Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Behind the Books: Text Structure

This year, I’m taking a close look at what I call the Nonfiction Triumvirate—nonfiction categories, writing styles, and text structures. So far, I’ve focused on Nonfiction Categories and Writing Styles. If you missed the discussion, you can scroll down or use the search box to see past posts.

Today I’m looking at text structure, which I’ve blogged about many, many times before. My ideas about nonfiction text structure have been constantly evolving for the last several years.

The books below are classified according to the major structures espoused by Common Core with a range sub-structures for kinds of books that are currently widely represented in high-quality children’s literature.

For example, as I see it, 80 to 85 percent of all trade nonfiction has a sequence text structure, so subgroupings are helpful in examining all the ways authors are experimenting and innovating.

A Black Hole Is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano

The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins

Creep and Flutter by Jim Arnosky

Dolphins! by Melissa Stewart

Frogs by Nic Bishop

Lightship by Brian Floca

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies

Chronological narrative
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet

The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman

Buried Alive by Elaine Scott

The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton

Marvelous Mattie by Emily Arnold McCully

Noah Webster & His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola

Pop: The Invention of Bubble Gum by Megan McCarthy

The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass

What to Do About Alice? by Barbara Kerley

Episodic narrative
Ballet for Martha by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

Brave Girl by Michelle Markel

When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan

Braided narrative
Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming

Bomb by Steve Sheinkin

The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

We’ve Got a Job by Cynthia Levinson

Journey narrative
If Stones Could Speak by Marc Aronson

Lost Treasure of the Inca by Peter Lourie

Quest for the Tree Kangaroo by Sy Montgomery

Saving the Ghost of the Mountain by Sy Montgomery

Cycle narrative
Beneath the Sun by Melissa Stewart

A Drop of Water by Gordon Morrison

Frog in a Bog by John Himmelman

Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley

Redwoods by Jason Chin (due to the art)

Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre

Chronological expository
Bugged: How Insects Changed History by Sarah Albee

Poop Happened!: A History of the World from the Bottom Up by Sarah Albee

Why'd They Wear That?: Fashion as the Mirror of History by Sarah Albee

Cumulative expository
Here Is the Tropical Rain Forest by Madeleine Dunphy

No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart

Older Than the Stars by Karen C. Fox

How-to expository
Dessert Designers: Creations You Can Make and Eat by Dana Meachen Rau

How to Swallow a Pig by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

The Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes by Doug Stillinger

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

Try This! 50 Fun Experiments for the Mad Scientist in You by Karen Romano Young

Compare & Contrast
Dueling spreads
Frog or Toad? How Do You Know? by Melissa Stewart

Mosquito Bite by Alexandra Siy

Neo Leo by Gene Barretta

Those Rebels, Tom & John by Barbara Kerley

List books
Born in the Wild by Lita Judge

Born to Be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World by Lita Judge

Eye to Eye by Steve Jenkins

Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart

Move by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

My First Day by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

Just One Bite by Lola Schaefer

Cause & Effect
Earth: Feeling the Heat by Brenda Z. Guiberson

Frog in a Bog by John Himmelman

A Place for Butterflies by Melissa Stewart

When Rain Falls by Melissa Stewart

Problem- Solution
The Great Monkey Rescue by Sandra Markle

A Place for Bats by Melissa Stewart

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

Mesmerized by Mara Rockliff

Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean

Q & A Books
Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons by Sarah Levine

Sterling's Good Question series

Creature Features by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

Hatch! by Roxie Munro

Hello Bumblebee Bat by Darrin Lunde
Scholastic's Question & Answer series

What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page



  1. Wow...what an awesome list! And put into text structure. Thanks Melissa 👏

  2. Thank you Melissa! What a great help this is.

  3. Such a terrific list Melissa! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thank you for this list! As a writer and educator, this is helpful to use for mentor texts.

  5. Wow! Just Wow! Thank you for this amazing list.

  6. Dear Melissa! I needed an inspiration to start writing nonfiction. I just learned about you and your amazing work. You are the inspiration I was looking for. Thank you for sharing your talent in so many different ways!