30 TIPS for Writing Delightful Children’s Books Day 8

WRITING CHILDREN’S BOOKS TIP #8: NONFICTION

When I joined the children’s book industry professionally in 2015, I thought nonfiction was a special genre for writing textbooks or other books for school. It sounded absolutely boring to me and I thought I would never go near that genre.

Fast-forward a few years and it is becoming one of my favorite genres. What changed?

One day, I realized that as a history buff, most of the bits of information I have about world history came from nonfiction books and those books were NOT textbooks. They were actually interesting and fun, some had amazing illustrations and most were relatable. At age 9, I had gone through all the volumes of the big fat red, Encyclopedia Britannica. And that my friends was nonfiction at its worst (well, most voluminous). These days, nonfiction is more interesting. The creation of more subgenres (types) has made it even more interesting for children.  

By the way, nonfiction is really literature which provides verifiable information based on facts. Some good examples are biographies, memoirs,how-to books, etc.

Types of Nonfiction.

  • This is the most popular form of nonfiction. It is particularly loved by writers of fiction because it utilizes the same structure and elements as fiction. Some examples: memoirs, biographies, description of past events, etc. All the picture books on my list below as well as the middle grade book by best-selling author Soontornvat are examples of Narrative Nonfiction.

Other types are: Expository, Traditional, Active and Browsable. For more information, read this article by Melissa Stewart

TIPS FOR WRITING NONFICTION

  • Know the type of nonfiction that you are interested in
  • Read Read Read as many nonfiction books as you can lay your hands on. Ensure that this book is also
  • Research Research and Research some more. Know your subject like the back of your hand.
  • Do find a theme/ through line for your book: remember, the theme is the heart of the story.
  • Remember the elements of fiction, try to use them as much as possible. Think of your subject (human, plant, animal, place) as the character. Your subject’s habitat or the place where the primary event(s) take place is your setting. Find an emotional angle to your story and you’ve found your theme. And then determine the cause of events in your subject’s story: plot. Who describes your subject to the reader? POV

Need a refresher on the elements of fiction. Look at the Tip #4: Elements of Fiction here.

MY FAVOURITE PIECES OF NONFICTION

Picture Books

  • Berrne, Jennifer. On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein. Chronicle Books, 2016.
  • Brown, Monica. Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos. NorthSouth Books, 2017.
  • Flemming, Candace. HoneyBee: The Busy life of Apis Mellifera. Neal Porter Books, 2020.
  • Hannah-Jones, Nikola and Renee Watson. 1619 project: Born of the Water. Kokila, 2021.

Chapter Book

Kola-Lawal Constance Omawumi. My Nigeria: Early History. Farafina Tuuti.

Middle Grade

  • Soontornvat, Christina. All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team. Candlewick, 2020.

  1. Action: Look at the tips above and try to go through them one after the other. Read (like a reader, i.e. for fun) as many nonfiction books as you can find.

2. Read (Like a Writer)

Determine the type of nonfiction you would like to try and read as many books in that subgenre as you like. Remember to identify the age group also. For example, if you want to write narrative nonfiction (i.e. maybe a biography of an important person) for younger children, 4 – 8, then read nonfiction picture books.

For every book you read, note the craft element that appealed to you in the book and note how the author used it.  

Want to write a story for children, don’t know where to start? Tell me all about it and we can figure out the theme and some mentor texts for you!

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