The best nonfiction books about the polar regions for children

Alicia Klepeis Author Of Penguins & Polar Bears: A Pretty Cool Introduction to the Arctic and Antarctic
By Alicia Klepeis

Who am I?

I’m a geographer and the author of more than 170 (mostly nonfiction) books for kids. I began my career at the National Geographic Society and have worked on a variety of projects for them over the last three decades. I also taught middle-school geography for years. In addition to my featured book, I have written numerous magazine articles on topics related to polar regions—from Siberia’s Eveny people to climate change in the Arctic. I am the author of Living in the Arctic and several books on countries in the polar regions. I was recently interviewed by PBS Books for my book on Benjamin Franklin’s scientific work.

I wrote...

Penguins & Polar Bears: A Pretty Cool Introduction to the Arctic and Antarctic

By Alicia Klepeis, Grace Helmer (illustrator), Gestalten (editor)

Book cover of Penguins & Polar Bears: A Pretty Cool Introduction to the Arctic and Antarctic

What is my book about?

Penguins and polar bears never get to meet—except maybe at the zoo! But what else is there to know about the Arctic and Antarctica, two of our planet’s most mysterious, fascinating, and vulnerable regions?

Penguins and Polar Bears takes the reader on an adventure to the ends of the world, exploring the land, as well as the the unique and resilient animals and plants to be found at the North and South Poles. You’ll dive into the chilly oceans, skim over the brightest ice sheets, and meet the incredible people who live and work in these regions. So pack your warmest clothes and get ready for a very cool journey!

The books I picked & why

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Ice! Poems About Polar Life

By Douglas Florian,

Book cover of Ice! Poems About Polar Life

Why this book?

“Fish and penguins, squids and seals,

All find krill make splendid meals.”

So begins Douglas Florian’s poem about krill. Writing nonfiction poetry is no small feat and this book is a masterpiece of that artform. Each two-page spread focuses on an area or a creature related to the polar regions and features a poem, illustration, and short chunk of expository writing to give the reader more information on the subject. It covers subjects including ptarmigans, narwhals, musk ox, and many more. This book is funny, clever, and a joy to read aloud. Readers will love this one!

Arctic & Antarctic

By Barbara Taylor,

Book cover of Arctic & Antarctic

Why this book?

I have always found the Eyewitness series of books to be very appealing and this one is no exception. Because every two-page spread can stand alone, readers can read the book from cover to cover or just dive into whatever sections or topics are most appealing to them. I find myself captivated by the high-quality photographs throughout, whether of colorful sea stars living in the cold waters around Antarctica or a fuzzy moose calf living in the Arctic. As a geographer, I find this book to stand out because it covers animals and plants of the polar regions, as well as what life in these harsh regions is like for both native peoples of the Arctic and explorers in both polar zones.

Penguins and Antarctica

By Mary Pope Osborne, Natalie Pope Boyce, Sal Murdocca (illustrator)

Book cover of Penguins and Antarctica

Why this book?

As a fan of the Magic Tree House series, I love the way that this nonfiction book weaves great information with illustrations and photographs in a fun-to-read format. This title will be a hit with animal lovers, whether they are curious about the daily lives of penguins in Antarctica or why krill are so important to the food web here. Adventure seekers will revel in the daring exploits of explorers from the past. They’ll also learn about what it’s like to visit Antarctica today. The additional resources in the back of the book looked terrific and made me want to explore more of this frozen continent.

Polar: A Photicular Book

By Dan Kainen, Carol Kaufmann,

Book cover of Polar: A Photicular Book

Why this book?

When I first saw this book, I was intrigued by the Photicular movies. Getting a chance to watch the colorful lights of the auroras move was an exciting way to bring a scientific topic to life. As I made my way through the book, it was wonderful to get a chance to both read about then watch “movies” of all of the topics that were covered—from sled dogs on the move to walruses lumbering over the ice. Kaufmann’s writing style makes you feel like you are learning from a wise friend who’s taking you on an exciting journey to the polar regions. Young readers will enjoy her weaving in mentions of Harry Potter when talking about snowy owls or Santa’s sleigh when discussing reindeer. 

The Poles: Explore the natural world of both the Antarctic and Arctic Polar Regions

By Bernard Stonehouse, Richard Orr (illustrator),

Book cover of The Poles: Explore the natural world of both the Antarctic and Arctic Polar Regions

Why this book?

As soon as I picked up this book, I was blown away by its spectacular illustrations. There are two special foldouts where the book expands to have four-page wide illustrations of the Antarctic and Arctic regions. Most kids’ books that cover the Antarctic don’t get into as much detail about the different environments there—from pack ice to the islands around the continent. But this book does a beautiful job of showing that the Antarctic is more than just ice and snow and that the wildlife is diverse and fascinating. I also loved the section on the Arctic’s polar desert with its beautiful dwarf lupin and moss balls. Readers might be surprised to discover the butterflies and bearberries of the tundra regions as well. 

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