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16 New and Noteworthy Narrative Nonfiction Books For Kids

Looking for the best new narrative nonfiction books for kids? These brand new narrative nonfiction picture books for elementary students are engaging for primary and upper elementary kids. Books with lesson plans and activities linked. Picture books about various topics such as historical figures, historical events and more for your kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade students. Your students will delight in these brand new books!

If you’re a member of the Picture Book Brain Trust Community, you already have access to EVERY lesson plan and activity for these books! Just click on the Lesson Plans button in the menu!

Narrative Non-Fiction Books

Here are some of my favorite narrative non-fiction books for kids. If you’re looking for more ideas for specific grade levels I have great narrative nonfiction book lists for each grade level. Check them out here:

15 Narrative Nonfiction Books for Kindergarten

21 Narrative Nonfiction Books for 1st Grade

29 Narrative Nonfiction Books for 2nd Grade

37 Narrative Nonfiction Books For 3rd Grade

42 Narrative Nonfiction Books for 4th Grade

40 Narrative Nonfiction Books For 5th Grade

Planting Stories: The Life Of Librarian And Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Denise

An inspiring picture book biography of Latin American storyteller, puppeteer, and New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian, who championed bilingual literature.

When she came to America in 1921, Pura Belpré carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular retellings into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and storytellers continue to share her tales and celebrate Pura’s legacy.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Planting Stories: The Life Of Librarian And Storyteller Pura Belpré HERE

Want a free lesson and activities for Planting Stories? Let me know where I should send it:

Without Separation by Larry Dane Brimner

Roberto Alvarez’s world changed the day he could no longer attend Lemon Grove Grammar School in the small, rural community where he lived near San Diego, California. He and the other Mexican American students were told they had to go to a new, separate school—one where they would not hold back the other students. But Roberto and the other students and their families believed the new school’s real purpose was to segregate, to separate. They didn’t think that was right, or just, or legal.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Without Separation HERE

Looking for the best new narrative nonfiction books for kids? These brand new narrative nonfiction picture books for elementary students are engaging for primary and upper elementary kids. Books with lesson plans and activities linked. Picture books about various topics such as historical figures, historical events and more for your kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade students. Your students will delight in these brand new books!
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The People’s Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought For Justice With Art by Cynthia Levinson

“The first thing I can remember,” Ben said, “I drew.”
As an observant child growing up in Lithuania, Ben Shahn yearns to draw everything he sees—and, after seeing his father banished by the Czar for demanding workers’ rights, he develops a keen sense of justice, too.

So when Ben and the rest of his family make their way to America, Ben brings both his sharp artistic eye and his desire to fight for what’s right. As he grows, he speaks for justice through his art—by disarming classmates who bully him because he’s Jewish, by defying his teachers’ insistence that he paint beautiful landscapes rather than true stories, by urging the US government to pass Depression-era laws to help people find food and jobs.
In this moving and timely portrait, award-winning author Cynthia Levinson and illustrator Evan Turk honor an artist, immigrant, and activist whose work still resonates today: a true painter for the people.

Nicky and Vera by Peter Sis

In December 1938, a young Englishman canceled a ski vacation and went instead to Prague to help the hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Nazis who were crowded into the city. Setting up a makeshift headquarters in his hotel room, Nicholas Winton took names and photographs from parents desperate to get their children out of danger. He raised money, found foster families in England, arranged travel and visas, and, when necessary, bribed officials and forged documents. In the frantic spring and summer of 1939, as the Nazi shadow fell over Europe, he organized the transportation of almost 700 children to safety.

Then, when the war began and no more children could be rescued, he put away his records and told no one. It was only fifty years later that a chance discovery and a famous television appearance brought Winton’s actions to light.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Nicky and Vera HERE

The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver by Gene Barretta

When George Washington Carver was just a young child, he had a secret: a garden of his own.

Here, he rolled dirt between his fingers to check if plants needed more rain or sun. He protected roots through harsh winters, so plants could be reborn in the spring. He trimmed flowers, spread soil, studied life cycles. And it was in this very place that George’s love of nature sprouted into something so much more—his future.

Get the lesson plan and activities for The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver HERE

Above the Rim by Jen Bryant

Hall-of-famer Elgin Baylor was one of basketball’s all-time-greatest players—an innovative athlete, team player, and quiet force for change. One of the first professional African-American players, he inspired others on and off the court. But when traveling for away games, many hotels and restaurants turned Elgin away because he was black. One night, Elgin had enough and staged a one-man protest that captured the attention of the press, the public, and the NBA.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Above the Rim HERE

The Oldest Student by Rita Lorraine Hubbard

In 1848, Mary Walker was born into slavery. At age 15, she was freed, and by age 20, she was married and had her first child. By age 68, she had worked numerous jobs, including cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and selling sandwiches to raise money for her church. At 114, she was the last remaining member of her family. Later, at 116, she learned to read. From Rita Lorraine Hubbard and rising star Oge More comes the inspirational story of Mary Walker, a woman whose long life spanned from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, and who–with perseverance and dedication–proved that you’re never too old to learn. Also a great book to read during Black History Month!

Get the lesson plan and activities for The Oldest Student HERE

The Cat Man of Aleppo by Irene Latham

Alaa loves Aleppo, but when war comes his neighbors flee to safety, leaving their many pets behind. Alaa decides to stay–he can make a difference by driving an ambulance, carrying the sick and wounded to safety. One day he hears hungry cats calling out to him on his way home. They are lonely and scared, just like him. He feeds and pets them to let them know they are loved. The next day, more cats come, and then even more! There are too many for Alaa to take care of on his own. Alaa has a big heart, but he will need help from others if he wants to keep all of his new friends safe.

