Teach Science With These Excellent Nonfiction Picture Book Series

The Common Core State Standards are being rolled out this fall, and teachers around the United States are looking for ways to incorporate more nonfiction books into their lessons. For many teachers, selecting nonfiction books to have students read is a daunting task. Here are sixteen excellent nonfiction series to get you started.

When looking for nonfiction books to incorporate into lessons, it makes sense to begin by becoming familiar with high quality nonfiction series. For teachers, becoming familiar with nonfiction series is an efficient way to become familiar with a lot of nonfiction books quickly. For students, reading multiple books in the same series helps students gain literacy skills. Students become competent at using the tables of content, indices, glossaries etc. that various series employ.

Myra Zarnowski recently wrote an article for School Library Journal with suggestions for incorporating nonfiction series into lessons entitled Nonfiction Series and the Common Core State Standards. Take a look!

Common Core Science

1. About… by Cathryn Sill and John Sill

About BirdsThe Sills’ About… series offers clear and concise introductions to the basic characteristics of various groups of animals and habitats. By concise, I mean concise. Each book is roughly ten sentences long. Kids will enjoy looking at John Sill’s detailed illustrations. Each book includes an afterward with more information about each animal pictured.

  • Books in series: About BirdsAbout MammalsAbout ReptilesAbout InsectsAbout AmphibiansAbout FishAbout ArachnidsAbout MollusksAbout MarsupialsAbout CrustaceansAbout RodentsAbout PenguinsAbout RaptorsAbout HummingbirdsAbout DesertsAbout GrasslandsAbout MountainsAbout Wetlands
  • Narrative* v. informational*: informational
  • Lexile: 290-770
  • Grade level: K+

2. Looking Closely… by Frank Serafini

Looking Closely Through the Rainforest

My kids love all of the books in Frank Serafini’s Looking Closely series. These books encourage kids to pay attention to the the details in nature. Each book has the same format. A detail from an image (e.g. a butterfly’s wing) on one page is followed by the entire image (e.g. the entire butterfly) on the following page.

  • Books in series: Looking Closely Along the Shore, Looking Closely Through the Forest, Looking Closely Inside the Garden, Looking Closely Across the Desert, Looking Closely in the Rain Forest, Looking Closely Around the Pond
  • Narrative v. informational: informational
  • Lexile: 500-610
  • Grade level: K+

3. Lets-Read-and-Find-Out Science by various authors

Animals in WinterWhile the books in the Lets-Read-and-Find-Out Science series vary considerably, they are (generally speaking) very well written. They do a great job of both informing and entertaining kids. Some are written in a narrative style. Some are written in an informative style. Most bridge the gap. The books are rated as either stage 1 or stage 2 books, but this rating system is not always accurate. Favorite authors: Franklyn Branley, Melvin Berger, Roma Gans, Wendy Pfeffer and Aliki

  • Books in series: There are nearly 200 books in this series, including Animals in Winter, The Big Dipper, Mission to Mars, Big Tracks Little Tracks, Bugs Are Insects, Digging Up Dinosaurs, Fossils Tell of Long Ago, Germs Make Me Sick! and Rock Collecting.
  • Narrative v. informational: both
  • Lexile: 300s-800s
  • Grade level: K+ (These vary considerably.)

4. Becoming Butterflies, Two Blue Jays and One Bean by Anne Rockwell and Megan Halsey

Becoming ButterfliesNot quite a series, these three books by Anne Rockwell and Megan Halsey are so great that I had to include them. These books describe curious kids studying butterflies, birds and a bean plant. They are written in a narrative style that is very engaging.

  • Books in series: Becoming Butterflies, Two Blue Jays, One Bean
  • Narrative v. informational: narrative
  • Lexile: 500-730
  • Grade level: K+

5. A __________‘s Life by John Himmelman

A Ladybug's LifeEach book in John Himmelman’s series offers a fairly straightforward description of a plant or animal’s life cycle. For example, A Luna Moth’s Life begins: “One night in late spring, a luna moth lays her eggs on a leaf. A week later, the luna larvae–or caterpillar–begins to hatch…” These stand out from other life cycle books because they are written clearly and concisely. They also feature neat illustrations that give readers a bug’s eye view of the world.

