Non-Fiction or Not Fiction, Going to School

After my last non-fiction Monday post, I really started thinking about the distinction between fiction and non-fiction. Some books automatically fall into one or the other category, particular those series books written for school reports, like the titles I recently ordered on each of the United States. But others are more flexible, particularly in the areas of non-fiction for very young children and narrative non-fiction. I think that this lack of clarity is one of the reasons I try to present the distinction as more of a cataloging issue than a moral imperative when talking to kids. Non fiction is not true and fiction is not false.

As a librarian, I’ve looked at books cataloged in the non-fiction and thought they’d circulate better in the picture book section, while other times I’ve wondered why some titles end up labeled as picture books. (Truthfully, the cataloging team here just goes by whatever comes with the book, and since they don’t do their own cataloging can’t switch from fiction to non-fiction easily) I think there isn’t a right or a wrong place to put these books, though sometimes I wish we could have copies in both sections so they could be discovered by more people. This is particularly true of books that depict the everyday experiences of children, because books on going to school, going to the dentist, and going potty are staples of picture books and non-fiction sections.

Today I want to share a selection of books that fit into this category, some are in the non-fiction and some in the picture book section, but I would say all of them are not fiction. Bonus points if you can guess which are cataloged as non-fiction and which as picture books.

Rain School

Rain School, James Rumford, This is the story of a school in Chad, where students have to build their school every year during the dry season only to have it wash away in the monsoons.

Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan

Nasreen’s Secret School, Jeanette Winter, Set in Taliban Afganistan, this book tells the story of girls who secretly sought education, how they escaped detection, and how education provided light in a dark time.

Kindergarten Day USA and China/Kindergarten Day China and USA

Kindergarten Day USA and China/Kindergarten Day China and USA, Trish Marx, Ellen Senisi, In a neat flip format, this book tells the story of two kindergartens, one in the USA and one in China, following each class through very similar days.

Deron Goes to Nursery School

Deron Goes to Nursery School, Ifeoma Onyefulu. Starting nursery school is similar all over the world, as readers discover as they follow Deron to his nursery school in Ghana.

Listen to the Wind: the Story of Dr. Greg & Three Cups of Tea

Listen to the Wind: the Story of Dr. Greg & Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and Susan Roth. Though initially skeptical about this adaption of the popular adult book, I was charmed by the illustrations and the simple story of building a school in Nepal.

Non-Fiction Monday is hosted this week by The Children’s War, check out the other interesting posts there!


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