The best nonfiction books about penguins for kids

Who am I?

I’m a penguin expert, TED speaker, and lifelong animal lover. After getting a BS degree in Animal Science, I became a Penguin Aquarist at Boston’s New England Aquarium. For 9 years, I took care of the penguins there and educated visitors during daily talks. In 2000, I helped manage the rescue of 40,000 penguins from an oil spill in South Africa. (With the help of 12,500 volunteers, we saved most of them!) I founded my educational company The Penguin Lady in 2005, and speak at schools, universities, libraries, for TED-Ed and TEDx, and on National Geographic’s ships in Antarctica. I love sharing my knowledge, and passion for penguins with others!


I wrote...

All about Penguins: Discover Life on Land and in the Sea

By Dyan deNapoli,

Book cover of All about Penguins: Discover Life on Land and in the Sea

What is my book about?

All About Penguins is a beautifully illustrated book for young children about the basic biology and behavior of penguins. Fascinating facts about the penguin’s life cycle, how they swim, hunt, hide from predators, raise their chicks, and more are covered in concise, yet detailed and engaging text. The book includes a glossary, call-out boxes, range map, and a fun trivia section about each penguin species. (And it definitively answers the age-old question; “Do penguins have knees?”)

This book has been enthusiastically endorsed by renowned penguin expert and author Lloyd Spencer Davis, who said, “All About Penguins is so beautiful and so stuffed with facts that it resembles a krill-filled penguin.” Best for ages 4-8.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Emperor Lays an Egg

Dyan deNapoli Why did I love 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.

By Brenda Z. Guiberson, Joan Paley (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Emperor Lays an Egg as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

All the other wild creatures have left the Antarctic. The wind is too cold and the sun does not shine during the long, dark months of winter. But the father emperor stays behind with thousands of other fathers. Each of them takes care of an egg . . .

Follow as a penguin grows from egg to adulthood
in the coldest place on earth

In the middle of winter, in the coldest place on earth, the mother emperor penguin lays her egg. The father rolls the egg onto his feet and keeps it warm. He doesn't eat or even move…


Book cover of A Mother's Journey

Dyan deNapoli Why did I love 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.

By Sandra Markle, Alan Marks (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Mother's Journey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Acclaimed nonfiction author Sandra Markle presents the daring story of a mother emperor penguin's struggle to reach the sea, find food, avoid predators, and make her way back to her mate and their newborn chick before they starve. Alan Marks' luminous illustrations highlight the harsh conditions and stunning landscapes of Antarctica.


Book cover of Penguins! Strange and Wonderful

Dyan deNapoli Why did I love 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.

By Laurence Pringle, Meryl Learnihan Henderson (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Penguins! Strange and Wonderful as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Laurence Pringle's fascinating and informative book, with stunning illustrations by Meryl Henderson, introduces young readers to the life and behavior of one of nature's most remarkable-and most popular-birds. The seventeen species of penguin come in all sizes and live in a surprising range of habitats. Readers familiar with the emperor penguin that stands almost four feet tall and lives in the Antarctic may be surprised to encounter the little blue penguin that's only about sixteen inches high and hops ashore into the green forests of southern Australia and southern New Zealand. This book is packed with such a wealth of…


Book cover of A Visual Introduction to Penguins

Dyan deNapoli Why did I love 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.

By Bernard Stonehouse, Martin Camm (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Visual Introduction to Penguins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This illustrated guide to penguins includes profiles of emperor penguins, king penguins, adelie penguins, chinstraps and gentoos, rockhopper penguins, macaroni and royal penguins, fjordland snares island and erect-crested penguins, yellow-eyed penguins and jackass penguins.


Book cover of The Great Penguin Rescue: Saving the African Penguins

Dyan deNapoli Why did I love 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.

By Sandra Markle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Great Penguin Rescue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

African penguins waddle around nesting colonies in lower numbers than ever before. Despite South African government efforts to protect the penguin colonies and their ocean fish supply, young penguins still struggle to survive. Fuzzy chicks waiting for food in open nests may overheat in the sun or become prey. Others simply may not get enough food to survive on their own once their parents leave. But new conservation methods, including rescuing and hand-feeding vulnerable chicks, are giving experts hope. Can volunteers and scientists help save Africa's only penguins before it's too late?


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Radio Free Olympia

By Jeffrey Dunn,

Book cover of Radio Free Olympia

Jeffrey Dunn Author Of Radio Free Olympia

New book alert!

Who am I?

I’ve always been a child of the woods. I preferred to leave my home and wade a creek or explore a hillside. Nothing compared to the sight of a black snake or the feel of a mud puppy. School was a torture until an English teacher introduced me to Richard Brautigan and then read my first serious story to the class. Since then, this dyslexic nature lover has become a dream fisher and history miner with a Ph.D. in English Literature and Cultural Studies. Retired from forty-one years of teaching, I now write and publish cultural fiction.

Jeffrey's book list on where imagination and nature run free

What is my book about?

Embark on a riveting journey into Washington State’s untamed Olympic Peninsula, where the threads of folklore legends and historical icons are woven into a complex ecological tapestry.

Follow the enigmatic Petr as he fearlessly employs his pirate radio transmitter to broadcast the forgotten and untamed voices that echo through the wilderness. Venture deeper and encounter Baie, the founder of Wildsisters, a cranberry-infused roadhouse that offers solace to lost and wayward women. When a newborn is kidnapped, Baie and her community must unite to recover what has been stolen. Yet, their quest for justice extends beyond the realm of human characters—it must also be served for the fragile flora, the diverse fauna, and the very essence of the natural world.

Radio Free Olympia

By Jeffrey Dunn,

What is this book about?

Unleash the Power of the Wilderness in Radio Free Olympia


Discover the captivating allure of Washington's untamed Olympic Peninsula in Radio Free Olympia, an extraordinary literary masterpiece that immerses readers in a mesmerizing realm of visionaries, folklore legends, and historical icons. With an enchanting blend of magical realism and cultural fiction, the brilliant wordsmith Jeffrey Dunn artfully intertwines multiple narratives, crafting an intricate ecological tapestry that resonates deeply within the soul.


Embark on a riveting journey alongside the enigmatic Petr, a foundling whose path leads him deep into the heart of the majestic mountain rainforest. Armed with nothing but a…


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Interested in penguins, Emperor penguins, and South Africa?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about penguins, Emperor penguins, and South Africa.

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