The Ultimate Guide to Non-Fiction Book Series for Students

We’ve talked a lot on AOE about great books for your art room. From fun stories for students like Skycolor to valuable teacher resources like The Artistic Edge, we love to bring you the latest and greatest in art ed literature. Today, however, I’d love to turn the focus to something we haven’t covered before, non-fiction literature for students.

Using non-fiction in the art room can be useful in so many ways. You can use a non-fiction book to introduce a concept, project, or artist, assign non-fiction reading for an assignment, or even put age-appropriate non-fiction literature at your free choice station. Over the next two days, we’ll be talking about all things non-fiction to help you find some truly great resources. Today’s focus will be on a variety of non-fiction book series. Tomorrow, we’ll focus on magazines and websites. There will even be a give-away. Read on!

When looking around for non-fiction resources for students, I came across some old favorites as well as some series I had never heard of before. I was able to get my hands on an example of each so I could provide you with a thorough review. See what I thought of each series below, and be sure to download the handy PDF for future reference!

Click to Download PDF
Click to Download PDF


1. Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists 

Best for grades K-5
We’ve featured this book series before on AOE, but I still wanted to mention it for anyone that hasn’t seen it yet. The books are short and filled with fun facts about artists. Comics are interwoven with real photographs of the artists and their work making them a great choice for read-alouds or for students to read on their own.

2. Smart About Art Series 
Best for grades K-5
Each book in this series is written from the point of view of a student creating an artist report. Information is in snippets and mixed with a variety of images making it easily accessible for students. In addition to photographs of the artist’s work, there are also many simple hand-drawn images, which would appeal to this set’s younger audience. A fun addition for a classroom.

3. Dropping in On Series 
Best for grades 3-5
To me, this book series is just OK. While the idea seems engaging (a penguin named Puffer interviews famous artists) and the colorful illustrations appeal to young students, something about the writing seems a bit jumbled and unfocused to me. These might be a nice set of books to read parts of to introduce concepts or artists or perhaps to have for students to look at during free time.

4. Artists in Their Time Series 
Best for grades 6 and up
This book series is beautiful. Organized chronologically, each page has short pieces of text about the artist’s life and work. Information about the world at the time the artist was working is also brought in to build context. Filled with beautiful photographs of both the artists and their artwork, these books would make a fantastic addition to any classroom library. As a bonus, the books are organized extremely well with a glossary of terms, timeline and index, making them a great choice for students to use for an artist report.

5. Who Was Series 
Best for grades 6 and up
Composed like a chapter book, I was blown away by the amount of information included in this series. Students not only learn about the artwork of a particular artist, but also in depth information about his or her life, art techniques and historical context. Black and white drawings are interspersed throughout the text, making for more engaging reading.


Not sure which series to order for your art room? Download the handy comparison chart above for future reference and be sure to enter the give-away! We’re giving away one book from each series plus a few extra goodies. Happy Reading!

Have you used any of these books in your classroom? Are there any series we missed?

Has anyone used the videos that go with the Getting to Know or Dropping In On Series? We’d love to know your opinion!

Amanda Heyn

Amanda is the Senior Editor at AOE. She has a background in teaching elementary art and enjoys working to bring the best ideas from the world of art ed to the magazine each day. 


  • Pingback: Great Giveaway: Non-Fiction Resources for Your Art Room! | The Art of Ed()

  • Marcia Beckett

    I’d love to win!

  • Susan

    Count me in!

  • Lynn Beck

    My district wants to stress non-fiction reading for the state tests. I always include information on artists with my lessons and a good non-fiction book makes the background info more interesting.

  • Debra Hetzel Hanson

    I use the “Getting to Know” series regularly. They are excellent books for read alouds and also for students to read on their own. I have one video in this series: Vincent Van Gogh. It is well done! I have one video from the “Dropping In” series: Romare Bearden which is just okay. I like the information, but it is slow in parts.

    • I agree, Debra. I didn’t really care for the Dropping In videos. Good to know the Getting to Know videos are well made!

  • Mary

    I use the “Getting to Know” books on a regular basis for 3rd-5th graders when they do research based projects and book reports. They are informative, fun, and the kids enjoy them.
    I’ve also used the “Dropping In” videos as a wrap up/end of the unit activity to play and discuss while the last students are finishing up their projects. They can be a little corny for the older kids, but they do look at artwork and they give great examples of describing, analyzing , and interpreting the artwork in a simple way that is easy for the kids to understand.

  • Mc Corsini

    Would love a series, as I am a new art teacher in need of resources.

  • Rachel Albert

    We’ve used the Getting to Know videos in our middle school art classes and they’re great.

  • Pingback: This Cool New Website Makes Connecting to the Common Core A Snap | The Art of Ed()