Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Behind the Books: Fiction or Nonfiction?, Part 2

Most children's trade book editors say they believe that if a book includes such elements as invented dialog, imagined scenes, or fictional POV characters, then it's fiction.

And yet many picture book biographies include at least some of these elements. How can that be? The answer surprised me, and it will probably surprise you too.

According to many trade book editors, a biography is “an account of a person’s life,” but it doesn’t have to be completely factual.

BUT when it comes to fiction vs. nonfiction, the Library of Congress is lenient and inconsistent. If a book is about a historical figure and mostly true, the LOC generally classifies it as “juvenile literature,” which is the term they use for all nonfiction books.

Here are some examples:

But then there is this book:

Is your head spinning? I’m not surprised. It’s all very confusing.

What’s the solution? I’ll offer up one possible idea next week.


  1. Categorization is definitely tricky. I just read Lift Your Light a Little Higher & I loved it, but it's written in 1st person and seems more like historical fiction vs. nf.

    Looking forward to your next installment :)

  2. Yes, baffling, indeed! My public library has classified all of your examples as NF, except for, (if I remember correctly) the Beatrix Potter one by Deborah Hopkinson. They classified that in the Easy Reader Fiction section. . . .go figure! I'm not sure about the bicycle one.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Maria and Debra. There are a growing number of books that use fictional elements to enhance storytelling surrounding life stories and historical events. It's confusing to us--and to kids.