Narrative Non-Fiction for 5th Graders

 Narrative non-fiction is non-fiction ("not fake") writing that "reads like a story." In good narrative non-fiction, the facts are accurate, but the author uses many of the same "writing tricks" that fiction writers use. This is a way for the author to create an interesting book that "flows well" and tells one or more true stories. An example of a non-fiction series that is NOT narrative non-fiction is the DK Eyewitness series. The books in this series are eye catching and fascinating, but each is a random collection of facts on a given topic, not a non-fiction narrative.

What It's Like to Climb Mount Everest, blast off into space, survive a tornado, and other extraordinary stories by Jeff Belanger (J 179 BEL)

Have you ever read about Bethany Hamilton surviving a shark attack or watched a video of astronauts floating around in space and wondered what it would be like to have the experience yourself? By reading this book, you can gain a first hand view of several "extreme experiences"--without any actual risk to your own safety.

Shipwrecked!: The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy by Rhoda Blumberg (J 952 BLU)

This book reads like a fictional adventure story, but it is all true. Fourteen year old Manjiro is shipwrecked and survives for months on a desert island before being rescued by American whalers. He is exiled from his country and has adventures all around the world before risking his life to  return to Japan at the age of 26.

Mission Control, This is Apollo: The Story of the First Voyages to the Moon by Andrew Chaikin (J 629.45 CHA).

Can you imagine what it would be like to blast off into space? To walk on the moon? This book describes some of the most exciting moments in the U.S. space program.

Reading Between the Bones by Susan Clinton (J 560.9 CLI)

Not so long ago, even the most knowlegable scientists didn't know that dinosaurs once walked the earth, but today the average preschooler can pronounce the Latin names of these prehistoric creatures as well as recite facts about them. This book describes how scientists first began to understand what fossils are, how they shared that knowledge with the public, and how the science of paleontology was developed.

Marley: A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan (J 636.7 GRO)

Pet owners will easily relate to this bittersweet book. John Grogan excels at describing the good, the silly, and the sad times that come with having a dog in the family.

Boy on the Lion Throne by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (J-B Bst KIM)

Imagine if you came home from school one day to learn that you were now considered a "God-King," destined to rule your people. Something similar really did happen to three year old Lhamo, who had spent his short life living and playing on his family's small farm when it was decided that he was a reincarnation of his country's "God-King," the Dalai Lama.

Dinosaur Bone War: Cope and Marsh's Fossil Feud by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (J 560.9 KIM)

Just how did two esteemed scientists get caught up in a rivalry that led to tabloid headlines, destruction of scientific evidence, and financial ruin?

The Fairy Ring: or Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure (J 398.21 LOS)

Nine year old Elsie and 15 year old Frances somehow managed to convince most of England not only that fairies exist, but that Elsie and Frances had managed to photograph some. Their many fans included esteemed author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the Sherlock Holmes. Just how did two girls manage to trick so many people?

The Tapir Scientist: Saving South America's Largest Mammal by Sy Montgomery. (J 599.66 MON)

In this book, scientists who dedicate their life to studying animals in the wild get super excited over finding the animal they are trying to study: "This has never happened before--two in one day!" Yes, tapirs are that difficult to track--even the experts have trouble spotting them. This may be why few non-biologist have even heard of tapirs, unusual animals who look like small elephants, but whinny the way that horses do. It turns out that tapirs are super important to every thing else that lives in their biome--including humans. In this volume of National Geographic's "Scientists in the Field" series, we see scientists, track, study, and try to save an animal that even most locals don't know exists. 

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch (J 523.43 RUS)

Have you seen the movie Wall-E? This non-fiction book is in many ways the story of real life Wall-E's. There are some important differences: there are two robots in the book, they live on Mars (not Earth); they communicate regularly with scientists back on Earth, and they don't spend their days compacting trash--the rovers in the book are robot scientists, seeking new knowledge about a planet that people have never walked upon. This book is part of National Geographic's Scientists in the Field series.

The Secret Subway: The Fascinating Tale of an Amazing Feat of Engineering by Martin Sandler ( J 388.4 SAN)

In the 1860's, tens of thousands of people traveled through the streets of Manhatten every year--traveling by horse drawn vehicles. All of these horses dropped hundreds of pounds of manure making crossing the street a disgusting, as well as dangerous, experience. Alfred Beach invented a new type of transportation to solve this problem--and in the process ran afoul of Boss Tweed, perhaps the crookedest politician in American history. Could Beach defeat Tweed by working late at night and keeping the construction of his subway a secret?

Trapped in Ice by Martin Sandler (J 693.2 SAN)

You have probably heard of the Titanic, but do you know about the Arctic Disaster of 1871? The Titanic tragedy involved one ship; the Arctic Disaster of 1871 involved an entire fleet: 32 ships and 1,219 men, women, and children. A true tale of courage, determination, and survival.

Byrd & Igloo: A Polar Adventure by Samantha Seiple (J 919.89 SEI)

Igloo was neither a sled dog nor a malumut, but a small fox terrier, yet he accompanied famed explorer Admiral Byrd to both the North and South poles. A story of "dogged determination" (pun intended) from the early days of aviation, when parts of the world were yet uncharted.

Marching to Appomattox: The Footrace that Ended the Civil War by Ken Stark (J 973.7 STA)

The illustrations and text in this book work together to paint a vivid portrait of life for soldiers on both sides during one small part of the Civil War. It helps students make a connection with an important part of US history, by providing a specific story that encourages readers to empathize with individuals on both sides of the conflict. This short narrative non-fiction book is a good complement to textbooks or longer non-fiction texts that are filled with facts and photos of the war.