Are you looking for some nonfiction books for kids from all around the world? Here are 16 fun and engaging picture books that will provide a dose of global education for the whole family, right from your home!
As a kid, I thought nonfiction books were the most boring type of reading on earth. Turns out, I was just reading entirely the wrong kind of nonfiction. Fortunately, there are some fantastic nonfiction books for kids about many different parts of the world that encourage global education and understanding. And these 16 titles are all beautifully written and illustrated to boot.
16 Fun and Engaging Nonfiction Books for Kids from Around the World
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PATRICK: PATRON SAINT OF IRELAND, by Tomie de Paola
This factual account details the life of the real St. Patrick, including why he is so beloved in his adopted country of Ireland. Anything Tomie de Paola touches becomes gold, and this is no exception.
I LIVE IN TOKYO, by Mari Takabayashi
There are plenty of nonfiction books for kids that spew endless facts about a destination. This is not one of them. The little girl Mimiko takes the reader on an almost-like-you’re-really-there adventure of food, sites, how to dress, festivals, and crafts. There are plenty of interactive games and projects to help your whole family feel immersed in Japanese culture.
BROTHERS IN HOPE: THE STORY OF THE LOST BOYS OF SUDAN, by Mary Williams (Author), R. Gregory Christie (Author), Gregory Christie (Illustrator)
It’s often tricky to approach subjects like war and civil unrest in a child-friendly manner. However, I want my kids aware of violations that must be corrected, and of how fortunate they are. This book does a beautiful job recounting how more than 20,000 orphaned boys escaped to other countries, without being overly violent or graphic. A beautiful introduction to an important civil rights matter.
THE VASA SAGA: THE STORY OF A SHIP, by Bertil Almqvist
We picked up this exciting book in Stockholm at the Vasa Museum. It details the history of Sweden’s most famous boat with beautiful illustrations and engaging stories.
NEW YORK CITY, by Paula Hannigan (Author), Shannon Chandler (Illustrator)
It seems there are dozens of board book travel series now, but this is one of my favorites. The gorgeous cutouts are so fun for little hands (but still sturdy!), and have a bit of meat to the text. Several cities have their own versions; I want them all.
ALL ABOUT THAILAND: STORIES, SONGS, CRAFTS, AND GAMES FOR KIDS, by Elaine Russell (Author), Patcharee Meesukhon (Illustrator), Vinit Yeesman (Illustrator)
This is another in the category of interactive and fun nonfiction books for kids. It’s filled with crafts, recipes, songs, folklore, and language lessons. You’ll truly feel like you’re on a journey to Thailand right from your home.
GREYFRIARS BOBBY, by Richard Brassey
Before we visited Edinburgh, we’d heard a bit about the Skye Terrier called Greyfriars Bobby. But it wasn’t until we arrived in Scotland that we realized just how beloved this little dog is. It was so sweet seeing his little statue, and learning more about the story of him guarding his master’s grave for over a decade after he died.
FESTIVAL OF COLORS, by Surishtha Sehgal (Author), Kabir Sehgal (Author), Vashti Harrison (Illustrator)
Holi is the Indian festival of colors and this gorgeous picture book perfectly reflects its vibrant hues and spring energy. The interesting festival history coupled with beautiful illustrations make this book perfect for kids of all ages.
HUMPHREY THE LOST WHALE: A TRUE STORY, by Wendy Tokuda (Author), Richard Hall (Author), Hanako Wakiyama (Illustrator)
I have a special affection for nonfiction books that read like the most engaging make-believe story. Humphrey does exactly that. The story of this humpback whale that wandered into the San Francisco Bay and took 26 days to work its way out is as sweet as it is captivating.
THE LIBRARIAN OF BASRA: A TRUE STORY FROM IRAQ, by Jeanette Winter
Any book about saving a library and its contents is right up my alley, especially when in the midst of war. Without being too scary for young children, Winter uses text and illustrations to bring to life the affect on victims of unrest.
UP AND DOWN THE ANDES, by Laurie Krebs (Author), Aurelia Fronty (Illustrator)
The rhymes in this book read like a fictional story, but take the reader all through Peru for the Inti Raymi festival. The folk art is the perfect complement to various forms of transportation, history, and culture of the country.
ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF THE SEAS, by Lynne Cox (Author), Brian Floca (Illustrator)
The elephant seal named Elizabeth keeps working her way back home to Christchurch, New Zealand, despite efforts to get her safely back to sea. This travel book for kids reminds me of Humphrey, from above. It details a sea animal that gets stuck where it doesn’t belong, but has lots of human friendship and help along the way. Plus, it’s illustrated by the incredible Brian Floca (who did some of my very favorites Locomotive and Moonshot), so you know it must be good.
WE’RE SAILING DOWN THE NILE, by Laurie Krebs (Author), Anne Wilson (Illustrator)
If your child wasn’t fascinated by sphinxes and pyramids before reading this book, he or she certainly will be after. Beautifully illustrated with a focus on the arts, this book travels through various Egyptian landmarks and draws you right onto the river.
THE 50 STATES: EXPLORE THE USA WITH 50 FACT-FILLED MAPS!, by Gabrielle Balkan (Author), Sol Linero (Illustrator)
If you’re looking for a book that shares travel facts in a fun and engaging way, this is the book for you. Colorful, interesting, and well organized, this book is our road trip staple.
PARIS HIDE-AND-SEEK: A GREAT CITY GAME BOOK, by Masumi (Author)
I love that this book provides a built-in activity for little eyes and minds. Kids hunt for hidden details while learning the history and description of various sites in Paris. Your kids will love discovering all the hidden details.
THIS IS THE WORLD: A GLOBAL TREASURY, by Miroslav Sasek
It would be impossible to put together a series of nonfiction travel books for kids without mentioning the “This Is” books. The collection is colorfully yet simply illustrated, with fun facts and a charming, vintage feel. The compilation is perfect for a virtual trip around the world. I love this treasury that has snippets from various different places, but all of the individual books are excellent, as well.
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