Prior to publication, publishers send books to the Library of Congress. A LOC employee reads it, writes a brief summary of the book, classifies it as either “juvenile fiction” or “juvenile literature” (which includes nonfiction and usually--but not always--poetry) and assigns a call number that librarians will eventually use to shelve it.
This sounds like a good system, but guess what? The Library of Congress isn’t always consistent. Look what happened two these two companion titles:
And look what happened to these four books written by the same author in the same style:
How would you classify these books?
Cases like these help explain why there's so much confusion in determining whether a book is fiction or nonfiction. But there’s yet another reason that the term “informational text” is sometimes misused to describe a book that presents true information but takes a few liberties. I call it the Biography Conundrum, and I’ll talk more about it next week.