The Facebook Discussion from NF Fest
Recently we've had an in-depth Facebook discussion about the nomenclature of "informational fiction" vs. "nonfiction." Melissa Stewart, who I consider an authority on the subject, has given us definitions and examples of each, yet confusion still remains.
From our discussion, Melissa indicated, "An informational fiction book has some documented information and some made up parts." She goes on to say that labeling a book as informational fiction alerts readers "to the fact that some of the info in the book is made up. We need to be honest with them." I agree.
Some writers in the NF Fest suggested libraries create a separate section for informational fiction. However, this may be problematic for school librarians who have cataloging done by library jobbers such as Follett. (Note that many school librarians are in charge of several buildings and don't have the time to catalog.)
Another trend nonfiction writers need to know about is the "genrification" of library collections. To gentrify is to arrange a library by category to make book location easier, similar to bookstores. Some libraries may only genrify fiction (all dragon books shelved as a subgenre in fantasy.) Other school libraries may place all fiction, nonfiction, biographies and picture books together in genres such as war, sports or supernatural. (They ditched the Dewey Decimal system.) School librarian and nonfiction author Marcie Flincum Atkins said, "Books that haven't moved in years are getting lots of love." It transformed her circulation numbers - data that administrators understand when determining library budgets.
Melissa Stewart and I continued our discussion privately where she shed more light on this topic.
- First, wholesalers are already tagging informational fiction in their databases, so it's no longer a matter of debate as to whether people agree to the term "informational fiction." As Melissa states, "It's part of the landscape."
- Stay tuned for Melissa's new book this fall from Stenhouse about the classification of nonfiction and the research showing that many kids prefer expository nonfiction. She does discuss informational fiction in this book, but it isn't a major focus.
- Finally, here's a blurb from Stenhouse, a publisher that provides professional resources for educators. 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children's Books highlights more than 150 high-quality children's nonfiction titles for K-8. It provides strategies for building strong, diverse classroom and library collections and includes 22 innovative reading and writing activities that show teachers how to utilize the many wonderful nonfiction children's books being published today. This book will be a boon for writers, too.
NF vs. Informational Fiction Exercise
As a former school librarian, I'm sharing a process of determining whether these exemplary books are informational fiction or nonfiction.
- If one turns to the dedication pages and looks at the CIP, Cataloging-In-Publishing data, we see their Dewey Decimal numbers - 599.7695 for Sea Otter Heroes and 571.78 for Wait, Rest, Pause.
Patricia's book - DDC 599.7695
- They are both by Millbrook Press, a well-respected name in nonfiction.
- They have back matter that includes further reading, web sites, photo acknowledgments, and acknowledgments of subject matter experts who have provided information or vetted the book.
Marcie's book back matter
- The writing uses extended metaphors and a first person POV to give facts about the ocean.
- From the book one can pick out the facts: "I am the blue water at the beach, the waves, mist and storms. That salty smell is me, too. / I stretch from the icy poles, North and South. I rub shoulders with North America and bump into Africa. I slosh around South American and crash into Europe.
- The Cataloging-In-Publishing data indicates no actual Dewey number but places it in "E" (a designator for picture books organized by author's last name). The cataloging summary indicate the text gives characteristics "as described by the ocean itself." The ocean is speaking. That is a fictional element.
Can you find the "E" designator and heading "Fiction"?
Head over to the NF Fest and join in the Facebook discussion and go to the web site to read posts. You may want to try these exercises with students or for yourself asking questions like this: 1. Can you identify the real stuff and the made up parts? 2. Can you figure out why the author included them? 3. Is it NF or IF? Happy classifying.
A helpful post, Kathy, and thanks for sharing your expertise.ReplyDelete
My pleasure, Sherri. We NF nerds enjoy this stuff, right?Delete
Thanks for a great post, Kathy! I appreciate your point of view as a former school librarian!ReplyDelete
Melissa, I appreciate you stopping by to read this. Ty.Delete
Awesome post, Kathy! Very helpful CLUES to differentiate between the two. And a great exercise for kids! Thank you!ReplyDelete
Ty, Tina. I enjoy both types, NF and IF.Delete
Thanks Kathy- this is exactly what I was thinking about while participating in NF Fest. The school library at work has begun "genrification". This post has provided some great information for me as I love "library talk". It's definitely my happy place at work!ReplyDelete
Oh, another library geek, squee. Ty for reading and stopping by.Delete
Thank you, Kathy, for clarifying the world of NF. YOu gave me some activity ideas for students I'll be working with next month.ReplyDelete
Yay. Get them turning pages and investigating. YOU inspire me.Delete
Great post - and yet confusion persists. While Melissa would definitely put the "talking cactus" from FLOWER TALK into the "informational fiction" category, Library of Congress places the book squarely into Nonfiction, with a QH designation for LOC and 579 in Dewey system. I think authors can make it abundantly clear what is true (fact) and what is imagined. The harder question, pointed out by librarians, is how to shelve the books so kids will best find them.ReplyDelete
For a school librarian, that is the crux of the matter. The kids must be able to find the books they want.Delete
Yes to all of this. Thank you so much for this resourceful and helpful read. Knowing how to correctly "market" the shelving of these titles for our young readers continues to be the issue. But I love your detailed, informative post. And I am grateful for it. Well done, Kathy.ReplyDelete
TY, CP, Pam, for the support.Delete
Wonderful post. I'm going to link it to the STEAMTeam2020 twitter feed.ReplyDelete
TY, so much, Buffy. I os admire your work.Delete
Thanks for this important post, Kathy. This is going to be an ongoing discussion because there are so many moving parts (practical application depends on so many factors, depending on the library), and am looking forward to a lifely Twitter event on #PBChat with Melissa on the 26th.ReplyDelete
I agree. It still feels like the moving parts make all the difference. But at least folks can see it now from the POV of a librarian.TY for reading, Jilanne.Delete
Thank you, Kathy, for giving us a peek into the POV of a librarian. I appreciate your insight and expertise in all things library. Terrific discussion !ReplyDelete
Ty for stopping by and your support, Charlotte. Ur a great cheerleader.Delete
Great work, Kathy! I enjoyed this post as well as the conversations you and I have been having on this fascinating topic.ReplyDelete
I agree. If we writers can't get our heads around it, how do we expect educators, laypeople, kids to underwent this? I enjoy our conversations.Delete
An important discussion! I think an important distinction is that the term “non-fiction“ was originally created to mean just that – anything that was not fiction. To this day, that category includes things that are not “fact” books, i.e. myths, poetry, which creates even more confusing when we try to teach that term as meaning factual books. I wonder if it might not be more useful to label the factual books as that and leave everything else to be sorted out by the readers.ReplyDelete
Heather, I agree. However, it's our friend Melvil Dewey who created the placement of poetry, mythology, fairy tales into the system he created. When I taught, I used your exact definition. Nonfiction is anything that is not fiction. Ty for reading and commenting.Delete
That's right, Kathy. Dewey placed ALL books into his categories, including fiction of course. So just because a book has a Dewey number does not mean that it is nonfiction.Delete
Yup, just wish the names were not "fiction" and "nonfiction." So confusing to kids.Delete
Interesting article! One quick question: Would the I Survived… series by Lauren Tarshis be considered Informational Fiction?ReplyDelete
I honestly have not read them. I know the kids love them.ReplyDelete
Great examples thank you!ReplyDelete
Ty, Lauri, for stopping by to read.Delete
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