Here are a handful of our favorite nonfiction books for 4th and 5th graders.
Affiliate links are included. Summaries are from Amazon.com
Information Graphics: Space by Simon Rogers
The third in a visually stunning series of information graphics that shows just how interesting and humorous scientific information can be. Complex facts about space are reinterpreted as stylish infographics that astonish, amuse, and inform. Researched by the Guardian’s Datablog expert and illustrated by New York Times designer Jennifer Daniel, this is a book of the highest pedigree.
10 True Tales: Heroes of Hurricane Katrina by Allen Zullo
Donald Colletti and Jimmy Pitre are forced to flee their flooded houses as Hurricane Katrina devastates their beloved city of New Orleans. But rather than seek shelter, the two brave men put their lives on the line to rescue hundreds of their neighbors.
As Coast Guard helicopter 6514 is buffeted by severe winds, rescue swimmer Laurence Nettles is lowered into the dangerous waters with one goal in mind — save the lives of a family with an infant who are stranded in a damaged boat.
Cut off from outside help for days, the valiant medical staff at Lindy Boggs Medical Center — which is cut off by rising floodwaters and cripped by a power failure — fight desperately to keep more than 100 patients alive.
These and other real-life heroes risked their lives to save others during Hurricane Katrina, the most catastrophic natural disaster in United States history. You will never forget their courageous true stories.
Curious Critters: Marine by David FitzSimmons
Curious Critters: Marine features some of North America’s most incredible marine animals captured through the award-winning photography of David FitzSimmons. The amazing photographs depict 20 common and fascinating animals of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as the Gulf of Mexico. The subjects include a sleek black sea bass, a giant Pacific octopus, an incredible roseate spoonbill, and a one-in-a-million blue lobster, plus many more amazing creatures found along the coasts of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Fun and educational narratives accompanying each animal highlight fascinating natural history information, and a visual index, additional curious critter facts, silhouettes showing animal sizes, and a full glossary are also included.
How Come?: Every Kid’s Science Questions Explained by Kathy Wollard
Fact-filled, fun-filled, as interesting to parents as it is to kids, the How Come? series is the trusted source for lively, clear answers to kids’ science queries. Now the best questions and answers from all three books―How Come?; How Come? Planet Earth; and How Come? In the Neighborhood―have been revised, updated, freshly illustrated in full color, supplemented with twenty completely new questions, and combined into one bigger, better volume.
How Come? explains, in fascinating detail, more than 200 mysteries and phenomena in the world around us. These are the questions that pique kids’ curiosity―and stump parents.
The text is clearly written, engaging, and accessible. It’s for every kid who wants to know―and every grown-up who simply doesn’t know.
Child Convicts by Jeanette Brennan
At the age of seven, children in eighteenth-century Britain were tried in court like adults. For crimes such as picking pockets or stealing clothes, they could be sentenced to death by hanging or transported to the then-perilous and isolated colonies of Australia. Life in the colonies was often as difficult and dangerous as the poverty from which many of the convicts came, but the dreaded sentence of transportation could also present opportunities. In a fascinating volume filled with historical photos and drawings, today’s young readers can consider anecdotes of youthful prisoners from long ago, whose new lives on the shores of Australia ran the gamut from the boy who became the first person hanged on its soil to the girl whose photo is now on the twenty-dollar note.
The day Ben Franklin first set foot in Paris, France, he found the city all abuzz. Everyone was talking about something new—remarkable, thrilling, and strange. Something called . . . Science!
But soon the straightforward American inventor Benjamin Franklin is upstaged by a compelling and enigmatic figure: Dr. Mesmer. In elaborately staged shows, Mesmer, wearing a fancy coat of purple silk and carrying an iron wand, convinces the people of Paris that he controls a magic force that can make water taste like a hundred different things, cure illness, and control thoughts! But Ben Franklin is not convinced. Will his practical approach of observing, hypothesizing, and testing get to the bottom of the mysterious Mesmer’s tricks? A rip-roaring, lavishly illustrated peek into a fascinating moment in history shows the development and practice of the scientific method—and reveals the amazing power of the human mind.
What if Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony sat down over tea to reminisce about their extraordinary lives? What would they recall of their triumphs and struggles as they fought to achieve civil rights for African Americans and equal rights for women? And what other historical figures played parts in their stories? These questions led Coretta Scott King Award winner Nikki Grimes to create Chasing Freedom, an engaging work of historical fiction about two of the nineteenth century’s most powerful, and inspiring, American women.
Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies
All around the world — in the sea, in the soil, in the air, and in your body — there are living things so tiny that millions could fit on an ant’s antenna. They’re busy doing all sorts of things, from giving you a cold and making yogurt to eroding mountains and helping to make the air we breathe. If you could see them with your eye, you’d find that they all look different, and that they’re really good at changing things into something else and at making many more microbes like themselves! From Nicola Davies comes a first exploration for young readers of the world’s tiniest living organisms.
Underworld: Exploring the Secret World Beneath Your Feet by Jane Price
With the intriguing idea of exploring what lies below the surface of the Earth as its broad theme, this fascinating book cleverly dices up the subject into small, more manageable pieces ready to be devoured by young readers, particularly boys. The basics are covered in detail, such as the physical properties of the Earth’s crust (including its unusual features such as volcanoes and caves), as well as animals with underground habitats. There is a treasure trove of information on the uses humans have made of the underground — from bunkers used during wartime, to burial sites, to the Paris M?tro — as well as possibilities for the future, even on Mars! What makes this book truly unique, however, are the less expected subjects it covers — fully examining, for example, the subterranean city of Cappadocia, where early Christians hid from Roman soldiers; King Tut’s tomb and its alleged curse; and the underground dungeons used for torture in medieval castles. This is an extraordinary resource for earth science or social sciences lessons covering any number of diverse subjects, from paleontology to archaeology, from mythology to ancient civilizations and from engineering to agriculture. The format is conducive to browsing, with every topic covered on a two-page spread. The text by Jane Price is easy to read and accessible, and engaging illustrations by James Gulliver Hancock, along with many photographs, help to visualize the sometimes-complicated concepts. Boxes, fun facts and funny captions keep things lively and entertaining.
Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate
In a spare, powerful text and evocative illustrations, the Newbery medalist Katherine Applegate and the artist G. Brian Karas present the extraordinary real story of a special gorilla.
Captured as a baby, Ivan was brought to a Tacoma, Washington, mall to attract shoppers. Gradually, public pressure built until a better way of life for Ivan was found at Zoo Atlanta. From the Congo to America, and from a local business attraction to a national symbol of animal welfare, Ivan the Shopping Mall Gorilla traveled an astonishing distance in miles and in impact.
This is his true story and includes photographs of Ivan in the back matter.
Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World by Elizabeth Rusch
When a Serbian boy named Nikola Tesla was three, he stroked his cat and was enchanted by the electrical sparks. By the time he was a teenager, he had made a vow: Someday I will turn the power of Niagara Falls into electricity. Here is the story of the ambitious young man who brought life-changing ideas to America, despite the obstructive efforts of his hero-turned-rival, Thomas Edison. From using alternating current to light up the Chicago World’s Fair to harnessing Niagara to electrify New York City and beyond, Nikola Tesla was a revolutionary ahead of his time. Remote controls, fluorescent lights, X-rays, speedometers, cell phones, even the radio — all resulted from Nikola Tesla’s inventions. Established biographer Elizabeth Rusch sheds light on this extraordinary figure, while fine artist Oliver Dominguez brings his life and inventions to vivid color.