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Non-NF and the Common Core

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I've been reading the threads about PB bios and genre confusion between fiction and nonfiction PBs, and I've been wondering about "non-non-fiction" -- books that blend factual content in a fictional story, or that have nonfiction elements as back matter. Two examples that come to mind are Lemonade in Winter: A Story About Two Kids Counting, by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Brian Karas, and All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom, by Angela Johnson, illustrated by EB Lewis.

I seem to be gravitating toward writing this kind of story. MIRA TELLS THE FUTURE, my upcoming PB, is a fictional story that also has factual information about predicting the weather. I have written other books with fictional characters and nonfiction elements. I most recently drafted a funny PB with fictional characters that happens in a historical setting, and I was wondering whether to increase the NF content, rewrite as a short story, or give it up as unmarketable and nudge my other ideas all the way to fiction or all the way to nonfiction.

Is there a growing or shrinking market for these hybrid books? The same as ever? Can they be used as part of the Common Core? Does this include narrative or creative nonfiction (which I have understood previously only as an adult genre, which seems to quite different and much more NF than narrative.) I picture these as a good entry or companion into a nonfiction unit or part of an integrated curriculum -- like Lemonade in Winter during a money math unit, All Different Now in history, Mira during a meteorology science unit. Fiction -- to me -- makes the subject approachable.

But is that Common Core? Does it matter? I clearly don't understand CC all that well and how it is changing publishing needs!

 :eh2
#1 - May 05, 2015, 07:24 PM
Kell Andrews
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Twitter @kellandrewsPA

THE BOOK DRAGON, Sterling, October 2, 2018
MIRA FORECASTS THE FUTURE, Sterling, 2016

On the run here, so a quick response:

It feels like the common core market is fluctuating--at least to me, but every educator, librarian, or reading conference where I've spoken in the past three years, it's still a popular topic. My picture books are always introduced with something like "common core user-friendly," and yes, they are fully researched and vetted by experts and this has helped make them successful in the school market.

I think confusion on the topic is common. :) 

Every time I've heard a discussion or been a part of one at an event with educators, there's a consensus that we need these books, but that a good teacher can utilize any book to encourage deeper thinking on a particular topic. Some of the questions you're asking will fall to the job of the publicity department and how they choose to share your book in the market. If your publisher is setting up an educator guide for your book or asking you to create one, it's partly to show the way your book can be used in their CC curriculum.

This whole business is confusing, isn't it? I hope I haven't added to that confusion.

#2 - May 05, 2015, 08:04 PM
THESE THINGS COUNT! award-winning nature series Albert Whitman
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Putting on my first grade teacher hat...

I love fiction books that with curricular tie-ins, and I think there will be a market for them regardless of what happens with common core. I'm not sure common core does much to improve the market for books like that, though. One thing we do a lot in first grade is pair up a fiction book and a nonfiction book on similar topics, because one of the common core objectives is for students to compare fiction and nonfiction. But the fiction books chosen for those pairings don't need to have piles of factual information in them. In fact sometimes it's better if they don't, because we need to be able to show how stories are different from informational texts. The nonfiction books that are most useful for first grade common core lessons are the ones with plenty of text features to study (headings, photographs with captions, vocabulary words in bold, diagrams, maps, a table of contents, a glossary, an index... I am constantly looking for simple texts that have a bunch of those included) and books with a clear structure of main idea and supporting details, that students will be able to identify themselves with a little coaching.

Hope that's helpful! Common core is new enough and confusing enough that it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, so another teacher might have an entirely different take on it.
#3 - May 05, 2015, 08:26 PM

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I'm not sure if I will be helpful either, but I am in the process of submitting a book like yours, Kell - fiction PB with informational Back Matter. I have supplied a few Common Core activities to go with the BM, and am hoping for the best. I figure the addition can't hurt, and may actually help. I have read that Chronicle in particular looks favorably on this kind of book. Hopefully other publishers will too.
Best of luck.
#4 - May 05, 2015, 09:34 PM
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Kell, another thought. Write the book you want and hire someone else to write CC stuff to go with it once it is published. I remember Natalie and Cassandra did lovely teacher activities for many of our members for a fee.

I am not a big fan of CC or other state regulations. I only pay attention to them if I'm working on a specific project that requires those particular elements to be addressed (ex, test passage, questions, etc.) But when I write, I have a good sense of what kids are learning in school both through books and experience and use that as my guide and simply work on the story. I do find that in school there is more emphasis on pairing of a fiction text with a NF text. But kids are hungry for "informational" stories. Think Ms. Frizzle. Or Magic Treehouse.

Good luck Kell. I think your success with MiRA will breed more success!
Vijaya
#5 - May 06, 2015, 05:32 AM
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I, too, have a fiction PB with science/habitat related NF information that could be used either as sidebars or back matter. I just sent it to Arbordale (formerly Sylvan Dell) who specifically wants math or science related fiction picture books but that can have back matter that ties into educational standards. One of my crit partners had The Penguin Lady published with them three years ago - a fiction, counting story about a lady who collects penguins. Her back matter includes information about the different species of penguins and where they live.

Good luck!
#6 - May 06, 2015, 08:41 AM
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Thanks all! It's interesting to hear how others are handling it. I'm going to keep my current project as is but it might be time to try nonfiction too!
#7 - May 06, 2015, 09:07 AM
Kell Andrews
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Twitter @kellandrewsPA

THE BOOK DRAGON, Sterling, October 2, 2018
MIRA FORECASTS THE FUTURE, Sterling, 2016

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A good book is still a good book. That's the most important thing to remember about Common Core or any other standards. If your book is well written and appropriate to the age of your readers, teachers can find a way to use it. Curriculum connections can help for the school and library market, but there' nothing wrong with writing a trade book.

As said above, write the book you want to write. Make it the best book you can make it.
#8 - May 11, 2015, 07:16 AM
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