Get the lesson plan and activities for The Cat Man of Aleppo HERE

Mario and the Hole in the Sky by Elizabeth Rusch

The true story of how a scientist saved the planet from environmental disaster.

Mexican American Mario Molina is a modern-day hero who helped solve the ozone crisis of the 1980s. Growing up in Mexico City, Mario was a curious boy who studied hidden worlds through a microscope. As a young man in California, he discovered that CFCs, used in millions of refrigerators and spray cans, were tearing a hole in the earth’s protective ozone layer. Mario knew the world had to be warned–and quickly. Today Mario is a Nobel laureate and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His inspiring story gives hope in the fight against global warming.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Mario and the Hole in the Sky HERE

RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford

Aretha Franklin was born to sing. The daughter of a pastor and a gospel singer, her musical talent was clear from her earliest days in her father’s Detroit church where her soaring voice spanned more than three octaves. Her string of hit songs earned her the title “the Queen of Soul,” multiple Grammy Awards, and a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But Aretha didn’t just raise her voice in song, she also spoke out against injustice and fought for civil rights. This book is told through musical verse with award-winning illustrations by Frank Morrison.

In addition to being one of my favorite books for Women’s History Month, I also really like it for women in sports and entertainment and to talk about different forms of activism.

Get the lesson plan and activities for RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul HERE

Paper Son by Julie Leung

Before he became an artist named Tyrus Wong, he was a boy named Wong Geng Yeo. He traveled across a vast ocean from China to America with only a suitcase and a few papers. Not papers for drawing–which he loved to do–but immigration papers to start a new life. Once in America, Tyrus seized every opportunity to make art, eventually enrolling at an art institute in Los Angeles. Working as a janitor at night, his mop twirled like a paintbrush in his hands. Eventually, he was given the opportunity of a lifetime–and using sparse brushstrokes and soft watercolors, Tyrus created the iconic backgrounds of Bambi. An excellent story about a lesser known Asian American.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Paper Son HERE

Unspeakable by Carole Boston Weatherford

Celebrated author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrator Floyd Cooper provide a powerful look at the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our nation’s history. The book traces the history of African Americans in Tulsa’s Greenwood district and chronicles the devastation that occurred in 1921 when a white mob attacked the Black community.

News of what happened was largely suppressed, and no official investigation occurred for seventy-five years. This picture book sensitively introduces young readers to this tragedy and concludes with a call for a better future.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Unspeakable HERE

Sharuko by Monica Brown

Growing up in the late 1800s, Julio Tello, an Indigenous boy, spent time exploring the caves and burial grounds in the foothills of the Peruvian Andes. Nothing scared Julio, not even the ancient human skulls he found. His bravery earned him the boyhood nickname Sharuko, which means brave in Quechua, the language of the Native people of Peru. At the age of twelve, Julio moved to Lima to continue his education.

Over his lifetime, Julio Tello made many revolutionary discoveries at archaeological sites around Peru, and he worked to preserve the historical treasures he excavated. He showed that Peru’s Indigenous cultures had been established thousands of years ago, disproving the popular belief that Peruvian culture had been introduced more recently from other countries. He fostered pride in his country’s Indigenous ancestry, making him a hero to all Peruvians. Because of the brave man once known as Sharuko, people around the world today know of Peru’s long history and its living cultural legacy.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Sharuko HERE

This Very Tree by Sean Rubin

In the 1970s, nestled between the newly completed Twin Towers in New York City, a Callery pear tree was planted. Over the years, the tree provided shade for people looking for a place to rest and a home for birds, along with the first blooms of spring. On September 11, 2001, everything changed. The tree’s home was destroyed, and it was buried under the rubble. But a month after tragedy struck, responders discovered something: the tree had survived.

Dubbed the “Survivor Tree,” it was moved to the Bronx to recover, and in the thoughtful care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the Callery pear was nursed back to health. Almost a decade later, the Survivor Tree returned home and was planted in the 9/11 Memorial to provide beauty and comfort…and also hope. One of the newest additions to my favorite September read alouds!

Get the lesson plan and activities for This Very Tree HERE

The Key From Spain by Debbie Levy

When Flory’s ancestors are forced to leave Spain during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, they take with them their two most precious possessions―the key to their old house and the Ladino language. Later, when Flory flees Europe during World War II to begin a new life in the United States, she carries Ladino with her, along with her other precious possessions―her harmoniku and her music. But what of the key? An interesting story about a famous Jewish American!

The Book Rescuer by Sue Macy

Over the last forty years, Aaron Lansky has jumped into dumpsters, rummaged around musty basements, and crawled through cramped attics. He did all of this in pursuit of a particular kind of treasure, and he’s found plenty. Lansky’s treasure was any book written Yiddish, the language of generations of European Jews. When he started looking for Yiddish books, experts estimated there might be about 70,000 still in existence. Since then, the MacArthur Genius Grant recipient has collected close to 1.5 million books, and he’s finding more every day.

Best Narrative Nonfiction Books 2021

What are some of your favorite narrative nonfiction books 2021 Are there any must read narrative nonfiction books of 2021 that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!

Want a free lesson and activities for Planting Stories? Let me know where I should send it:

Looking for the best new narrative nonfiction books for kids? These brand new narrative nonfiction picture books for elementary students are engaging for primary and upper elementary kids. Books with lesson plans and activities linked. Picture books about various topics such as historical figures, historical events and more for your kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade students. Your students will delight in these brand new books!
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Hey there! I’m Josh from Picture Book Brain here to share only the best literature for you to use with your students. If you are looking for a specific book, use the search bar below to check my archives. Glad you’re here, and glad to help you!

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