Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Behind the Books: Another Kind of Life Story

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I think most (if not all) nonfiction for children can be divided into four broad categories—survey books, specialized nonfiction, concept books, and life stories. For more information about the first three categories, go to the List of Topics in the gray column to the right, scroll down to Nonfiction Categories, and read some of my past posts.

Today I’m rethinking the fourth category—life stories.

In the past, I’ve defined life story as a book about a person’s life. I’ve included “cradle to grave” biographies, partial or episodic biographies that focus on a pivotal event or period in a person’s life, autobiographies/ memoirs, and collective biographies that feature many different people.

But recently, I read an advance copy of a wonderful picture book that made me revise my definition to “an account of a life.” Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari (due out July 16, 2016) is as much a life story as any picture book biography I’ve ever read. And it made me realize that books like Hip-pocket Papa and A Mother’s Journey by Sandra Markle, Bat Loves the Night and One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies, and The Bumblebee Queen by April Pulley Sayre are too.

Coyote Moon describes the nighttime adventures of a caring mother coyote in search of food for her family. As such, I consider it an episodic life story, similar to Ballet for Martha by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, Brave Girl by Michelle Markel, and When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan.

It’s amazing to me that even though I’ve been thinking and blogging about nonfiction classification for more than 5 years now, I’m still having new insights. I think it’s because this is such an exciting time for nonfiction. Authors are constantly innovating and enriching the genre. I’m excited to see what they come up with next.


  1. Fantastic post! I love, love, LOVE the cover of COYOTE MOON and I have been fortunate to see an advanced copy as well and I agree, COYOTE MOON is a fantastic book. The text is poetic and the artwork is amazing. It is a great addition to the nonfiction genre! I'll have to check out the other books you mention!

  2. First of all, thank you so much for featuring Coyote Moon on your blog--it means so much to me to be mentioned, especially in the company of these amazing nature writers. Bat Loves the Night is one of my all-time favorite books!

    I wholeheartedly agree--I feel like even though the focus is on nature, and a creature in the natural world, I am above all telling a story, and the creature is the main character, in this case the coyote mother. And all of these writers have served as mentors for me through their varied works.

    I also agree--it's a very exciting time for writing, and reading nonfiction!

    Thank you again, Melissa :)