Just the Facts, Ma'am: Non-fiction Books for Third Graders

Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole (Series Wall)

These popular series is actually three series, each of which uses a fictional framework (a wacky teacher uses a magic school bus to take her class on field trips) to teach scientific facts--these titles are an excellent way of encouraging non-fiction reading by children who prefer, or just have little experience with, non-fiction. The author was one of the first to incorporate a true blend of text and illustration in non-fiction writing. Despite the pictures, the text of the original series is actually written at a "chapter book level" and is especially good for visual learners. Joanna Cole has also added two more "traditionally structred" magic school bus books: "The Magic School Bus Chapter Books" and the "Magic School Bus Readers."

National Geographic Science Chapters

This chapter book series is a good reading choice for children who are fans of Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" and other science and nature television programs. This series covers a range of topics; each title is located at the call number for its topic. Here are a the locations of a few popular titles to get you started:

  Into the Earth: The Story of Caves by Meredith Costain (J 551.44 COS)

  Mysteries of the Sea by Marianne Morrison (J 551.46 MOR)

  Venus Flytraps, Bladderworts, and. . . by Moica Halpern (J 580 HAL)

  Serengeti Journey: On Safari in Africa by Gare Thompson (J 599 THO)

  Amazon Journey: Cruising the Rain Forest  by Gare Thompson (J 918 THO)

National Geographic Kids Readers series

Similar to the National Geographic Science Chapters described above, but written at lower reading levels (the titles in the series are labeled with different reading levels). The series covers a range of titles, each of which is at the dewey number for its subject; some of the more popular titles are listed here to get you started.

   Weird Sea Creatures by Laura Marsh (JE 591.77 MAR)

   Spiders by Laura Marsh (JE 595.4 MAR)

   Polar Bears by Laura Marsh (JE 599.786 MAR)

   Monkeys by Anne Schreiber (JE599.8 SCH)

   Ponies by Laura Marsh (JE 636.1 MAR)

The Great St. Lawrence Seaway by Gail Gibbons (J 386 GIB)

Children who love Legos and hands-on museum exhibits will be enjoy how engineering knowledge (along with the efforts of 15,000 workers) overcame many obstacles to create the world's largest inland waterway.

Behond..the Dragons by Gail Gibbons (JE 398.2 GIB)

Wondering why a book about dragons is on the non-fiction list? Gail Gibbons explains that a long time ago, people actually thought that dragons were real. She explains why this was and the different ideas that people, in different parts of the world and during different times in history, have had about dragons. This title is a good way to encourage children who enjoy fairy tales and fantasy to read non-fiction.

The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins (J 595.76 JEN)

We often think about biodiversity in terms of leopards in the rain forests and polar bears in the arctic (or, for adults, finches on the Galapagos Islands), but in this book, Steve Jenkins shows us that the greatest diversity is among the smaller animals. Although this book is not divided into chapters and relies heavily on diagrams, the challenging text is written at a chapter book level.

Frogs by Nic Bishop (J 597.8 BIS)

Do you know which frog has skin so clear that you can see right through it to the frog's guts? Did you know frogs shed their skin like snakes do? Do you know what frogs do with the skin they shed? This book is filled with stunning photographs and fascinating facts and is an excellent read for kids who don't believe in letting a little mud get in the way of scientific exploration.

Frogs by Laura Driscoll (JE 597.8 DRI)

This book explains what all frogs have in common before describing some of the world's more unusual frogs. This leveled reader is written at an easier reading level than Nic Bishop's book above.

Slither and Crawl: Eye to Eye with Reptiles by Jim Arnosky (J 597.8 ARN)

Many readers will be grateful that Jim Arnosky got close to these cold blooded animals, many dangerous, and then used this information to create a book of detailed illustrations and informative text. It means that we can learn about, and appreciate the beauty of, these animals without needed to get up close ourselves.

Gulls Gulls Gulls by Gail Gibbons (J 598.3 GIB)

You have seen gulls at the beach, but how much do you actually know about these common birds? Did you know, for example, that gulls were once nearly extinct in the U.S.? This is a good book to read before a vacation down the shore or a day trip to Sandy Hook.

The Berry Book by Gail Gibbons (J 634.7 GIB)

This is a good book to read before or after a berry picking trip. If you happen to pick blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries, you might want to try the included recipes--but even if you don't, keep reading--the very last page of this book includes a bounty of bonus berry facts.

The Bravest Dog Ever by Natalie Standiford (JE 636 STA)

Have you ever seen the dog statue in Manhattan's Central Park? It stands there in honor of Balto, a brave dog who saved the lives of the children of Nome, Alaska in 1925.

Five True Dog Stories by Margaret Davidson (J 636.7 DAV)

A chapter book about extraordinary dogs, including the famous sled dog Balto whose heroic efforts save the town of Nome, Alaska from an epidemic.

How to Talk to Your Dog by Jean Craighead George (J 636.7 GEO)

The title sounds like a joke, but this book really does teach humans how to use body language and tone to communicate with dogs.

Dolores and the Big Fire by Andrew Clements (J 636.8 CLE)

This book offers objective proof of what cat owners know--cats love their people. Kyle found out just how lucky he was to have Dolores as a cat the night his home caught on fire.

The Art Box by Gail Gibbons (J 702 GIB)

You have used crayons and scissors to create. What other things that come out of "the art box" have you used? Which items would you like to use someday? Is there anything in the book that you have never seen before?

The Quilting Bee by Gail Gibbons (J 746.46 GIB)

Do you like to imagine how kids lived a long time ago? Do you ever look at a beautiful piece of art and wonder how it was made? If the answer to one or both of these questions is yes, try this book. It tells about how important elaborate quilts were to the pioneers and how they were made--and also explains that people today still admire beautiful quilts--but they are made a little bit differently in modern times!

Aliens are Coming! by Meghan McCarthy (J 791.44 MCC)

It was April Fool's on Halloween--a radio broadcast fooled people all over the country into thinking that Martians had landed in New Jersey!

Balls! and Balls!: Round 2 by Michael Rosen (J 796.2 SWI)

These chapter books include lots and lots of sports trivia for young athletes.

Team Spirit series by Mark Stewart (Basketball--J 796.323 STE; Football--J 796.332; Baseball--J 796.367 STE)

Each book in this chapter book series focuses on a different major league teach and is packaged with stats, player profiles, and descriptions of some of the best--and most unusual--games the team has played.

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team by Audery Vernick (J 796. 357 VER)

The Acerra family, from Long Branch, NJ, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (in Cooperstown, NY) in 1997. This book explains why and how.

Knights in Shining Armor by Gail Gibbons (JE 940.1 GIB)

Learn how knights really lived during the Middle Ages.

Yippee-Yay! by Gail Gibbons (J 978 GIB)

Learn how cowboys lived in the Old West--and what's different about life for cowgirls and cowboys today.

The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton (J-B Swi BAR)

You have probably heard of Thomas Edison, but how much do you know about Joe and Bob Switzer? This brief fascinating, book will introduce you to these little known inventors--and along the way you'll learn how fourescent paint contributed to the war effort during WWII.