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Most Popular Kids’ Nonfiction Books in 2021

The Seattle Public Library’s most popular nonfiction books for young readers are a surprising collection

Published on: February 02, 2022

Cute little girl is at home, reading a book in front of her kid's tent

What true stories did Seattle’s children turn to in 2021? While The Seattle Public Library’s most popular fiction books for kids were fairly unsurprising — bestselling titles by Dav Pilkey, Raina Telgemeier and Mo Willems dominated — the most popular kids’ nonfiction books last year were a more varied, surprising collection.

Young Library patrons checked out nonfiction books that tackled topics ranging from Minecraft to Mae Jemison, from Dreamers to dinosaurs.

The Seattle Public Library’s 12 most popular physical books in kids’ nonfiction, 2021

  1. This Is How We Do It book coverThis Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids From Around the World by Matt Lamothe. Follow the real lives of seven kids from Italy, Japan, Iran, India, Peru, Uganda and Russia for a single day.
  2. Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor; illustrated by Rafael López. In this warm and inclusive story by the U.S. Supreme Court Justice, readers join along as differently abled kids use their strengths to work together and learn about each other.
  3. We Are Grateful = Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell; illustrated by Frané Lessac. Journey through the year with a Cherokee family and their tribal nation as they express thanks for celebrations big and small.
  4. Guide to Ocean Survival by Stephanie Milton; illustrated by Ryan Marsh. This guide will teach you how to breathe underwater, find valuable sunken loot, and fight off guardians and other menacing mobs of the deep.
  5. Where the Sidewalk Ends: The Poems and Drawings of Shel Silverstein. A boy who turns into a TV set and a girl who eats a whale are only two of the characters in this classic collection of humorous poetry.
  6. Dreamers book coverDreamers by Yuyi Morales. An illustrated picture book autobiography in which award-winning author Yuyi Morales tells her own immigration story.
  7. Minecraft: Guide to Enchantments and Potions by Stephanie Milton; additional materials by Marsh Davies; illustrated by Ryan Marsh and Joe Bolder. This official guide will teach you how to enchant your equipment with useful effects and brew all manner of potions.
  8. The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague by Julia Finley Mosca; illustrated by Daniel Rieley. A rhyming picture book about how Raye Montague overcame sexism and racial inequality to become a pioneer who changed the course of ship design forever.
  9. Dinosaurs! by Gail Gibbons. A book that offers young dino-enthusiasts a timeless and accessible look at these magnificent creatures.
  10. It’s Not the Stork! A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends by Robie H. Harris; illustrated by Michael Emberley. From the expert team behind “It’s Perfectly Normal and It’s So Amazing!” comes a book for younger children about their bodies.
  11. Curious Kids Nature Guide: Explore the Amazing Outdoors of the Pacific Northwest by Fiona Cohen; illustrated by Marni Fylling. This book by Seattle writer Fiona Cohen encourages kids to discover and explore nature in their own backyards and beyond.
  12. Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed; illustrated by Stasia Burrington. A fictional portrait of a young Mae Jemison, whose parents supported her dream of becoming an astronaut.

The Library’s 12 most popular e-books in kids’ nonfiction, 2021

  1. Best Friends by Shannon Hale and LeYuen Pam. When she becomes part of the in-crowd, Shannon begins to question whether she wants to remain there, in a story about popularity, first boyfriends and finding a path in life.
  2. Epic Athletes: LeBron James book coverEpic Athletes: LeBron James by Dan Wetzel. Filled with sports action and bold illustrations, this exciting biography tells the story of the NBA legend.
  3. The Unofficial Guide to Engineering in Minecraft by Sam Keppeler. Young readers and gaming fans will learn about the past and present of human engineering, glimpsing a vision toward the future.
  4. Forgotten Bones: Uncovering a Slave Cemetery by Lois Miner Huey. The story of a construction site that became just the third slave cemetery ever to be excavated in the North.
  5. The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary by Jeff Kinney. Script pages, storyboard sketches, costume designs and original art from the “Wimpy Kid” movies.
  6. Major Impossible book coverMajor Impossible by Nathan Hale. In 1869, John Wesley Powell embarked with the Colorado River Exploring Expedition to float through the Grand Canyon. Ten explorers went in, but only six came out.

  7. Ultimate Shark Rumble by Jerry Pallotta. Readers will learn about each animal’s anatomy, behavior and more, then compare and contrast before finally discovering the winner!
  8. Real Friends by Shannon Hale. When her best friend Adrienne starts hanging out with the most popular girl in class, Shannon questions whether she and Adrienne will stay friends, and if she is part of the clique.
  9. The Minecraft Guide to Enchantments & Potions by Shannon Milton. This official guide will teach you how to enchant your equipment with useful effects and brew all manner of potions to protect yourself.
  10. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. In free-verse poems about growing up in the North and South the author shares her childhood memories and reveals the first sparks that ignited her writing career.
  11. Who Is Jeff Kinney? by Patrick Kinney. From Jeff’s childhood pranks to his job developing online games, kids will love the chance to learn more about the creator of the popular “Wimpy Kid” series.
  12. Falcon vs. Hawk by Jerry Pallotta. What would happen if a peregrine falcon and a red-tailed hawk met each other? What if they had to fight? Who do you think would win?

Want more ideas? Check out this list of SPL staff faves for more great 2021 children’s book titles.

Editor's note: This article was first published on The Seattle Public Library's Shelf Talk Blog, and was republished here by permission.

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