Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 2, 2021

The Difference Between Nonfiction & Informational Fiction

What’s The Difference between Nonfiction and Informational Fiction
by Mira Reisberg PhD

Hi there children’s book creatives, as you may have noticed, there’s been a phenomenal uptick in nonfiction picture books over the past few years both because of the emphasis on STEM and STEAM education and because of the brilliant way that they are being crafted, reading like gripping plot-driven action or character-based stories. In fact, they are still super hot in the market right now.

There’s also been an uptick in sales of informational fiction stories, which usually feature anthropomorphic characters, or personified objects in some capacity, which also deal with STEM or STEAM in some way.

So what is STEM or STEAM?

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are seen as vital for future US careers and our future economy, so there’s a big educational push for STEM. Currently, our pre-college education system focuses on common core assessments, where there’s a focus on expository texts, which is writing that provides explanatory information, or nonfiction. STEAM is when they throw in the arts, which seems a little tokenistic given the slashing of art and music and theater in school budgets, which given that most innovation comes from different forms of creativity, is a bit short sighted, but I digress (sorry).

The real reason nonfiction is so cool and exciting right now, is that it is no longer written the way it used to be–deadly-dull, biographies stuffed with boring facts, and relying on birth to death timelines. This type of dreary non-fiction is NOT what kids (or most people) want to read. Instead, contemporary nonfiction authors focus on dramatic and pivotal events using plot-driven techniques or fascinating subjects. These subjects might be gross, unusual, historic, or compelling in some way or another for the kids who read them. Also, it’s great for parents to promote their children’s interests in a more productive way. Maybe your kid likes bugs or bulldozers or Amelia Earhart or music? There are dozens of books to foster and extend these passions or find new ones. And if not, you might need to write it yourself. So in a nutshell, absolutely nothing in nonfiction is made up or invented.

Informational fiction, on the other hand, often features anthropomorphized characters or personified objects. In this type of kidlit, a large part of the information in the book is true, but it is usually presented by fictional characters or in a made-up story line. For instance, a fictional narrator or character might tell the true historical story of an event, biography, scientific phenomenon, etc. The Magic School Bus books are a great  example of informational fiction since the characters and storyline are fiction, but the science facts in the text are true.

Another beautifully illustrated example of informational fiction is If Sun Could Speak, by Kourtney LaFavre. by Kourtney LaFavre (Author), Saki Tanaka (Illustrator) where Sun wants to impress in this slightly egotistical first-person account that sheds light on the facts, history, and myths about its existence. The thing with this book, besides being fabulously-well-illustrated is Sun’s witty voice  and  charming personality.

Author Kourtney LaFavre presented in a previous Palooza but in this year’s 2021 Palooza we have some other fantastic speakers sharing techniques and stories about both nonfiction and informational fiction writing.

If you are able to swing the joining us at the Palooza, here’s a taste of some of the prompts from our DIY worksheet that we’ll be giving out as part of the Palooza that you can use for either writing a straight nonfiction or informational fiction book. This worksheet also includes step by step instructions for writing your nonfiction or informational fiction story:

Here are some questions to answer:

  1. What is or was your favorite pet – what was it about their breed that made them a fantastic pet?
  2. What is the weirdest animal that you know of?
  3. Are there any inventions that you are curious about?
  4. How are you going to structure your story?


         Chronologically (beginning to end)?

         Plot-driven overcoming obstacles (see Informational fiction below in worksheet)?

         Compare and contrast?


Each panel will have it’s own worksheet, making this year’s Palooza even more exciting. Our 2nd panel on Saturday the 18th features these super-smart women who will be teaching you about writing your own nonfiction and informational fiction books! Yay!!

Annette Schottenfeld and Folasade Adeshide have created an exquisite informational fiction book, called Obi’s Mud Bath, full of beautiful and fun poetic language techniques and equally wonderful illustrations. It’s based on a true story but features anthropomorphic characters trying to help a little rhino Obi on his journey to find relief from the dry, dry heat with a cool ooey gooey mud bath. It’s a wonderful example of how to write in a respectful way outside of your own culture with part of the proceeds benefiting supplying clean water to places like Obi’s home. Annette will be sharing techniques and books about writing about, Gentle environmentalism with informational fiction

On the same panel, Gretchen McLellan will be speaking about Writing Fun Informational Fiction with Life Lessons & STEM. Gretchen’s story I’m Done! follows Little Beaver’s reluctant journey in learning how to make his own dam. Little Beaver’s parents want Little Beaver to make his own dam. Little Beaver would rather play. Little Beaver soon finds out how important dams are to his own life. There are beautiful illustrations and descriptive details on how beavers build their dams in a fun and adorable way!

And now for some Nonfiction!!! Lauren Soloy takes a really unusual approach to writing about a known figure. In When Emily Was Small, Lauren crafts a story from Canadian artist Emily Carr’s writing. She did a great deal of research to make sure she got all the information correct and carefully crafted her story to show the magic of Emily’s wonder at a moment in time. It’s quite extraordinary. Here’s what Penguin/Random House has to say about When Emily Was Small: “When Emily Was Small is at once a celebration of freedom, a playful romp through the garden and a contemplation of the mysteries of nature.” And of course it has exquisite quirky illustrations. Lauren will be speaking about Writing quirky or lyrical biographies.

Emma Bland Smith’s book Claude: The True Story of a White Alligator is about a white alligator who is now a much-loved character at San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences. Claude wasn’t always beloved. When he was younger he was shunned for being so different. This story is about Claude’s amazing journey across the country. At the California Academy of Sciences Claude moves into an enclosure with another Alligator named Bonnie. Unfortunately Bonnie has to move out, because she didn’t like Claude’s differences. Claude instead finds kinship with the snapping turtles in his enclosure that don’t mind that he’s different. Emma will be talking about Making Nonfiction Magic at the Picture Book Palooza.

We’ll be delving deep into this subject and many others in our upcoming Picture Book Palooza, a 2-day interactive workshop that you won’t want to miss. Right now it’s only $59 for the 2021 or $79 for both 2020 and 2021 Picture Book Palooza’s

Both Palooza’s feature wonderful teaching and learning panels, worksheets, handouts, giveaways, prizes, and this year, we have some wonderful submission opportunities. Wahoo! You will never find a more generous or helpful conference in the comfort of your own home at this price or even triple or quadruple the price.

Please join us to help raise funds for more diversity+ and low-income scholarships so we can help more writers and illustrators create wonderful kid’s books that make a difference in children’s lives, while also keeping our courses size-limited. So far our students have published or contracted over 670 books, which is pretty darn amazing and wonderful! We can’t wait to hit 1000 books, which is only a matter of time given the quality of our students and programs.

Please share with this link:

Sending much creative love,


Dr. Mira Reisberg is a multi-published award-winning children’s book illustrator and author whose books have sold over 600,000 copies. Besides running the Children’s Book Academy, she is also an acquiring Editor and Art Director at Clear Fork Publishing’s children’s book imprint Spork. Mira is also a former children’s literary agent, and a university professor who taught kid lit writing and illustrating courses as well as teacher ed. She has a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on children’s literature and has helped many writers and illustrators get published. Her job at Spork allows her to help even more people (although of course she can’t guarantee that everyone will get published, many of her former students have been).

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We really hope that you can find a way to join us and learn even more about children’s book writing and illustrating. Xoxo

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thanks for posting this, Kathy! I am going to learn a lot!


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