  • Books in series: A Dandelion’s Life, A House Spider’s Life, A Hummingbird’s Life, A Ladybug’s Life, A Luna Moth’s Life, A Mealworm’s Life, A Monarch Butterfly’s Life, A Mouse’s Life, A Pill Bug’s Life, A Salamander’s Life, A Slug’s Life, A Wood Frog’s Life, An Earthworm’s Life
  • Narrative v. informational: narrative
  • Lexile: 580
  • Grade level: K+

6. Caroline Arnold’s Animals: A __________’s World by Caroline Arnold

A Wombat's WorldCaroline Arnold’s books feature beautiful cut paper illustrations and engaging descriptions of the lives of young animals. For readers interested in learning more, Arnold includes introductory facts, glossaries, maps showing where each animal lives, fun facts, etc.

  • Books in series: A Polar Bear’s World, A Walrus’ World, A Moose’s World, A Bald Eagle’s World, A Koala’s World, A Kangaroo’s World, A Platypus’ World, A Wombat’s World, A Panda’s World, A Zebra’s World, A Penguin’s World, A Killer Whale’s World
  • Narrative v. informational: narrative
  • Lexile: 630-740
  • Grade level: K+

7. The Magic School Bus by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen

The Magic School Bus Inside the Human BodyWhile The Magic School Bus books are not among my personal favorites, I include them because they are such a hit with kids. This series succeeds in making learning fun. In each book, teacher Ms. Frizzle takes her class on a magical adventure on a school bus. The Magic School Bus has journeyed to the center of the earth in search of rocks, under the ocean to examine sea creatures, up into the clouds to learn about the water cycle and more.

  • Books in series: The Magic School Bus…At the Waterworks, Inside the Earth, Inside the Human Body, Lost in the Solar System, On the Ocean Floor, In the Time of the Dinosaurs, Inside a Hurricane, Inside a Beehive, And the Electric Field Trip, Explores the Senses, And the Science Fair Expedition, And the Climate Challenge
  • Narrative v. informational: narrative
  • Lexile: 180-610
  • Grade level: 1+

8. Kingfisher Young Knowledge by various authors

Animal HomesThe Kingfisher Young Knowledge books are introductory chapter books that can be used to introduce kids to using various text features (e.g. table of contents, index, glossary) to search for information. In Reptiles, kids can read very short two to three sentence chapters about temperature control, reptile skin, reptile senses and more. Each book in this series includes three craft projects.

  • Books in series: Reptiles, Weather, Insects, Planet Earth, Materials, Deserts, Whales and Dolphins, Animal Disguises, Senses, Solar System, Apes and Monkeys, Animal Homes
  • Narrative v. informational: informational
  • Lexile: ?
  • Grade level: 1+

9. Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing… by Jim Arnosky

Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing the BirdsIn this series, a fictional character named Crinkleroot goes on walks in the woods and, along the way, introduces readers to trees, birds, butterflies & moths and animal habitats. This format is engaging. Author Jim Arnosky provides an excellent introduction to each subject for budding naturalists.

  • Books in series: Crinkelroot’s Guide to Knowing the Trees, Crinkelroot’s Guide to Knowing the Birds, Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Butterflies & Moths, Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Animal Habitats
  • Narrative v. informational: narrative
  • Lexile: 730-920
  • Grade level: 1+

10. All About… by Jim Arnosky

All About FrogsEach book in Jim Arnosky’s All About… series begins with introductory questions to peak readers’ interest in the topic. These books are well written and feature accurate illustrations of various species. Informative side notes provide additional information for those interested in learning more.

  • Books in series: All About Alligators, All About Deer, All About Frogs, All About Lizards, All About Manatee, All About Owls, All About Rattlesnakes, All About Sharks, All About Turkeys, All About Turtles
  • Narrative v. informational: informational
  • Lexile: 770-930
  • Grade level: 1+

11. Jump Into Science by Steve Tomecek

StarsAuthor Steve Tomacek does an excellent job of explaining complicated subjects in a manner that is just right for kids. When I compiled my stars and space booklist and rocks booklist, I read numerous books on these subjects. In both cases, Tomacek’s books were among the best — written in a clear, engaging manner.

