Our Most Popular Non Fiction Series for Children

IMG_3100When biography and nonfiction book reports are assigned in school, there is one series that most middle grade readers go to first. Most will head straight for the Who Was biographies and the What Was and Where Is nonfiction series. These books cut straight to the important facts about the subject matter, while making the reading both fun and interesting. In fact, these books are so popular that it is hard to keep them on the shelf even when there are no school projects looming. To see just how few of these popular books actually are in the library right now, check out the small wooden stand outside the Teens Room.

whowas1This series is published by Penguin, and covers an extensive list of people, places, and events that are important historically or are currently relevant in pop culture. The books are easily recognizable by the caricature style drawing of biography subjects and bold cartoon work of all their covers.  There are also illustrations throughout the books and extra bits of information that make the reading more fun. For big fans of the series Penguin has a website where readers can keep track of which books they have read and test their knowledge.

whowas2There is a book club here at the library that meets once a month and focuses on the Who Was series. About a month before each meeting, a librarian will select a book from the series for everyone to read. At the meeting, readers chat about what they discovered in the book and do one or more fun activities inspired by that person’s life. For more info on when the group is meeting check out our events calendar.

what1Here is a small sampling of the wide variety of people, places, and events this series explores; Who is Jane Goodall? by Roberta Edwards, What is the World Series? by Gail Herman, What was the Battle of Gettysburg? by Jim O’Connor, Who was Dr. Seuss? by Janet Pascal, What was Hurricane Katrina? by Robin Koontz, Who was Betsy Ross? by James Buckley, Where is Mount Rushmore? by True Kelley, Who was Frederick Douglass? by April Jones, What is the Panama Canal? by Janet B. Pascal, Who is Stan Lee? by Geoff Edgers, What was the March on Washington? by Kathleen Krull, and Where is the Great Wall? by Patricia Brennan Demuth.

Nonfiction Can Be Fun: 10 LOL Titles About Serious Subjects

I almost fell off my chair last week when a friend told me he never reads nonfiction because it was boring and no fun. As I madly started listing nonfiction books that I had enjoyed, he held up his hands. Although I had been, ahem, speaking vehemently, it was a gesture of appeasement, not protection. He liked to learn things, he explained, but couldn’t stand being bored by dry dissertations. He asked if I could come up with ten books that were instructional and fun.

You betcha!

BoomerangBoomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis
A candid and humorous look at the global financial crisis of 2002-2009. Lewis examines five cultures that were hit hard: The Icelanders, who wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers. The Greeks, who wanted to turn their country into a piñata stuffed with cash and allow as many citizens as possible to take a whack at it. The Germans, who wanted to be even more German. The Irish, who wanted to stop being Irish. And the Americans, who were “Too Fat to Fly”.

HolyHoly Shit: A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr
With humor and insight, Melissa Mohr takes readers on a journey to discover how “swearing” has come to include both testifying with your hand on the Bible and calling someone a *#$&!* when they cut you off on the highway. You will definitely learn some new words.


eatsEats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
by Lynne Truss
Former editor Lynne Truss, gravely concerned about our current grammatical state, boldly defends proper punctuation. Using examples from literature, history, neighborhood signage, and her own imagination, Truss shows how meaning is shaped by commas and apostrophes, and the hilarious consequences of punctuation gone awry. Think “sign fail photos” you see on Facebook.


stuffStuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World
by Mark Miodownik
Why is glass see-through? What makes elastic stretchy? These are the sorts of questions that renowned materials scientist Mark Miodownik constantly asks himself. Full of tales of the miracles of engineering that permeate our lives, Stuff Matters will make you see stuff in a whole new way. Investigate chapters titled “Invisible” and “Immortal” and the all-important “Delicious”.

lookingWhat Are You Looking at? The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art
by Will Gompertz
What is Modern Art? Who started it? Why do we love/hate it? And, most importantly, why does it cost so darn much? Will Gompertz takes the reader on a captivating tour of modern art, telling the story of the movements, the artists and the works that changed art forever. Refreshing, irreverent, and extremely accessible, this is art history with a sense of humor

peaceNow I Can Die in Peace: How ESPN’s Sports Guy Found Salvation with a Little Help from Nomar, Pedro, Shawshank, and the 2004 Red Sox
by Bill Simmons
No more worrying about living an entire life — that’s 80 years, followed by death — without seeing the Red Sox win a World Series. But then Bill Simmons began asking questions: Why didn’t he see it coming? Why didn’t it happen sooner? What was the key deal, the lucky move, the sign from above that he failed to spot? The result is a hilarious look at some of the best sportswriting in America, with sharp critical commentary and new insights from the guy who wrote it in the first place.
poohThe Tao of Pooh
by Benjamin Hoff
The how of Pooh? The Tao of who? The Tao of Pooh!?! In which it is revealed that one of the world’s great Taoist masters isn’t Chinese–or a venerable philosopher–but is in fact none other than that effortlessly calm, still, reflective bear. Learn the How of Pooh, the Now of Pooh and all about Cottleston Pie.


BlissThe Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World
by Eric Weiner
Travel from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness, or, in the crabby author’s case, moments of “un-unhappiness.” The book uses a beguiling mixture of travel, psychology, science, and humor to investigate not what happiness is, but where it is. With chapter titles that assert that “Happiness is Boredom” and “Happiness is Somewhere Else” how can it miss?


MentalThe Mental Floss History of the United States: The (Almost) Complete and (Entirely) Entertaining Story of America
by Erik Sass with Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur
Featuring episodes from history that fall under titles such as “Drunk and Illiterate” and “Time for Your Bloodbath” this book is an entertaining and educational look at America’s past. So if you are in an “Empire State of Mind” and are wondering about “Sex, Drugs, and Mocking Roles” take a smiling stroll through the pages of this offbeat, memorable book.

RoadWay Off the Road: Discovering the Peculiar Charms of Small Town America
by Bill Geist
Who wouldn’t love a travel book that has chapters like “The Church of the Holy BBQ”, “The Cow Photographer”, and “Frozen Dead Guy”?