Noteworthy and Nourishing


In my first Noteworthy and Nourishing post, I talked about Melissa Stewart’s five non-fiction classifications and how I hope to highlight some non-fiction picture books in our blog. Last Wednesday, I had the good fortune to attend her webinar 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Rethinking Your Book Collection hosted by  @sljournal and again added to my learning. Incidentally, you can register and watch any archived webcasts from School Library Journal. 

My aha moment occurred came when Ms. Stewart talked about and explained what she called Informational Fiction. These are books that include fictional characters, such as books where the author personifies the topic to act as a narrator to provide factual information. Although the knowledge from the narrator is truthful, the narrator is fictional.  Along those lines, many (not all) biographies written for children can fall into this category as well because scenes and dialogue included are fictional.

I fell into this trap with my first Nourishing and Noteworthy and have since updated. I want to reiterate what Ms. Stewart stated that these books should be in classrooms and libraries and read. She is not condemning these books in any way and even says that her book, No Chocolate, No Monkeys, falls into this category, but they are different from non-fiction. We need to be clear, letting readers know that there are parts of these books that are fictional and therefore are NOT non-fiction and therefore should NOT be in non-fiction.

The slide below is one that was shared and provides a few examples of Informational Fiction books, along with a link to an additional article Getting to the Truth by Candace Fleming and Karen Blumenthal. I found this article helped clarify my thinking. What about the 42% in the slide? That is the percentage of readers who want to read expository non-fiction, from Ms. Stewart’s survey that she completed with a variety of educators, librarians and students. Imperative to note, books in the Informational Fiction category would NOT be included or considered in this percentage. It certainly makes one stop to think about a library or classroom collection, how books are cataloged and placed and how many educators may be using informational fiction as non-fiction.

Used with permission, from Melissa Stewart’s 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Rethinking Your Book Collection presentation, hosted by School Library Journal Oct. 21/20

Below are the five genre types that Ms. Stewart created with a brief description, so you can ponder my category choices of the books shared. 

  • Traditional: what we typically think of with nonfiction – writing/prose that explains, describes and informs the reader – mainly text with illustrations or photos alongside. (Think: True Book series and author Seymour Simon books)
  • Browseable Nonfiction: writing that has short amounts of texts in a block- like layouts with illustrations. (Think: Guinness World Record Books)
  • Narrative Nonfiction: tells a true story or experience, has a setting and real characters, a central theme and usually follows short story structure (rising action, climax and resolution). (Think: Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla)
  • Expository Literature: well researched, engaging design, art and layouts with rich language and a particular text structure (Think: Jess Keating’s World of Weird Animal series, Pink is for Blobfish, Cute as an Axolotl)
  • Active Nonfiction: the result of the maker movement writing that teaches skills and has readers engage in an activity or activities. (Think: Cookbooks and How to Books)

Here are the Noteworthy and Nourishing Nonfiction books for October.

Animal Engineers (Astonishing Animals)

Author: Izzi Howell

Series: Astonishing Animals

Publisher: Crabtree Publishing Company

Release Date: March 27/20

I was able to read two (Animal Engineers, Animal Athletes) of the six books in this series (Animal Celebrities, Animal Disguises, Animal Oddballs, Animal Survivors). A Table of Contents easily allows readers to scan a variety of familiar and unfamiliar animals in each title. From there, each animal has a two-page spread with small amounts of text, photographs and a WOW box that highlights a unique fact. I believe this will be a popular series for inquiry and readers who love animals. The catchy titles (Animal Celebrities) will also entice new readers to pick up the book and take a glance. 

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, and Life Sciences

Nonfiction CategoryExpository Literature – well researched, engaging layout with a variety of photos and captions, descriptive text structure.

Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem

Author” Jude Isabella

Illustrator: Kim Smith

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Release Date: March 3/20

Until recently, wolves were very misunderstood animals. Early in the 1800s, the US government encouraged hunters to kill wolves near and around Yellowstone National Park to save livestock. What happened was the gray wolf was eradicated from the park and had profound effects on the ecosystem. This book helps defy those beliefs by sharing how the reintroduction of gray wolves in Yellowstone Park changed not only the ecosystems making it healthier but also the land itself. This book is geared towards older readers and provides an in-depth look at the impact of various animals, the different food chains and the hierarchy within those food chains. There is an extensive amount of research and a variety of text features to help readers learn a great deal from this experiment. I thoroughly enjoyed learning the details about what happened and know this is one that readers and teachers can read cover to cover or look for specific information.

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, and Life Sciences

Nonfiction Category Expository Literature – well researched, engaging layout with a variety of photos and captions, descriptive text structure.

Flash and Gleam:Light in Our World

Author & Illustrator: Sue Fliess & Khoa Le

Publisher: Millbrook Press

Release Date: Mar. 3/20

Four children experience many forms of light and the numerous ways we encounter and experience light. This book packs so much on each page in three simple rhyming text lines that act as an exemplary mentor text and foster further discussions and inquiry. Readers experience all the ways light impacts life. From different cultural celebrations that use light, how light can bend, to the fireflies that give off light, to the stunning Aurora Borealis, Sue Fliess covers it all, and Khoa Le’s illustrations are breathtaking and accompany the lyrical text perfectly. The back matter explains the science of light along and how different celebrations use light.

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, Physical Science, Social Studies (Celebrations)

Category Informational Fiction– told in a rhyming scheme consisting of three lines, providing readers with the ways light impacts our lives. Light is personified when it is given a voice.

Follow Those Zebras: Solving a Migrations

Author: Sandra Markle

Publisher: Millbrook Press

Release Date: April 7/20

I always look forward to a Sandra Markle book release, especially her Science Discovery series allowing readers to see how scientists work to learn more about questions that pique their curiosity. In this book, scientist Robin Naidoo learns about a herd of zebras in Bostwana and Nambia who disappear during the dry season and months later reappear. No one knows why they would abandon the Chobe river, a guaranteed year-round water source during the dry season, risking migrating to areas where there is no water. No one knows where the herd goes, and he wonders why no one has tracked them, considering the technology available. From here, we find out the process to discover not only where they go but also facts about zebras, other migratory animals, predators that live there and the habitat itself. The photographs give readers a clear understanding of the tagging of the zebras and close-ups of its characteristics. It allows readers to experience the scientific method in action. The back matter includes an author’s note, glossary, fast facts about zebras, and a Find Out More section. This was a fascinating read to discover where the zebras were going, why they left and also how climate change was impacting migratory patterns.

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, and Life Sciences

Nonfiction CategoryExpository Literature – well researched, engaging layout with a variety of photos and captions, descriptive text structure.

Rare & Blue Finding Nature’s Treasures

Author & Illustrator: Constance Van Hoven & Alan Marks

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Release Date: June 16/20

In this non-fiction narrative, the author invites you to go on a search for a variety of shades of the colour blue. As you travel the world in search of these different shades, one learns about the living treasures residing in that ecosystem. There are layers to this book that go beyond the beautiful two-page spread illustrations. In the short lyrical paragraphs, Ms. Van Hoven uses more than our sense of sight to receive clues and is specific as to where we should look (eyes, close to the ground, peer under algae, and listen for zray, zray, zreee). She provides facts about the treasure but also the impact humans have on it and its habitat. The back matter includes a category of species, a glossary and additional reading about the blue and rare treasure and also ways to help those treasures.

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, Earth Science, Life Science

Nonfiction CategoryNarrative – author inviting you to come search for treasure and uses travelling as its sequence to move along and also descriptive writing in the use of different colours.