time when it was against the law for a mixed-race child to exist. But he did exist–and from the beginning, the often-misbehaved Trevor used his keen smarts and humor to navigate a harsh life under a racist government.
In a country where racism barred blacks from social, educational, and economic opportunity, Trevor surmounted staggering obstacles and created a promising future for himself thanks to his mom’s unwavering love and indomitable will.
Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math
Published: August 4, 2020
After a childhood spent looking up at the stars, Caroline Herschel was the first woman to discover a comet and to earn a salary for scientific research. Florence Nightingale was a trailblazing nurse whose work reformed hospitals and one of the founders of the field of medical statistics. The first female electrical engineer, Hertha Marks Ayrton registered twenty-six patents for her inventions.
Marie Tharp helped create the first map of the entire ocean floor, which helped scientists understand our subaquatic world and suggested how the continents shifted. A mathematical prodigy, Katherine Johnson calculated trajectories and launch windows for many NASA projects including the Apollo 11 mission. Edna Lee Paisano, a citizen of the Nez Perce Nation, was the first Native American to work full time for the Census Bureau, overseeing a large increase in American Indian and Alaskan Native representation. And Vera Rubin studied more than two hundred galaxies and found the first strong evidence for dark matter.
Told in vibrant, evocative poems, this stunning novel celebrates seven remarkable women who used math as their key to explore the mysteries of the universe and grew up to do innovative work that changed the world.
Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid
Published: August 18, 2020
When Mikaila Ulmer was four, she was stung by a bee–twice in one week. She was terrified of going outside, so her parents encouraged her to learn more about bees so she wouldn’t be afraid. It worked. Mikaila didn’t just learn what an important role bees play in our ecosystem, but she also learned bees are endangered, and set out to save them. She started by selling cups of lemonade in front of her house and donating the small proceeds to organizations dedicated to bee conservation. When she realized the more lemonade she sold, the more bees she could help, Me & the Bees Lemonade was born. Now she sells her lemonade across the country. From meetings with Fortune 500 CEOs, to securing a deal on Shark Tank, to even visiting the Obama White House, Mikaila’s lemonade and passion for bee conservation have taken her far.
The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life
Published: February 14, 2017
You gotta know the rules to play the game. Ball is life. Take it to the hoop. Soar. In this inspirational book full of poetry and inspiring lessons about the rules of life, Newbury Medal–winning Kwame Alexander shares uplifting quotes from all-star athletes like Stephen Curry and Venus Williams and other wonderfully influential figures like Sonia Sotomayor and Michelle Obama.
What can we imagine for our lives? What if we were the star players, moving and grooving through the game of life? What if we had our own rules of the game to help us get what we want, what we aspire to, what will enrich our lives? Illustrated with photographs by Thai Neave, The Playbook is intended to provide inspiration on the court of life. Each rule contains wisdom from inspiring athletes and role models such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Carli Lloyd, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama. Kwame Alexander also provides his own poetic and uplifting words, as he shares stories of overcoming obstacles and winning games in this motivational and inspirational book for readers of any age and for anyone needing a little bit of encouragement.
I Am Not a Label: 34 disabled artists, thinkers, athletes and activists from past and present
Published: July 7, 2020
These short biographies tell the stories of people who have faced unique challenges that have not stopped them from becoming trailblazers, innovators, advocates, and makers. Each person is a leading figure in their field, be it sports, science, math, art, breakdancing, or the world of pop.
Challenge your preconceptions of disability and mental health with the eye-opening stories of these remarkable people:
Ludwig van Beethoven, Gustav Kirchhoff, Henri Matisse, Eliza Suggs, Helen Keller, Frida Kahlo, John Nash, Stephen Hawking, Temple Grandin, Stevie Wonder, Nabil Shaban, Terry Fox, Peter Dinklage, Catalina Devandas, Wanda Diaz-Merced, Victor Pineda, Arunima Sinha, Abraham Lincoln, Demi Lovato, Matt Haig, Redouan Ait Chitt, Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, Farida Bedwei, Jonas Jacobsson, Trischa Zorn, Ade Adepitan, Stella Young, Lady Gaga, Naoki Higashida, Isabella Springmuhl Tejada, Aaron Philip, Michelle Akers, Lil Wayne, Dynamo
How to be a Person: 65 Hugely Useful, Super-Important Skills to Learn Before You’re Grown Up
Published: May 26, 2020
For the kid who leaves a wet towel wadded up on the floor or forgets to put a new roll on the toilet-paper thingy, witty parenting writer and etiquette columnist Catherine Newman has created the ultimate guidebook of essential life skills for kids. Jam-packed with tips, tricks, and advice — all illustrated in an irresistible graphic novel–style — How to Be a Person shows kids just how easy it is to free themselves from parental nagging and become more dependable — and they’ll like themselves better, too! They’ll learn how to do chores like loading the dishwasher and making a bed, brush up on communication skills like making a phone call and apologizing, and master 61 other super-helpful skills including how to stick up for somebody, fold a T-shirt, and turn a 33-cent package of ramen into dinner. Improve work-life balance for the whole family with this kids’ guide to growing up.
