Monday, September 19, 2016

TCRWP Handout: The Power of Voice in Nonfiction Writing

Nonfiction voice options span a continuum, from lively to lyrical. Your topic and the approach you take to it will dictate the best voice choice for a particular manuscript.

What's the difference between voice and tone? Check out this blog post.
Some Characteristics of a Lively Nonfiction Voice
  • Second person point of view
  • Figurative language, including alliteration/assonance, similes and metaphors, onomatopoeia
  • Sensory details
  • Strong, surprising verbs
  • Irresistible facts
Some Characteristics of a Lyrical Nonfiction Voice
  • Figurative language, including alliteration/assonance, opposition, similes and metaphors
  • Repetition
  • Internal rhyme
  • Strong, surprising verbs
Great Books with a Lively Voice
Works well for expository surveys and some picture-book biographies

Animal Grossapedia by Melissa Stewart

Army Ant Parade by April Pulley Sayre

A Black Hole Is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano

Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons by Sarah Levine
Bugged: How Insects Changed the World by Sarah Albee

Deadliest Animals by Melissa Stewart

It’s Spit-acular by Melissa Stewart

Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate

Now Hear This by Melissa Stewart

Pink Is for Blobfish by Jess Keating 
See How They Run by Susan E. Goodman

What to Do About Alice? by Barbara Kerley

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Larvae: A Guide for Insect Parents (and Curious Kids) by Bridget Heos

Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson


Great Books with a Lyrical Voice
Works well for nature-themed picture books and some biographies

Ballet for Martha by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

Beneath the Sun by Melissa Stewart

Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferari

Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill

An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Aston Hutts

Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart

Frog Song by Brenda Z. Guiberson

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

The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass

Step Gently Out by Helen Frost

Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart

When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan

When Rain Falls by Melissa Stewart

Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre

Great Books with a Neutral Voice
Eye to Eye by Steve Jenkins

Frogs by Nic Bishop

Move by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

My First Day by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

Neo Leo by Gene Barretta

Now & Ben by Gene Barretta

Redwoods by Jason Chin

Timeless Thomas by Gene Baretta


  1. Great post on voice, Melissa! Thanks again for including Coyote Moon here among all of these great titles :)!!

    I also love Bridget Heos's I, Fly for lively voice--it's very funny.

    And Cloth Lullaby, a PB bio of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novetsky is lovely and lyrical. I was captivated by the first page. It sings!

  2. Thanks for your suggestions, Maria. I love I, Fly too. I haven't read Cloth Lullaby. I'll have to take a look at it.