As you are aware by now, I am fascinated by nonfiction picture books. From science driven ones (Dianna Aston)untitled (135) to biographical focused ones (Barb Rosenstock, Audrey Vernick, Emily Arnold McCully, et. al.) to historical fiction (Kelly Lyon Starling, Judith St. George, Don Tate, Eve Bunting, et. al.). The text and illustration are so captivating that I cannot stop turning the pages. untitled (136)

The days of the “boring textbooks’ format” in nonfiction is fading away like rotary phones and landlines. I, for one, is ecstatic about this. So I am constantly keeping up with the buzz on the changes in publishing and how nonfiction is affected. I came across this article and thought I should share. I found a blog that blogs about the Common Core State Standards. Whether they are for or against it, is irrelevant. However, they stated that there are 7 categories of nonfiction in kidlit and they classify these books in these categories. untitled (139)


1.) Data: In more friendly terms, you might call this category Fasts Facts. It includes Eyewitness Books, The Guinness Book of World Records, and my own book Animal Grossapedia. These are the concise, fact-filled books that groups of boys love to read together and discuss. untitled (141)

2.) Expository: You might call this category Facts Plus because the facts are interwoven into a content-area explanation. This is could be considered “traditional” nonfiction in some ways, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about today’s expository titles. Their engaging text and rich, dynamic art and design are sure to delight as well as inform young readers.

3.) Narrative: This is a category we’ve heard a lot (I mean A LOT) about in the last few years. It’s the current darling of awards committees. Narrative titles present facts in the form of a true story with a narrative arc. As you learn about the next few categories, I think you’ll see that some of the books that have been lumped into the narrative category should really be thought about on their own terms, based on the author’s approach to the information. untitled (137) untitled (139)

4.) Disciplinary Thinking: These books reveal how scientists and historians go about their work, how they evaluate evidence and form theories. The structure could be narrative, but it usually isn’t. This category might also be called something like Experts at Work. Scientists in the Field books are the perfect example, but there are plenty of other examples. Skull by Mark Aronson is one that immediately comes to mind. untitled (142)

5.) Inquiry: This category could also be called Ask and Answer. In these books, the author raises a question or a group of related questions and then seeks the answer. Sally Walker’s Written in Bone and What Bluebirds Do by Pamela F. Kirby are great examples. untitled (143)

6.) Interpretation: For these books, authors research a topic widely, find their own meaning in the information, and present the content from that point of view. Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman is the first title that leaps to mind, but I’d also put books like Those Rebels, Tom and John by Barbara Kerley in this category. I think we’ll see more of these books in the future because this type of presentation directly supports Common Core. untitled (144)

7.) Action: This is category offers a separate spot for titles that invite young readers to take action. The most obvious examples include Citizen Scientists by Loree Griffin Burns and the Science Play series by Vicki Cobb. I’m not sure this system is the be all and end all, but it’s a very interesting way for writers, teachers, librarians, and other book lovers to think about nonfiction. It stretches the way we think about current books and future possibilities, and I think that’s extremely valuable. untitled (145)

Do you know what you are writing? Do you know in which category your manuscript belong? Take the Challenge. Find some of these books, read them, and come back here and post the title, author, and category. Trust me, you will not be disappointed in your finding. Better yet, you will have a new love and discovery for all things nonfiction.

Here are some of my favorite nonfiction. untitled (140) untitled (153)

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genre25 If you plan on making a living as a writer, it is important that you know 1) What you want to write. 2) For whom you would like to write. If you have the answers to these two questions, you are already on your way. Genre selection is important. If you do not know what you are writing then you cannot pitch it effectively to agents and publishers. For instance, you are stuck on an elevator at a conference with an agent. The agent noticed the manuscript in your hand.

He said, “So you’re a writer?”
“I am.”
“What do you write?”
“Well, it is a mix between fantasy, Sci-fi, and Dystopian.”
“Really? How did you come up with that?”
“It just is!”

I hate to tell you, you just lost an agent. Learn the definition of the different book genres. Do your research. genres 1

I write picture books and Middle Grade. I still know that many of my manuscripts fall in the historical fiction category. I love history. It intrigues me. But at times, you will find some other elements mixed in. Learn your genres. genres 4

Here is a list provided by the Guardian. A List A Book Genres

Fiction Genre List
•Action and Adventure,
•Chick Lit,
•Commercial Fiction,
•Family Saga,
•Dark Fantasy (probably still a major sub-genre!)
•Gay and Lesbian,
•General Fiction,
•Graphic Novels,
•Historical Fiction,
•Literary Fiction,
•Military and Espionage,
•Offbeat or Quirky,
•Picture Books,
•Religious and Inspirational,
•Science Fiction,
•Short Story Collections,
•Thrillers and Suspense,
•Women’s Fiction,
•Young Adult.


Non-Fiction Genre List
•Art & Photography,
•Biography & Memoirs,
•Business & Finance,
•Celebrity & Pop Culture,
•Music, Film & Entertainment,
•Cultural/Social Issues,
•Current Affairs & Politics,
•Food & Lifestyle,
•Gay & Lesbian,
•General Non-Fiction,
•History & Military,
•Home Decorating & Design,
•How To,
•Humour & Gift Books,
•Medical, Health & Fitness,
•Nature & Ecology,
•Relationship & Dating,
•Religion & Spirituality,
•Science & Technology,
•True Adventure & True Crime,
•Women’s Issues.

