Does your child love animals? Facts about the animal kingdom? Then this list of nonfiction animal books is for them! Nonfiction for kids is not always my scene but that is actually to your benefit since it takes a really good nonfiction book to keep me engaged! I looked long and hard through the library stacks to find the best variety of nonfiction books about animals.
While I do have a list of early chapter books about animals, this is the first focused nonfiction list about the little critters I've done. I've even decided to create a new nonfiction book list series, and this is the first, so expect more lists to keep your fact loving little ones occupied in the near future. I included a general age recommendation, but they are very lose so if your child falls outside of the range but is still interested in -- say, fireflies or monkeys -- don't hesitate to pick up the book. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.
How To Survive Like Firefly by Kristen Foote is quite a delightful and cleverly entertaining addition to the non-fiction scene that illuminates (pun intended!) the life of those curious creatures that fascinate kids and adults during the summer months. Facts about fireflies are related to the reader as a teacher firefly instructs his pupa–er, I mean pupils. Animal rights activists will be relieved to know that no fireflies were harmed in the creation of this manual. Ages 5 and up.
Rodent Rascals by Roxie Munro. The illustrations of over 20 rodents are all life sized, which means at times only part of the rodent is shown. A short description of each picture includes interesting and memorable facts about the creature. Perhaps a read through this book will satisfy your little one's request for a hamster. Then again, perhaps it will encourage him to up the ante. Ages 4 and up.
Mad about Monkeys by Owen Davey. Here are some nonfiction animal books for kids that will make designers go gaga. I adore Davey's illustrations in this book, as well as his book, Crazy about Cats. With a conversational tone, Davey provides a ton of information about the creatures, from their evolution, to the basics of where they live, what they eat, as well as specific characteristics of the different types of monkeys (or cats). Ages 5 and up
Animalium by Jenny Broom. This wonderful oversized book is a fantastic choice for kids who love classification, and those who love the linger at natural history museums. Gorgeously accurate illustrations that evoke nature illustrations of the past take children and curious adults on a tour of of the animal kingdom. Just wonderful. Ages 7 and up.
An Ambush of Tigers: A Wild Gathering of Collective Nouns. When we first read this book, my youngest child is just starting to “get” puns. I can see him stop and work out the word play whenever we read this book and he loves telling me, “Oh! I get it!”. Word play abounds in this rhyming book which also introduces kids to the fun words we use for different groups of animals. Although the illustrations are fantastical, the bouncy rhymes introduce animal names in a clever, engaging way. A tower of giraffes, anyone? How about a prickle of porcupines?
MORE: Animal poems for kids
What Can You Do With A Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. All nonfiction animal book lovers should head straight to the collection of books by Jenkins. He has written and/or illustrated (with his signature cut paper collage style) an enormous oeuvre of picture books about the animal world which challenge and inspire kids to look at animals from creative points of view. I am highlighting one of his titles here but by no means should you confine yourself to one! Ages 4 and up (other books vary).
The Search for Olinguito: Discovering a New Species by Sandra Markle. Markle has a number of fine nonfiction books about animals that are essential for budding zoologists. I chose to highlight this title because I think kids will be fascinated about one way scientists learn about a new species. Many people are always surprised that new animals can even still be discovered! Please also check the library shelves for more of Markle's books!! Ages 5 and up.
The Big Book of Bugs by Yuval Zommer. Let's not forget the insects in this list of nonfiction animal books! Darling illustrations that design enthusiasts will love populate this book about–you guessed it–bugs. I love the bite sized (should I say bug-sized??) bits of information on the colorful two-page spreads, as well as the clever way the book invites inquiry with the "Did you find it?" prompts.
National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia: 2,500 Animals with Photos, Maps, and More! Most parents have already discovered the wonderful children's books published by National Geographic. I love this one as it makes an excellent reference book with gorgeous photography for every home nonfiction library!
The Elephant Scientist. The "Scientists in the Field" series is an excellent one. The titles look at particular scientists and their subjects (other animals include manatees, bees, frogs and more) Scientist Caitlin O'Connell studied elephants in Africa and made important discoveries about their behavior and how they communicate with each other. This is a relly fascinating book, full of information not just about O'Connell, but about elephants and their habitat. Adults will enjoy reading it just as much as the kids. Ages 7 and up.
Back from the Brink: Saving Animals from Extinction by Nancy Castaldo. This book is chock full of information for kids who are interested in the larger question of the intersection of animals, the environment and humans. Perhaps best for older elementary and middle grade children because of the density of text and the philosophical questions the author asks the reader to contemplate. Ages 9 and up.
Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp. This title will fascinate ornithologists and tech geeks equally. The narrative takes us through the life of a bald eagle, from its birth to an accident that partially destroyed its beak. An engineer printed a 3-D prosthetic of the missing portion of its beak which allowed the bird to eat, drink and preen on its own until the beak regenerated. Ages 5 and up.
Prairie Dog Song: The Key to Saving North America's Grasslands by Susan L. Roth. Even a list of nonfiction animal books should include some poetry! This is an absolutely gorgeous collection of poetry. Each poem is a verse of an adaptation of the song “And the Green Grass Grew All Around.” My kids may not have enjoyed my singing as much as I did—I happen to love that tune so I was particularly delighted. Each double page spread also includes informative text about the history of the prairie and its ecological importance. Roth's mixed media collages parallel the depth of prairies life. Ages 5 and up.
Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate. No nonfiction animal books list for kids would be complete without a manual on how to engage in the best outdoor activity ever: birdwatching. The pages of this charming and funny book are peppered with bird facts and watching tips that come straight from the birds themselves. Irresistible and essential for every backyard bird watcher. So get out that bird feeder and the binoculars! Ages 4 and up.
More fun nonfiction: