In an age of screens, publishers are producing ever more beautiful and ingenious books – volumes which offer much more than simply a collection of facts that you could ‘google’.
In the best of these books, the quality of the illustrations is extraordinary; the design is inviting and takes kids on a real ‘journey’ through the book; and of course the text has child-appeal and uses age-appropriate language.
These books are terrific for a home library, and beautiful enough to make a lovely gift for those young readers who just don’t have a taste for fiction and prefer ‘fact books’ or ‘stories about real life’, as well as those who read more broadly.
(Click on the titles or cover images below to read more about each book or buy a copy.)
Nature and Dinosaurs
The publisher’s blurb claims that The Wonder Garden makes real-life seem more fantastic than fantasy, and that’s pretty much spot-on! This large hardcover features absolutely stunning illustrations of animals in five of the world’s wildest habitats, along with explanatory text. The text is best for kids of around 8 and up, but younger ones will also love looking at the pictures and finding different animals.
When he was younger, my nephew – a real little naturalist – spent many a happy hour glued to this book and others in the series. He was fascinated by the sound mechanisms and could do an impersonation of many of the noises in the book. He also quickly learned, and would enthusiastically share, the names of the sea creatures and facts about them.
Billed as ‘the most up to date’ dinosaur book available (it includes the ‘top’ dinosaur discoveries made right up to 2014) this has amazing illustrations, several fold-out pages and a cover that simulates dino skin.
More light-hearted in tone and illustration style than the other books in this list, this nevertheless features plenty of fascinating information to delight curious kids (which animals eat poo, what’s in it, sizes and colours, how some animals communicate through poo…) Written by Nicola Davies, who studied Zoology at Cambridge University and worked as a researcher at the BBC Natural History Unit, it’s part of a series which also covers animal sizes and how animals communicate.
Travel, Cities and Architecture
The scope of this book is pretty amazing – it covers 200 countries! It includes plenty of quirky facts and beautiful images – lots of fun to dip into.
This is one of a series of books originally published in the 1950s and 60s. This facsimile edition has plenty of nostalgia value for parents, and kids will love the detailed drawings.
Usborne publishers are famous for their library of children’s reference books and this one features flaps to lift, revealing the interiors of buildings ranging from the Colosseum to Versailles to the Gherkin and Burj Dubai.
This one features really lavish illustrations, very accurate maps and quirky facts about 30 iconic cities.
With its beautiful, large format, this book is a feast of images and information about items from our archaeological past. Visit Ancient Egypt, China, Greece, Melanesia and more. Meet the Olmecs, Pueblo, Maori, Indigenous Australians and others. The text is best suited to kids around 10 and up, but younger children will certainly pore over the illustrations too. Part of the ‘Welcome to the Museum’ series.
This unusual take on history looks at more than 25 key events and time periods through the eyes of a young boy, travelling from 1 million BC all the way through to the moon landing in 1969. Along the way we meet Einstein, Mozart, Emperor Titus, and even a Palaeolithic man.
Which non-fiction books do your kids enjoy? We’d love to hear your recommendations in comments below.
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