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Mentor Text Monday: Editor Julia Recko Prefers Informational Fiction

by Julia Recko

I personally dislike basic fact-filled nonfiction. Even with clever construction or lyrical language, I’m just not as engaged by facts as others. My motivation to read really lies in the story. 

That’s why I prefer informational fiction, which can be a sneaky and fun way to get facts! The publishing company I work for, Feeding Minds Press, has published a few books that are excellent examples of informational fiction.

First, “Potatoes for Pirate Pearl” words by Jennifer Concepcion and art by Chloe Burgett. This book is, first and foremost, a story about a pirate who needs food for her ship and her friendship with a farmer. Throughout the story, readers learn all about potatoes, how they are planted, grown, cared for, and harvested and how to make them into delicious recipes.

The book is packed with backmatter on

planting potatoes and potato facts. But even if you didn’t care about potatoes or learning about them, you could still enjoy a silly story about a pirate and her “rainbow chicken.” 

Next, “I Love Strawberries” words by Shannon Anderson and art by Jaclyn Sinquett. At its core, this book is about Jolie trying to convince her parents to let her grow strawberries. Through her hilarious antics and determination, Jolie finally convinces them. On the surface, this story is about the character Jolie – her pure determination can be so relatable to kids. 

We could leave the story there, and it would be excellent. But again, we sneak in the facts. Throughout the book, we learn about how strawberries grow, what they need to grow, about the plant life cycle, and get some ideas on how to enjoy them. We also learn about budgeting and responsibility. Again, the back matter offers even more resources and information on strawberries, adding value to the book.

Finally, and perhaps the sneakiest informational fiction book we’ve published recently is Farm Boots” words by Lisl H. Detlefsen and art by Renee Kurilla.  This book is an excellent example of how information doesn’t need to be hard facts. This adorable rhyming book follows families and their daily lives on their farms. “Farm Boots” offers a slice of life from the rural perspective. About 1 in 5 Americans live in rural areas but very few picture books take place in rural areas. 

While this book does not impart any hard facts (except for defining different kinds of boots in the back matter), it offers a window into the real world of life on and around farms. One that includes caring for animals, planting crops, helping a family-run farm tourist business, participating in 4H-type events and more. 

Not every publisher is looking for informational fiction. Still, I think if there’s room in your story for extra facts and/or you have some personal knowledge of a certain topic that will let you add some back matter, I think you will have a book that will do very well, especially in the school and library markets. Or if you have a nonfiction book idea, could you think about how characters might interact or encounter this information organically? Is there a way to turn it into an engaging story?

Happy writing!

PRIZE: I would be happy to offer a critique to a nonrhyming PB 1000w or under.

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