Narrative nonfiction books
Narrative nonfiction genre books for 5-13-year-olds – our recommendations. True stories, and especially illustrated true stories, can be an excellent way to stimulate, challenge and encourage children who do not enjoy longer chapter book fiction. High-quality, well-written narrative nonfiction books can also be invaluable resources for teachers looking for more entertaining comprehension material and texts to use for modelling recounts and literary nonfiction writing.
Chronological and thematic recount prose can also inspire greater depth learning and independent home learning projects. This list of nonfiction narratives includes true stories, anecdotes, recounts, interviews, and ‘a day in the life‘ guides for your school library – including nonfiction illustrated books, picture books, and real-life stories recounting actual historical events. This list includes titles by authors including Dr Christle Nwora, David Long, Roma Agrawal, Stefan Milosavljevich, Alexandra Stewart, William Grill, Britta Teckentrup and Andy Seed.
Narrative nonfiction books for classrooms, home-learning and school libraries – our recommended titles
The Book of Sisters by Olivia Meikle and Kate Nelson
A beautiful book, and one that will make a fantastic present for siblings, a great classroom read, or a standout non-fiction school library book. Written by women’s history podcast ‘What’s Her Name’ presenters, Katie Nelson and Olivia Meikle, this nonfiction narrative spans history, cultures and geography, including why Cleopatra warred with her sister Arsinoe in Ancient Egypt, and the story of Native American ballerinas Maria and Marjorie Tallchief. This book also includes a useful glossary and index – perfect for classroom topic research.
Cross-curricular link – Biographies
Interview with a Shark & Other Ocean Giants Too by Andy Seed
This clever and informative non-fiction book explores the world of sharks and other ocean creatures by interviewing them with interesting questions. Including witty and revealing responses from – amongst others – a Bull Shark, Orca, Octopus and a Narwhal; children in KS2 will be kept interested by the humour, facts and eye-catching illustrations. Ideal for sea-life topics, newspaper and journalism units in years 4-6 and extended home-learning projects.
Topic link – Under the Sea
How Was That Built?: The Stories Behind Awesome Structures by Roma Agrawal
This cracking large format illustrated hardback guides the reader through the history, science and stories behind some of man’s most incredible constructions. Including building satellites and stations for space, the story behind the amazing Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico, the design and technology history of the Shard in London and stories of surprising underground feats of engineering. It’s an ideal book for KS2 children who love to read about the real world.
Cross-curricular link – STEM
Spies by David Long
This book will thrust you into a clandestine world of spies, intrigue and secrets. A magnificent large-format hardback, it’s perfect for the school library and will keep 9-12-year-olds thoroughly absorbed. The true stories are carefully picked and explore each spy’s background, motivation, and fate. Featuring chapters on Roald Dahl, Witold Pilecki, Claus Helberg, Elyesa Bazna, Krystyna Skarbek and more, the high-quality text vividly conveys tension, danger and heroism, and is perfectly suited to readers in upper KS2 and KS3. Highly recommended.
Human Kindness: True Stories of Compassion and Generosity that Changed the World by John Francis
Exploring true stories of human kindness from around the world and throughout history, this is an uplifting illustrated nonfiction book. Including the stories of Harriet Tubman, the Nomads Clinic, the Linda Lindas and more, themes of human rights, slavery, resilience and making the world a better place are explored. Perfect for teachers who are setting expectations and encouraging positive behaviours, it’s also ideal to read and discuss with KS2 classes at the start of the school year.
Cross-curricular link: PSHE
The Wolves of Currumpaw by William Grill
A remarkable and award-winning true story about a hunter tasked with trapping the leader of a legendary pack of wolves in rural New Mexico in the 1800s. Set to charming painterly illustrations throughout, this is a beautiful book to read alone, share or with a whole class in KS2. By the author/illustrator of ‘Shackleton’s Journey’.
Cross-curricular link – History
Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay and Alexandra Stewart
With magnificent full-page illustrations and gripping text, the unforgettable story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay – the first climbers to successfully ascend Everest – is told through short bursts of story, maps, survival guides, biography, diagrams, diary entries, anecdotes and historical recount. It’s a wonderful high-quality text to inspire less confident and reluctant readers in KS2. There’s also a free pack of resources and lesson plans for teachers, produced by the publisher, Bloomsbury.
Together We Can by Ned Hartley
The 40 stories in this collection include the origins and history of the Black Lives Matter movement, the invention of type and printing, and Louis and Marie Pasteur’s discovery of germs. Well-written vignettes of inspiration present true stories of challenge, teamwork and achievement. A meticulously presented hardback with vibrant and contemporary graphic illustrations, ‘Together We Can’ is an uplifting and motivational book for upper KS2 and lower KS3 libraries.
Resilience | Inspirational
Tales of the Ancient Worlds by Stefan Milosavljevich
Dig into true stories spanning thousands of years and every continent in the world in this spectacular large-format hardback packed with narrative retellings of key archaeological discoveries. Written by YouTuber Stefan Milosavljevich, this book will introduce children to different cultures, civilisations, artefacts, and the work of archaeologists. Highlights include the story of the terracotta army that lay buried and hidden for over 2000 years, and how Ice Age temples were constructed from giant mammoth bones. This marvellous book will be a hit in primary school libraries and at home.