When Stars Are Scattered
Published: April 14, 2020
Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future . . . but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day.
Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away; Young Readers Edition
Published: January 8, 2019
In this incredible narrative, Erica Armstrong Dunbar reveals a fascinating and heartbreaking behind-the-scenes look at the Washingtons when they were the First Family—and an in-depth look at their slave, Ona Judge, who dared to escape from one of the nation’s Founding Fathers.
Born into a life of slavery, Ona Judge eventually grew up to be George and Martha Washington’s “favored” dower slave. When she was told that she was going to be given as a wedding gift to Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Ona made the bold and brave decision to flee to the north, where she would be a fugitive.
From her childhood, to her time with the Washingtons and living in the slave quarters, to her escape to New Hampshire, Erica Armstrong Dunbar, along with Kathleen Van Cleve, shares an intimate glimpse into the life of a little-known, but powerful figure in history, and her brave journey as she fled the most powerful couple in the country.
BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends): A Girl’s Guide to Happy Friendships
Published: July 20, 2021
Friendships are tough to navigate, even for adults. The preteen years can be particularly sticky, but we’ve got your back! Packed with fun quizzes, colorful illustrations, and stories about girls just like you, BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends) is the ultimate interactive guidebook to help you learn the ins and outs of friendship. Explore the topics of gossip, bullying, and feeling left out, along with ways to strengthen the friendships that mean the most to you.
Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing
Published: July 27, 2021
Throughout history, people have picked up their pens and wielded their words–transforming their lives, their communities, and beyond. Now it’s your turn! Representing a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, Mightier Than the Sword connects over forty inspiring biographies with life-changing writing activities and tips, showing readers just how much their own words can make a difference. Readers will explore nature with Rachel Carson, experience the beginning of the Reformation with Martin Luther, champion women’s rights with Sojourner Truth, and many more. These richly illustrated stories of inspiring speechmakers, scientists, explorers, authors, poets, activists, and even other kids and young adults will engage and encourage young people to pay attention to their world, to honor their own ideas and dreams, and to embrace the transformative power of words to bring good to the world.
The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth
Published: August 11, 2020
As long as racist ideas persist, families will continue to have the difficult and necessary conversations with their young ones on the subject. In this inspiring collection, literary all-stars such as Renée Watson (Piecing Me Together), Grace Lin (Where the Mountain Meets the Moon), Meg Medina (Merci Suárez Changes Gears), Adam Gidwitz (The Inquisitor’s Tale), and many more engage young people in frank conversations about race, identity, and self-esteem. Featuring text and images filled with love, acceptance, truth, peace, and an assurance that there can be hope for a better tomorrow, The Talk is a stirring anthology and must-have resource published in partnership with Just Us Books, a Black-owned children’s publishing company that’s been in operation for over thirty years. Just Us Books continues its mission grounded in the same belief that helped launch the company: Good books make a difference.
So, let’s talk.
Dear Ally, How Do You Write a Book?
Published: March 26, 2019
Have you always wanted to write a book, but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you’re really great at writing the first few chapters . . . but you never quite make it to the end? Or do you finally have a finished manuscript, but you’re not sure what to do next? Fear not — if you have writing-related questions, this book has answers! Whether you’re writing for fun or to build a career, bestselling author Ally Carter is ready to help you make your work shine. With honesty, encouragement, and humor, Ally’s ready here to answer the questions that writers struggle with the most.Filled with practical tips and helpful advice, Dear Ally is a treasure for aspiring writers at any stage of their careers. It offers a behind-the-scenes look at how books get made, from idea to publication, and gives you insight into the writing processes of some of the biggest and most talented YA authors writing today.
There they are: 25 of the best middle grade non-fiction books! Which ones have you read, and what did I miss?
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