In a recent blog post I discussed the fact that terms for describing nonfiction are changing. The leader in this conversation among both writers and teachers is Melissa Stewart. Her articles on this topic over the last several years have resulted in some fairly new, but generally agreed upon, labels. In a December blog post we talked a bit about narrative nonfiction.
In this week’s post I want to tackle expository literature nonfiction. Expository literature nonfiction features a somewhat narrow topic in a creative way. And it uses engaging language with a strong, unique voice. It’s a style that works especially well for STEM topics.
While narrative nonfiction has a definite story arc, expository literature seeks to inform without a story narrative. In my experiences as an elementary teacher, I saw it happen again and again. Struggling readers are drawn to an expository literature style. They’re the bottom-line kinds of kids. (Just the facts, ma’am.) They read for information and tend to get lost if they have to find it in a story. They much prefer books that explain, describe, and inform them in a direct way.
Within the covers of an expository literature book, you’ll find a lot going on. A single page can include photos, diagrams, labels, captions, and fun facts all related to the topic discussed in the main text. In addition, you’ll likely find a table of contents, glossary, index, and a bibliography (list of references). These kinds of books are often quirky or funny—a quality kids (and big kids like me) love.
If Candace Fleming (Oops! Sorry, Candy. I forgot to hyperlink you in the December post.) is the recognized narrative nonfiction genius, then Melissa Stewart is the hands down Ninja favorite for expository literature. Melissa’s books have a distinctive voice and explore science topics in creative ways.
In Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses, Melissa ramps up the yuck factor by focusing on specific animal actions related to eating, making a home, and animal defense. The whole point is to make the reader to eeewwww a bit as they learn fascinating facts about the world around them.
Melissa’s Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs showcases “animal underdogs” with some creative survival skills. True, these animals may not be the movie stars of the animal kingdom, but those characteristics that seem like weaknesses can be the very thing that helps an underdog survive.
In Seashells: More than a Home, Melissa uses layered text to show how seashells are homes to various sea animals. The secondary text discusses the unique characteristics of each shell, while labeled diagrams make the explanations crystal clear. All of Melissa’s books are wonderful and well worth your time.
But Melissa isn’t the only one doing this type of work. Recent years have seen a rapid growth in the number of expository literature nonfiction titles on the market. A few Ninja favorites in this category include:
What to Expect When You're Expecting Larvae: A Guide for Insect Parents (And Curious Kids) by Bridget Heos
Being Frog by April Pulley Sayre (and other books by this author including Warbler Wave)
Seeds Move! by Robin Page
Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating.
Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem by Patricia Newman
Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World's Brightest Bird by Pamela S. Turner
Death Eaters: Meet Nature's Scavengers by Kelly Milner Halls
Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine Roy
Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins
Some of the Ninjas have written books in an expository literature nonfiction style as well:
Plants Fight Back by Lisa Amstutz
At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui by Christine Liu-Perkins
(Note: I mistakenly included Christine’s book in the narrative nonfiction post. This title is more accurately an expository literature nonfiction since the tomb is treated like a time capsule that examines each artifact as a part of life in ancient China.)
Extreme Sports: Motocross by Wendy Hinote Lanier
Dinosaur Devotions: 75 Dino Discoveries, Bible Truths, Fun Facts, and More! by Michelle Medlock Adams
We are nonfiction authors who support readers and writers through our writing, author visits, and workshops.
Disclaimer: The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas . The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.