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31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 28 – 2016 Great Nonfiction Chapter Books for Kids

31daysI peer into the darkness and at long last I see the light at the end of the tunnel.  We’re almost there!  Almost at the end of this month’s 31 Days, 31 Lists challenge.  I’m certainly delighted, not least because I’ve managed to keep it up so far (knocking on wood now as hard as my brittle knuckles can knock).

As with some of the lists, today’s is not by any means complete.  I fell down on the job of reading as many chapter nonfiction books as I should have.  And since I refuse to place any books on these lists that I haven’t actually read myself, it’s going to be far too short.  For a variety of far more complete lists featuring nonfiction, please check out the Best of the Year compilations from all the major review journals (SLJ, Kirkus, Horn Book, etc.) as well as libraries like NYPL, Chicago Public Library, and others.


2016 Great Nonfiction Chapter Books for Kids

A Celebration of Beatrix Potter: Art and Letters by More Than 30 of Today’s Favorite Children’s Book Illustrators, edited by The Stewards of Frederick Warne & Co.


It seems a pity that I’m only just now mentioning this book, but I honestly couldn’t figure out if there was any other list it would slot into easily.  In truth, it’s probably made for adult enthusiasts and not actual kids, but who knows?  There could be some Potter loving children out there.  Maybe they’d be interested in the wide variety of takes on one classic Potter character or another.  Whatever the case, this book is a beautiful ode to the works of Beatrix and anyone would be pleased to receive it.

Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird by Pamela S. Turner, photos by Andy Comins, ill. Guido de Flilippo


This is right up there with Sy Montgomery’s Kakapo book as one of my favorite books about obscure birds out there.  Of course, the Kakapo is dumb as a box of rocks while these birds are smarter than human 4-year-olds, but who’s counting?

Deep Roots: How Trees Sustain Our Planet by Nikki Tate


Orca consistently produces fun nonfiction titles on serious subjects in a voice that never patronizes its young readers.  This latest is no exception.

The Hello Atlas by Ben Handicott, ill. Kenard Pak


I really wasn’t sure where to put this one either, and it just feels like it has a bit too much content to consider it a picture book.  The publisher calls this, “A celebration of humanity’s written and verbal languages is comprised of fully illustrated word charts depicting children of diverse cultures participating in everyday activities, in a reference complemented by a free downloadable app for iOS and Android that allows readers to hear the book’s phrases as recorded by native speakers”.  Cool, right?  Well, says Kirkus, “This will be a necessity for just about everybody, as there are no phonetic spellings”.  So word to the wise.  It’s still a pretty amazing book.

Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West by Candace Fleming


Did I mention I liked it yet?

I liked it.

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson


Still one of the most powerful books of the year.

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner, ill. Gareth Hinds


This one came out so early in the year that I almost forgot it was a 2016 title.  Then I remembered that there’s this crazy outside chance that it could win a Newbery for its fantastic writing.  So there’s that.

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet


It took me a while to jump on the bandwagon with this one, since I’m sometimes slow on the uptake.  Now that I’ve read it, I’m gratified to write that it really is quite amazing.  I’m not sure what kid would pick it up on their own, but it does a really lovely job of encapsulating White’s life and spends a good amount of time on his writing for children.  Visually arresting from start to finish, this is one of the best bios of the year.  Glad I followed the crowd on this one.

What Milly Did by Elise Moser, ill. Scot Ritchie


I’m not a huge fan of the cover, but I think the book’s worth its weight in gold.  FYI.

Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. I choose to focus on what you have accomplished this month. I’m grateful for every title and cover you have featured. Today’s list might not be the most extensive, but the quality of those books you did read and shared with us is exceptional. I anticipated that this daily gift from you would be phenomenal, based on the quality of your daily posts. However, you have exceeded any and all my expectations several times over. What fun it has been to look forward to a new list every day this month. Thank you so very much.