Best Books for Kids and Teens

Editors’ Picks: The Best Children’s Nonfiction of 2018

recommended by Zoe Greaves

Author and Five Books children's editor Zoe Greaves selects the best nonfiction books for children published in 2018.

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Zoe Greaves

Zoe Greaves is children's editor of Five Books. She is also a children's author and bookseller.

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The choice and quality of nonfiction available for kids grows more and more exciting every year – both in presentation and in topic. This year the choices were plentiful but five stood out for me as total showstoppers, brimming with fascination, inspiration, thought-provoking ideas, facts, and life-enhancing potential. This is no exaggeration! The age range is pretty broad and these are books for life, so let’s call them books for the whole family to share.


1. Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist, Adventurer by Sarah B Pomeroy and Jeyaraney Kathirithamby

(Age range: 10+)

The story of Maria Sibylla Merian’s (1647-1717) life blew me away the first time I stumbled upon it. When she was just 13, Merian began her study of butterfly metamorphosis – years before any other scientist had published a description of the process! This is just the beginning of a story that travels from the Netherlands to the wilds of the South American rainforests. It’s a story that will appeal to budding scientists as well as artists. This biography is one to treasure and a book that does justice to a remarkable woman.


2. Young Heroes by Lula Bridgeport

(Age range: 8–12)

I admire the creative energy of youth. I see the current generation of young people as exceptionally passionate and impressive. I love this book for show-casing over 100 young people – musical talents, environmental activists, engineers, artists and authors, as well as political voices. Your kids will feel that anything is possible and that the world is full of possibility after sitting down with this energetic volume for an afternoon.


3. What We See in the Stars: An Illustrated Tour of the Night Sky by Kelsey Oseid

(Age range: 8–12)

I’ve always loved stargazing but never really felt all that confident. (I’m pretty sure of Orion’s Belt. But not entirely!) This is the books to set things straight – and so much more. It’s a gorgeously illustrated guide, not only to the constellations, planets, comets and northern lights – but also to the science, myths and history of the stars in our universe.


4. Ocean by Hélène Druvert and Emmanuelle Grundmann

(Age range: 7–9)

A fact-filled journey through the oceans with clever paper engineering and beautiful illustrations. This book has such panache – it is a standout, sumptuous feast of book design. Every page makes you sigh and reminds us just how extraordinary the watery depths and its inhabitants are.


5. A History of Pictures for Children by David Hockney and Martin Gayford

(Age range: 8–12)

A journey through art history, from early art drawn on cave walls to the images we make today on our computers and phone cameras. It’s told through conversations between artist David Hockney and Martin Gayford, who talk with inspiring simplicity and clarity. I love the lively and thought-provoking chapter titles like: ‘What is a Shadow Exactly?’ and ‘Can Pictures Really Move?’

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—Zoe Greaves

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Zoe Greaves

Zoe Greaves is children's editor of Five Books. She is also a children's author and bookseller.