Friday, March 30, 2012

Creative Nonfiction Doesn’t Always Tell a Story

In recent years, we’ve heard a lot about narrative nonfiction—books that uses scene building, dialog, and other elements borrowed from fiction to tell true stories. But narrative texts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creative nonfiction for young readers.

Here are some examples:
Lyrical nonfiction employs such language devices as alliteration, rhythm, and repetition to infuse prose with combinations of sounds and syllables that are especially pleasing to the ear.

Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre (illus by Steve Jenkins)

Lightship by Brain Floca

Swirl by Swirl: Spiral s in Nature by Joyce Sidman (illus by Beth Krommes)

The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass (illus by E.B. Lewis)

Step Gently Out by Helen Frost (photos by Rick Lieder)

Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart (illus. Constance R. Bergum)

Humorous nonfiction makes expert use of sentence structure, unexpected word choices, and puns to craft a voice that has an unmistakably sassy, silly, whimsical, or even irreverent tone.

Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving and Independent Dames by Laurie Halse Anderson (illus by Matt Faulkner)
The Truth About Poop by Susan E. Goodman (illus. by Elwood H. Smith)

See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House by Susan E. Goodman (illus. by Elwood H. Smith)

Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs by Kathleen Kudlinski (illus. by S.D. Schindler)

What to Do About Alice? by Barbara Kerley (illus. by Edwin Fotheringham)

Those Rebels, Ton & John by Barbara Kerley (illus. by Edwin Fotheringham)

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

Some creative nonfiction for children is noteworthy for its structure, art, and design rather than its exceptional storytelling or spot-on voice.

What Would You Do with a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Never Smile at a Monkey by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Move! by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Where in the Wild? Camouflaged Creatures Concealed and Revealed by David Schwartz, Yael Schy, and Dwight Kuhn

Redwoods by Jason Chin

Coral Reefs by Jason Chin

When it comes to today’s nonfiction for kids, the creative possibilities are endless. And the news gets even better.

All of these books can serve as great mentor texts for students studying writing. They can help elementary-aged kids:

develop a better understanding of voice

improve sentence fluency

learn how to write for an audience
understand why including meaningful details and strong verbs is important

And best of all the content of these books can also enhance science and social studies lessons.


Dorothy Patent said...

Great post, Melissa--what a fine collection of cool books you've shown here. And it's also refreshing to point out that story isn't everything; it's wonderful, but so are these other approaches. These books could also be used in writing classes for adults--short, well-written examples of styles that they can read and digest without drowning in verbiage!

Loreen Leedy said...

'"What to Expect When You’re Expecting Larvae"

Ha! Now have a bad case of title-envy.

Thanks for the post!