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ferdinandAs a reader of old school novels and picture books, I can appreciate backstory in chapter one. But those days are gone and far between. Editors and agents are now telling you to write a novel in the middle of the action to hook the reader. Then sprinkle the backstory throughout. For me, this is hard. I want to connect with the character and learn the problem before I am dab smack in the middle of it action, drama, and mess. But it is what it is; and I have to “keep it moving”. imagesCAWVI72N

But writing a novel is very different from writing a picture book. Now, I am hearing that agents only want picture books less than 600 words. This is where I have a problem. It is a difficult task. It is not as easy as people think. I am a huge fan of Patricia Polacco. All her picture books are over 1000-words. And I love her writing. I love her illustrations. And I love her. Point blank. Period.

mlk But if you are writing fictional picture books, there is no need for backstory. The illustrators can paint that scene to give the reader that information. In nonfiction picture book, backstory is a BIG DEAL. It tells the agents and editors that you have done your homework. So the truth is there is a place for backstory in picture books. Definitely in nonfiction, included it on the “author’s note page”. That is where you would add all the information that you left our of the story. bat bas

14:14 Black History Month ~ SATCHEL PAIGE


14:14 Picture Book Challenge Day 11 Christie Wright Wild

Author: David A Adler
Illustrator: Terry Widener
Publisher: Sandpiper
Word Count: 1643-words
Type: Non-Fiction

Summary: This is the story of Satchel Paige, an African-American pitcher who could throw a baseball like no one else. But due to the era of Jim Crow, Segregation, and “treating blacks like they were second-class citizens”, African American players were kept out of the major leagues.

This book could touch on many elements. But for me, it encompasses the element of plot and dialogue. I choose to focus on the latter.

What I liked about this book is, when questions were asked, the author used dialogue to make it “showing” versus “telling.” What drives this story? The first page started with a quote from Paige himself. “Only one person can pitch like me. I could nip frosting off a cake with my fast ball.” Then the author went on to state, “Satchel Paige may have been the best pitcher ever.” That is a bold first sentence considering I have read many books, looked at many baseball stats, and more than a million people would disagree. But the reality is, no one credited Satchel’s stats from the negro league. Many said, “That don’t count.” I say, “It’s the only one that does.”

Paige was secretive about his age. When asked, he replied, “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”

There is a part in the book, where the author exhibited Paige’s artistic “writer” skill. He created names for his pitches. (I bet you can’t say them fast :D)
“The blooper, looper, drooper, hesitation pitch, wobbly ball, trouble ball, nothing ball, and a whipsey-dipsey-do. His favorite was a “bee” ball which buzzed like a bee past the batter.”

This is a baseball player in blissful banter about a sport he loves, BASEBALL!!!

What did the greatest white players had to say about Satchel Paige?
Joe Dimaggio said, “the best and fastest pitcher I’ve ever faced.”
Ted Williams said, “Saatch was the greatest pitcher in baseball.”
Dizzy Dean said, “(Paige) is a better pitcher than I ever hope to be.”

So to the millions who think that Satch is not the best, “If the greats say he’s the best. Then I believe Satch is the best.”

This book could touch on so many elements. The plot is simple. This book chronicles the life of one of the best players to play the sport of baseball. He played at a time where Jim Crow reigned, African-Americans were not respected, and baseball was separate and “unequal.”

This book is perfect supplemental resource for any curriculum and should not ONLY be read during Black History Month.


untitled (71)TITLE: ABE LINCOLN: The boy who loved books
AUTHOR: Kay Winters
ILLUSTRATOR: Nancy Carpenter
Publisher: Aladdin
Year: 2006 (First edition 2003)
Word Count: 1049
Category: Nonfiction

Summary: This book highlights the life of Abe Lincoln.

This challenge is 14:14 PB Challenge by Christie Wild.

ABE LINCOLN: The boy who loved books is a 1049-words book with presidential hook. In honor of President’s Day, I chose to analyze this book. I will focus on ELEMENT #10 ~ BEGINNING AND ENDING.

The book began:
In the wilds of Kentucky, 1809
a boy was born.
His mother called him Abraham,
his last name Lincoln.
His bed was made from corn husks,
his covers, skins from bears.
His cabin built with logs
from towering trees.

This is the first page. I typed it as written. I like the introduction. The birth to show us that this book covers a span of years.

The rest of the books delves into his parents, his schooling, and his determination to learn how to read. It tapped into his emotional side – the book he borrowed from a neighbor and how upset he was when the rain destroyed it, his studying to be a lawyer and helping a friend, and his motivation for president.

The book ends with these words on the last page:

Abraham Lincoln –
born in a log cabin,
child of the frontier,
head in a book –
elected our sixteenth president!
From the wilderness
to the White House.
He learned the power of words
and used them well.

I loved this book. As you all know by know, I am branching out into writing nonfiction picture books. So analyzing these books give me insight into pulling these books together.