Cross-curricular link – History
TfL: The Story of the London Underground by David Long
This fascinating illustrated history follows the inception of the London Underground in 1863 over the subsequent century and a half to the present day. It tells the stories of abandoned stations, wartime bomb shelters, strange escalators and Victorian innovations. It’s an absorbing long read to share across age groups and with the whole family.
Cross-curricular link – Transport
Iceberg by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Jess Racklyeft
Experience the life of an iceberg, during night and day, all four seasons and through the eyes of creature living above it, on it and below it. This spectacular narrative nonfiction picture book includes an undersea foldout panorama and lyrical text with rich figurative language and powerful verbs that will appeal to teachers in KS1 and lower KS2. Perfect to read and discuss in literacy lessons, Iceberg is also ideal to inspire topic work on Antarctica, climate change and the ocean.
Topic links – Antarctica | Environment
Bugs (A Day in the Life) by Dr Jessica L. Ware
Told as an hour-by-hour narrative taking place from 7 am to 10 pm, Dr Jessica Ware’s expert commentary is a fascinating read. It’s a nonfiction rollercoaster story from the world of creepy crawlies, featuring a spectacular and illuminating ending. Pupils will experience memorable moments of nature, such as a dragonfly’s thrilling escape from a sticky end involving a hungry frog; the dance of the mayflies and a tense Orchid Mantis confrontation. The punchy, bold illustrations are highly engaging and this book is an excellent choice for children aged 7-11 and KS2 school libraries.
Cross-curricular link – Minibeasts
The House by the Lake: The Story of a Home and a Hundred Years of History by Thomas Harding and Britta Teckentrup
This moving and emotive history of a non-descript wooden house by the side of a lake near Berlin belies a richly woven tapestry of social comment, cultural history and politics both within and outside its walls. Through time, this one home saw the lives of a persecuted family of Jews, a musician who composed pieces for Nazi political rallies and, after WW2, a resident who informed on their neighbours on the communist East Germany state security side of the Berlin wall. It’s a fascinating picture book story that will provoke discussion.
History | PSHE
The Hospital: The Inside Story by Dr Christle Nwora
This fly-on-the-wall narrative focuses on all the people you might see working at the hospital – from doctors and nurses to paramedics and physiotherapists. Each person is revealed through a pen portrait packed with facts about where they work, what they do, what equipment they use and what their conversations are. Skilfully placing the reader in the middle of the hospital world, this immersive book offers KS2 children an intimate and compelling insight. It’s useful to explore with children who are anxious about visiting a hospital as well as pupils who are interested in how medicine and healthcare work.
Topic link – People Who Help Us
The Story of Slavery by Sarah Courtauld
This compelling history of slavery is presented through a series of moving first-person true stories spanning 2000 years and multiple continents and civilisations. It includes illustrated accounts of courageous escapes, resistance and defiance; and brings events full circle to parts of the world where, today, slavery still exists. A useful resource for KS2 libraries and discussion in PSHE.
Heroes: Incredible True Stories of Courageous Animals by David Long
Containing 33 stories of incredible animal heroism, perseverance and courage, this immersive and highly illustrated paperback will keep upper KS2 pupils glued to reading. Heroes include fascinating real-life tales about how a bear, dogs, a donkey, cats, and birds have all saved lives during times of conflict around the world. For KS2 and lower KS3 teachers, David Long’s book is the perfect resource for interesting non-fiction comprehension work and recount writing modelling. It’s an inspirational read for fans of narrative nonfiction in years 5-7.
Narrative nonfiction books – bulk orders and class sets
To buy a pack of all or some of the books in this list, or to order class sets of book(s) in this list, please click the button below to order via uk.bookshop.org, an organisation that supports local bookshops.
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Narrative nonfiction resources
- National Non-Fiction November and National Non-Fiction Day are held on the first Thursday in November.
- The SLA Information Book Award is a great award to follow to key an eye on both new and high-quality true-life stories for your classrooms, students, teaching and school libraries.
- Narrative nonfiction references in the KS1 and KS2 National Curriculum. “Pupils should continue to have opportunities to listen frequently to stories, poems, nonfiction and other writing, including whole books and not just extracts.“
- Narrative nonfiction references in the KS3 National Curriculum. “…reading a wide range of fiction and non-fiction, including in particular whole books, short stories, poems and plays with a wide coverage of genres, historical periods, forms and authors.“
- The importance of nonfiction stories – detailed in this report by NFER – “The Reading Repertoire at KS2“.
- Neon Squid is a publisher that specialises in large format, highly illustrated nonfiction – especially narrative nonfiction. View Neon Squid books here.
- An insightful article by the CLPE about using nonfiction in the primary classroom.
- For teachers – From Me to We: Using Narrative Nonfiction to Broaden Student Perspectives by Jason Griffith is an excellent resource to use with secondary-age pupils in KS3 and KS4 to help them read with empathy, write effective personal accounts, and develop rich and memorable written recounts.
- BBC Bitesize offers a free series of video and interactive resources to demonstrate the key differences between fiction and nonfiction. Ideal for primary classroom IWBs and wall panels.