By Wendy Hinote Lanier
In previous Ninja Notebook posts about types of nonfiction, we’ve talked about two: narrative and expository literature nonfiction. Candace Fleming is considered the queen of narrative nonfiction among the Ninjas, while Melissa Stewart holds that title with regard to expository literature.
Because we are, after all, the Nonfiction Ninjas, we talk about nonfiction a lot. It’s something near and dear to our hearts. But our conversations are about all kinds of nonfiction, not just narrative and expository literature.
A type of nonfiction that doesn’t get a lot of attention from the awards people and maybe isn’t considered as “sexy” as other types of nonfiction is active nonfiction. Formerly referred to as “how-to” books, I can assure you, kids love them. Next time you’re in your local library, conduct a little test. Trot yourself over to the children’s nonfiction section and do a slow turn up and down those aisles. Take note of the most worn books. What kind of nonfiction are they? Dollars to doughnuts, the majority will be active nonfiction.
Active nonfiction isn’t new. Believe it or not, it was around even when I was the class librarian in the third grade. But in the last 20 years or so, this genre has definitely come its own. (FYI. I was in third grade more than 20 years ago.) (Ok. A lot more.) Inspired by the maker movement, and pushed along by improvements in the publishing process, the topics kids are interested in learning about have expanded. As a result, books that explain how to do an activity in clear, straightforward language have exploded in popularity.
Active nonfiction books encourage discovery, experimentation, and creativity in readers. These types of books include how-to guides, field guides, cookbooks, craft books, and science experiment books. They are written in an expository style and don’t have to be read from front to back. It’s a style that lets readers skip around in favor of topics or activities that interest them.
Some of the favorites among the Ninjas in this category are:
Wildlife Ranger Action Guide by Mary Kay Carson
Wildlife Ranger Action Guide provides dozens of hands-on activities and habitat creation projects, such as making a frog pond from a kiddie pool, planting a pollinator garden for bees, painting a bat house, and building a lodge for lizards. Kids are encouraged to learn about and take an active role in protecting local wildlife starting right in their own backyard.
Step by Step Projects: How to Make an Ant Farm (and other books in the Step by Step series)
The Step by Step series is produced by Rourke Educational Media. Kids can learn to make an ant farm, a piñata, and more in these easy-to-follow step by step instructional books.
The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden
A best-selling book with 1.5 million copies sold, The Dangerous Book for Boys is the original Boy 101 book. It covers everything from rope tying to learning to fish to understanding the mysteries of girls. It’s the quintessential guide to the stuff every boy (from eight to eighty) should know. Its sequel is The Double Dangerous Book for Boys.
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbooks
These books feature kid-friendly how-tos for just about any situation a kid might encounter. In middle school or out in the world. They provide funny but really useful information for navigating a kid’s world.
There are also a number of titles written by Nonfiction Ninjas that fit (if somewhat loosely) into the active nonfiction category, too. The following Ninja titles have at least some activities included.
From Lisa Amstutz
From Peggy Thomas
From Michelle Medlock Adams
From Susie Kralovansky
We are nonfiction authors who support readers and writers through our writing, author visits, and workshops.
The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas and a strong belief in The First Amendment. The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.