Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Behind the Books: Nonfiction Point of View, Part 2

This week I’m continuing my discussion of point of view in nonfiction writing. In second-person point of view, the author engages his/her readers by addressing them directly with liberal use of the word “you.”

When the author is writing with an expository style, the voice is usually lively and conversational. Examples include Bugged: How Insects Changed the World by Sarah Albee, If You Hopped Like a Frog by David Schwartz and my book Animal Grossapedia. Here’s a sample:

Snot. Poop. Pee. We humans think these gross, gooey, stinky substances are totally disgusting!
           But here’s a surprise: Some animals have a very different view of this yucky stuff. Burrowing owls collect poop. Desert tortoises use pee for protection. And camels puke on one another when they’re mad. Yep, it’s true.
           Want to know more? Well, ur-ine luck!

When the author is writing with a narrative style, his/her intent is to bring readers right into the middle of the action. The voice is often energetic and descriptive. Examples include Journey into the Deep by Rebecca L. Johnson, If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith McNulty, and Army Ant Parade by April Pulley Sayre. Here’s a sample:
If you awake in a tent
under a green canopy of trees
one morning in Panama,
and all you hear is your heartbeat
and a strange silence,
then you know they are coming.

While second-person point of view is becoming increasingly popular in nonfiction for kids, most titles continue to be written tried-and-true third person.