The simplicity of the sentences spark any reluctant reader to pick up a book.

My favorite part of the book, is the attack of the forest animals. The descriptive prose reminded me of a poetic feel.

“Bears growled,
Wolves howled,
panthers screamed.
Abe shivered.
Dark was a fearsome time.”

I loved this book. I recommend it to everyone. And it is in perfect time for President’s Day!

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14:14 PBC, MOSES

AUTHOR: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Publisher: Jump to the Sun and Perma-Bound
Year: 2006
Word Count: 1424
Summary: This nonfiction book describes Harriet Tubman’s spiritual journey as she hears the voice of God guiding her north to freedom on her very first trip to escape the brutal practice of forced servitude.

This challenge is 14:14 PB Challenge by Christie Wild.

I had choices. There were so many books to choose, but I wanted this one. I wanted to read about a woman who was determined. A woman who persevered. And a woman who was a dreamer, believer, a challenger and a motivator.

I wanted to know about a woman whose bones were beaten, but wouldn’t let her dreams be broken. A woman who knew to look to the sky and follow the star. I wanted to know about Harriet Tubman. And I did!

I see the wheels turning in your head, and I know what you’re thinking.
“1424-words for a picture book?”
Yes, that’s accurate. However, do not question the word count. It’s about the content. I know the industry is looking for books in the 500-600 word range. However, stories can be told in 500-600 words. But great stories should be told in as many words needed to get the message across, and 1424-words did justice.


I love the writing of this piece. The use of onomatopoeia (sound words) delivered the story in n rhythmic way. Two-word alliterations sprinkled through out. And the use of simile (comparing two things using ‘like’ or ‘as’) drove the plot forward.


“She (Harriet) grips the ax to chop wood, breathes deeply, and MURMURS.”
“As the wagon WOBBLES along…”
“A heart song LULLS her to sleep”
“A mosquito BUZZES in Harriet’s ears”
“Back on shore, hounds SNARL, SNIFF for Harriet’s trail”
“…gut CHURNS”

“Her heart flutters. HUSH: hoofbeats!”

“She recalls dreams where she FLEW LIKE A BIRD”
“Harriet feels LIGHT AS A CLOUD”

I chose this book for three reasons. One, it is the month of February and Black History Month. Two, it is the Week-Of-Writing Mini Retreat. Three, I am working on two nonfiction picture books so since I had to find mentor text, I decided to kill two birds with one stone 😀

This book is written in a lyrical prose. The illustrations are amazing. I love everything that Kadir Nelson touches. He is the Midas of illustrations to me; so talented and amazing. But this story is about knowing that nonfiction doesn’t have to be boring. This book is entertaining, fun, quick and easy to read. The pacing and flow of the words on the page allows the reader to connect with the pictures.

So in the words of Harriet Tubman, “Lord, don’t let nobody turn me ’round; I’d rather die than be a slave.”

I agree, Harriet! I agree!





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Today, I will be working on my nonfiction picture books. I’ve been stuck for awhile; not sure how to approach this topic. I’ve read non-fiction picture books over and over and over again. I’ve read about nature, people, and places. And I’ve read books by different authors with different writing styles and different motivation for writing that particular books.

Then I muttered to myself, “You are part of a non-fiction writing group” and “You are always telling new members to browse through the webinars” and “You are always bragging about how wonderful these authors are. So why aren’t you practicing what you preach?”

I then went under the files tab and found a webinar by Kristen McGill Fulton broadcast in September 2013. (This was before I became a member of the group.) So I got my notebook and pen and took notes. Here is what I learned.

1. When you are researching, get 15 index cards and jot 15 different ideas or scenes down as you research. Make sure these ideas and scenes will contribute to your main point.
*Write PIVOTAL story on each card.

2. When you are finish with #1, write a story with beginning, middle, and end. Mix in the 15 scenes and make sure it flows and can paint a picture.

3. TRUE NON-FICTION requires Author’s note and Bibliography pages. (According to Kristen, if you do not have a full page of bibliography citations, then you do not have enough for your research.)

4. Word Count should fall between 750 – 1000. I was told that it can go up to 2000, but Kristen stated the word count range between 750 – 1000.

5. Write in 3rd person. This is difficult for me because I love to use dialog and “I”. However, some publishing houses advise against dialog and “I”. Dialog in non-fiction picture books have to be verifiable. If you find a quote in a reliable source then you can use it. For instance, I am writing about a man who was a fighter. He gave an interview with a newspaper in his hometown. I learned that I can use the quote from that newspaper in my book. That was great to know.

6. When writing about people in non-fiction picture books, there are two ways to do it – 1. A Profile Piece; 2. A Treatment Piece.
*Profile piece is when you write the life of that person, from the day he/she was born, to the day he/she died.
*Treatment piece is when you write a section of that person’s life. Kristen refers to it as “paint a section”. Pick a moment in that person’s life and end the book with the main plot point you wanted to showcase.

7. If you want to include a timeline of that person’s life in the treatment piece, then that is okay.

8. There are four types of non-fiction – BEEF (My mnemonics to remember them) – Biography, Experience, Embellishments, Facts.