Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Behind the Books: What the Heck Is Expository Literature?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, literature is “written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.”

And so expository literature can be defined as writing that explains, informs, or describes and is of superior or lasting artistic merit. I wish I could take credit for this much-needed term, but it's the brainchild of Terrell Young, a highly-respected professor of children's literature at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

After seeing a guest post I wrote on Betsy Bird's blog, A Fuse #8 Production, in December 2015, he invited me to work with him on developing a list of characteristics for the term expository literatureFor me, an expository nonfiction text qualifies as expository literature if it:

(1) is meticulously researched and fully faithful to the facts

(2) features captivating art and dynamic design

(3) incorporates a creative and well-executed mix of the following:
—strong voice
—carefully-chosen point of view
—innovative text structure
—purposeful text format
—rich, engaging language that includes vivid verbs, meaningful comparisons, and such language devices as alliteration, onomatopoeia, opposition, puns, repetition, and rhythm and rhyme.

Why do I think the time is right for this definition? Because there are so many wonderful expository nonfiction children's books being published today, and yet, time and again, I see folks in the kidlit community misidentifying them as narrative nonfiction. I'm not exactly sure why.

Is it because, in the past, expository books for children weren't always so lively and engaging, and people are still stuck in that mindset? If so, I'm making it my mission to open their eyes to the truth. It's time to celebrate expository literature for its excellence!

Stay tuned. I've got plenty more to say on this topic.

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