Non-fiction Informational Books
What is non-fiction? How is non-fiction different from realistic fiction? • “All literary texts offer children representations of the world and of their own place as children within that world. If the representation is persuasive, it will become the world that those children readers believe they live in.” (Perry Nodelman) • “Non-fiction” is about the way things are. • Often, adults view non-fiction as merely functional, their purpose being to inform rather than entertain or inspire.
Kinds of non-fiction • Concept books • Alphabet • Counting • Shapes, colors, sizes, sounds, etc. • Narratives • Histories • Biographies • Other informational books • Science • Nature • Art • Music • Etc.
Is it fictional? • Unlike fiction, non-fiction claims to be completely factual. • Authors attempt to communicate info accurately. But… • Authors need to decide which facts to mention and which to leave out. • Authors must interpret those facts to make sense for young readers. • Different writers interpret facts differently.
Is it fictional? • Non-fiction, like fiction presents slanted or partial versions of the truth. • But since they claim to be accurate, non-fiction books have an especially strong potential to seem true to readers who accept the texts’ view of things and insert themselves into the narratives the text offers.
Common ideological assumptions implied within much non-fiction • The world is a simple place: Downplays complications so kids can understand. Most children’s non-fiction is very easy to understand and comfortingly (or boringly) like what many children are apt to know already. • The world is a happy place: Board books for young children- bright colors, flawless apples, fresh paint. Parents never argue. • The world is a homogenous place: unconventional behavior doesn’t exist. Adults agree completely on everything without comment. No other reality exists. • The world and its people are wonderfully diverse: Overemphasis on differences. For example comparing people and traditional costumes.
Common ideological assumptions implied within much non-fiction • The world is a rational place: Most books present their ideas from only one perspective. Dinosaurs and evolution. A huge debate, but hardly even seen in thousands of books about dinosaurs. • The world is full of clear and obvious messages about values: Almost always have messages about character. for example, turning a biography into a fable about a specific value. Helen Keller: determination. • The world is a hopeful place: Example Hiroshima no Pika. Ends on a hopeful note. There are many other interpretations and constructions of the future that the dropping of atomic bombs on cities can bring out. Children are steered toward optimistic interpretations, not free to choose themselves from a range of options. • The world is getting better all the time: Not cyclical, but linear. People understand more and are closer to making peace, technology helps, etc.
Biographies as an example • Early biographies for children: like good boy bad boy books. Didactic and intended to set an example by showing exemplary lives. Lives of saints or heroes. One sided – Either about untouchable heroes, or dastardly villains. • No bibliography, no index • Non-controversial, straightforward facts. • Lack of obvious research suggests that there is only one story. And the book cannot be questioned.
Begins to change the perception and practice of biographies for children. -lively writing style -accuracy -attention to detail -boldly confronts controversial issues. -Period photos for a more authentic view of the era -lists resources and provides an index These features have become standard for informational books. -suggests respect for young readers -higher quality of books -more accurate (and more aware of biases) -more interesting to read 1987: Freedman’s Lincoln: A Photobiography
Three types of biography(shows how fiction and non-fiction mix) Authentic biography • Uses only facts that can be supported by evidence. Dialogue is less common and must be supported by documents or verifiable personal recollection. Can never be totally authentic since ignoring some facts and highlighting others imposes the author’s point of view. Fictionalized biography • Dramatizes certainty events. Liven up dialogue. Invent dramatic scenes that could have happened. Doesn’t tamper with basic facts of history. Not as reliable as authentic biography, but may be more lively reading and it can stimulate curiosity to pursue the facts. (Movies about historical figures are often like this. You may find yourself checking to find out what points were really true and which weren’t. ) Biographical fiction • Builds story around character’s life, altering facts to fit narrative needs. The story is more important than the truth. They are fun, can also stimulate curiosity, but they are not history. Can be fairly accurate. The distinction between these three types is not always clear. Also… Partial biographies • Lincoln’s youth. Lincoln’s political career. Autobiographies • Written by the subject. Never complete or objective
Evaluating Non-fiction • Accuracy • The facts presented are accurate and shown in context • Important facts are not omitted • Opinions and theories are clearly shown as different from facts • Sources of information are documented • Organization • The material is presented logically and is easy to understand and follow. • Good table of contents and index help readers find specific information easily. • Writing Style • Interesting and understandable • Tone of writing shows the author’s attitude • Doesn’t over generalize • Illustrations • Accurate • Enhance and extend the text • Artistically good.
Hiroshimaand the first atom bomb • An Authentic history • A fictionalized history • Pay attention to facts, writing style and how information is presented • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?