Nonfiction writers can get discouraged when they ask librarians about the books kids ask for most, especially when the answer is: “Anything with unicorns. Or super heroes. Or fairy princesses."
How can nonfiction compete? Why bother digging through historical records, consulting with experts, cross-checking minute details about food and weather and clothing in the time and place of your story when kids are clamoring for glittery stuff that breaks all the rules?
The answer is that you’re not competing. Nonfiction is part of a well-balanced reading diet. Kids are always going to want dessert. We are all always going to want dessert. But we also need protein and vegetables and fiber. Nonfiction, packed with wholesome facts, helps build a clear vision of who we have been as a species and gets kids thinking about who we can be going forward.
Stories about unicorns and super heroes and fairy princesses, which I love as much as the kids do, allow them to soar and pluck whipped cream pies off trees of wonder.
Some fanciful tales will prove surprisingly nourishing, with themes that go straight to the heart and help kids navigate the world of feelings and spirit. Others will just be delicious like an ice cream cone with sprinkles and that’s good, too. Imagination is the ingredient that makes many of the nonfiction heroes and heroines reach beyond the limitations of their lives to do the great things that fill our stories.
Kids need wonder. We all do.
But while a protein and vegetable plate may not be glamorous, it’s needed for young, growing minds and bodies. So do your research, your fact checking and your seemingly endless revisions with joy, knowing that you are doing your part to raise strong, resilient kids. But don’t begrudge them their unicorns or super heroes or fairy princesses. Enjoy the light in their eyes as they marvel and laugh. And be glad we’re part of a large community of writers, with each of us contributing a needed ingredient to a recipe too big and grand for any of us individually to see.
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.