  • Books in series: Stars, Sun, Moon, Rocks & Minerals, Dirt
  • Narrative v. informational: informational
  • Lexile: 840-860
  • Grade level: 1+

12. Nic Bishop’s books: Spiders, Marsupials, Frogs etc.

Nic Bishop LizardsNic Bishop is a fantastic wildlife photographer. Many kids enjoy perusing Bishop’s books simply to marvel at his amazing images. While Bishop’s photographs will hook kids, the text of his books is clear and worth reading.

  • Books in series: Snakes, Lizards, Marsupials, Butterflies and Moths, Frogs, Spiders
  • Narrative v. informational: informational
  • Lexile: 820-950
  • Grade level: 2+

13. Peterson Field Guides For Young Naturalists

Peterson Field Guides for Young NaturalistsFantastic first field guides for children! The Peterson Field Guides For Young Naturalists include several features to help children learn to identify birds and butterflies themselves: a limited selection of species that kids are likely to see, illustrations as well as photographs of each species, and arrows pointing to features to look for when identifying each bird or butterfly.

  • Books in series: Backyard Birds, Butterflies, Songbirds, Caterpillars, Birds of Prey, Shorebirds, Bizarre Birds
  • Narrative v. informational: informational (field guides)
  • Lexile: ?
  • Grade level: 3+

14. Scientists in the Field by various authors

Scientists in the FieldEach book in the Scientists in the Field series describes a real life team of scientists engaged in field research. The Scientists in the Field books are more advanced than their lexile ratings suggest. They are long and describe subjects that will be unfamiliar to most young readers. Look especially for the books in this series written by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop.

  • Books in series: Kakapoo Rescue, Quest for the Tree Kangaroo, The Tarantula Scientist, Digging for Bird Dinosaurs, The Snake Scientist and more!
  • Narrative v. informational: narrative
  • Lexile: 830-950
  • Grade level: 4+

15. Ranger Rick Jr. and Ranger Rick magazines

Ranger RickChildren’s magazines like Ranger Rick Jr. and Ranger Rick are an excellent resource for teachers looking for informational texts to share with students. Each issue includes articles about a variety of science and nature topics.

  • Narrative v. informational: informational
  • Grade level: K+ (Ranger Rick Jr.), 2+ (Ranger Rick)

16. Click and Ask magazines

AskThe editors at Click and Ask magazines were clustering* long before Common Core experts began batting the term around. Each issue of Click and Ask focuses on a particular theme (e.g. simple machines, caves, gardening) and includes a variety of articles on that theme.

  • Narrative v. informational: both
  • Grade level: K+ (Click), 2+ (Ask)

*informational texts – Books written for the purpose of informing (i.e. nonfiction books). Informational texts have an expository style and no narrative arc.

*narrative texts – Books written for the purpose of informing (i.e. nonfiction books). Narrative texts have a narrative arc with a beginning, middle and end.

*clustering – Selecting a variety of texts for students to read within the same genre or on the same theme.

You may also be interested in these booklists: 

This entry was posted in Ages 5+, Ages 6+, Ages 7+, Ages 8+, nonfiction books and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Teach Science With These Excellent Nonfiction Picture Book Series

  1. Excellent list Amy! Too many people rely on poor series non-fiction choices. These are all stellar recommendations that every library should have!

  2. Natalie says:

    I am definitely pinning this list! My 6 year old always enjoyed non-fiction, but now she is a lot more selective and wants facts woven into a good story, so I like that you split your list into narrative vs. informational.

    • Amy says:

      Yes! I included the narrative/informational designations for teachers looking to incorporate a variety of types of nonfiction books in their lessons. But, I think many kids will read narrative nonfiction for fun who might not read informational nonfiction. My 6-year-old daughter falls in that category too.

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