Friday, January 5, 2018

The Nonfiction Family Tree, Book Lists

Before the holiday break, I published this post with my view of the nonfiction family tree, showing how it’s evolved and blossomed over the last couple of decades.
And I was blown away by the response! It quickly became one of the most popular posts EVER on this blog.

Thank you for all your enthusiastic comments on social media. Thanks for your questions too. I promised you answers, so here they are:

Q: Do all nonfiction books really fit neatly into one of these 5 categories?

A: Most do, but there are definitely books that cross categories, and that’s a good thing! So why have categories at all? Because as students try to make sense of the wide world of nonfiction, it helps to have general categories that are easy to understand. Then, as children become more sophisticated readers and thinkers, they can explore the exceptions. The idea of students debating the various ways a particular nonfiction title might be classified makes my heart sing.

 
Q: You could have created a model that’s more like a traditional phylogenetic/evolutionary tree. Why didn’t you?

A: I chose the arrangement you see above because I wanted to separate Active and Browse-able from Expository Literature and Narrative. People talk about commercial vs. literary fiction all the time. Active and Browse-able are commercial nonfiction, while Expository Literature and Narrative are literary nonfiction. As you can see, I've added those labels to the infographic.

 
Q: I know what traditional expository nonfiction is, but some of these other terms are new to me. Can you provide some exemplar titles?

A: Yes!


Browse-able Nonfiction
These books feature short blocks of text and they’re chock full of photos and text features. They’re a fact-loving kid’s dream come true. Readers can dip in and out or read the book cover to cover.



Little Kids First Big Book of Birds by Catherine D. Hughes  



The Discovery Channel’s Sharkopedia


Active Nonfiction
These offshoots of browse-able books are highly interactive and/or teach skills readers can use to engage in an activity. This category includes how-to guides, cookbooks, field guides, craft books, toy-book combinations that involve building a model, etc.

Minecraft: Construction Handbook by Matthew Needler  

Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes by Josie Fison and Felicity Dahl




Narrative Nonfiction
This category typically dominates kidlit awards because the books feel familiar and comfortable to people who have a natural love of stories and storytelling (most editors, book reviewers, librarians, literacy educators, etc.). Narrative nonfiction tells a true story or conveys an experience. It includes real characters and settings; narrative scenes; and, ideally, a narrative arc with rising tension, a climax, and denouement. The scenes, which give readers an intimate look at the events and people being described, are linked by transitional text that provides necessary background while speeding through parts of the true story that don’t require close inspection.

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton and Victo Ngai

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu

The Hidden Life of a Toad by Doug Wechsler

How the Cookie Crumbled: The True (and Not So True) Stories of the Invention of the Chocolate Chip Cookie by Gilbert Ford


The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter


Expository Literature
These high-quality books explain, describe, or inform in ways that appeal to many young readers. In fact, a recent study shows that more than 75 percent of students like expository books as much as or more than narrative titles, and 42 percent have a moderate or strong preference for expository nonfiction (Repanskey, Schumm, & Johnson, 2017).

These books feature captivating art, dynamic design, rich engaging language, and some of all of the following text characteristics: strong voice, innovative point of view, carefully-chosen text structure, and purposeful text format. You can find a lengthy list of expository literature in this Nerdy Book Club post, but here are some of my recent favorites:

Anything by Steve Jenkins (I might just be his biggest fan.)

A Beetle is Shy by Dianna Hutts Aston

A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman and Isabel Greenberg 

Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown


The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Guillain and Yuval Zommer

13 comments:

  1. Your examples are so helpful! I've been reading as many as I can. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Donna. so glad you find it useful.

      Delete
  3. Love this post and the examples for each category. Thank you so much.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is wonderful!! Thank you for sharing, Melissa!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome. Good luck with your writing.

      Delete
  5. Thanks for your insight and all the great titles!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lots of folks asked for sample titles. I'm glad they're helping.

      Delete
  6. You might consider non-fiction poetry as a category. Check out work by Leslie Bulion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love, love, love Leslie's books and am looking forward to her upcoming Leaf Litter Critters.

      There seem to be two schools of thought regarding poetry.
      1. It's neither fiction nor nonfiction and would have it's own family tree.
      2. It could be classified as either narrative (if it tells a story or conveys an experience) or expository literature if it explains, describes, and informs.

      A book like Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson or Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome would be narrative, and books by Leslie Bulion or Joyce Sidman would be expository literature.

      Delete
  7. Thank you as always Melissa! My teachers love learning from you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for spreading the word, Jenny. Happy New Year!

      Delete