The best nonfiction books about penguins for kids

The Books I Picked & Why

The Emperor Lays an Egg

By Brenda Z. Guiberson, Joan Paley

The Emperor Lays an Egg

Why this book?

This charming book gives a very comprehensive overview of the life and breeding cycle of the Emperor penguin. And it does so in simple - but entertaining - language, making the information very accessible for younger children. The large, graphic illustrations on each page are very eye-catching, and are sure to engage young children. (Even younger than the recommended age range for this book.) While this book talks about the many challenges that both parents face during the long breeding season, it focuses more on the male penguin’s job of incubating and protecting the egg while his mate is off at sea for two months. (The next book on this list focuses on the female penguin’s job during the breeding season.) Best for ages 4-8.


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A Mother's Journey

By Sandra Markle, Alan Marks

A Mother's Journey

Why this book?

This captivating book details the female Emperor penguin’s extraordinary journey during the long breeding season. In gorgeous prose - that includes detailed information very rarely found in other children’s books about this species - author Sandra Markle shares remarkable insights about the many challenges faced by the female Emperor penguin in preparation for raising her chick. This includes a long trek across sea-ice to the open ocean, where she hunts for two months to fill her belly with food for her soon-to-be-born chick. The beautiful illustrations help young readers visualize the many different aspects of her journey. I can guarantee that nearly every adult who reads this book with their children or students will also learn many details about Emperor penguins that they didn’t know before. Best for ages 4-8.


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Penguins! Strange and Wonderful

By Laurence Pringle, Meryl Learnihan Henderson

Penguins! Strange and Wonderful

Why this book?

This wonderful book is informative, very comprehensive, and visually stunning. It covers everything from the first recorded penguins, to their locations, their feeding and breeding behaviors, their predators, and the various threats to penguins - both historically and in the present. But this is in no way a dry, “just the facts, ma'am” book about penguins. The scientific information about penguin biology and behavior is told in a very engaging way, and it is enhanced by absolutely gorgeous and lifelike watercolor illustrations. This book provides a thorough, age-appropriate overview of the lives of penguins, and is one of my favorite books for both the content and the beautiful illustrations. Best for ages 7-10.


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A Visual Introduction to Penguins

By Bernard Stonehouse, Martin Camm

A Visual Introduction to Penguins

Why this book?

This beautiful book is written by a famous penguin expert who wrote the ‘bible’ about penguins for adults, so you can be absolutely certain that all of the information is 100% accurate! (Which, unfortunately, is not always the case for books written by individuals who aren’t penguin experts. That said, you can be assured that every book on this curated list has extremely accurate information about penguins!) Each species in this book has a page with fact sheets, geographical ranges, and biological details. There are also numerous photos and absolutely gorgeous illustrations that are highly detailed, bringing the author’s words to life in a visually engaging way. This is the perfect book for children who want to take a deeper dive into the lives of penguins. Best for ages 9-12.


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The Great Penguin Rescue: Saving the African Penguins

By Sandra Markle

The Great Penguin Rescue: Saving the African Penguins

Why this book?

I’m sure I’m biased, but I love that this book picks up where my book with the same title (for adults) leaves off. I’m very pleased that the author has highlighted the important conservation story of the African penguin (an endangered species), and the efforts to save it, including the hand-raising of African penguin chicks. The author discusses in detail the many ways that humans have impacted this species - both negatively and positively. This is definitely a book for older children, as it talks about the various threats to penguins, which could be upsetting information for younger children. But, for older children wanting to understand how a species becomes endangered, and how humans can help save those animals, this is a highly informative book. Best for ages 9-12.


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