The Quest for the Real: Nonfiction for Children and Teenagers

Bookbird: A Journal of International Children’s Literature invites contributions for a special issue on “nonfiction for children and young adults.” While many children and teenagers prefer to read nonfiction for pleasure (from books of records to military history to sex education) the focus of research and writing about young readers skews extremely heavily towards fiction. Indeed Bookbird itself has not focused on nonfiction since 2003 and no winner or shortlisted candidate for the Hans Christian Andersen writing prize has ever been an author of nonfiction. The previous special issue came at a time where color images and computer design were transforming younger nonfiction, and (so it seemed) digital technologies threatened to replace print altogether. Today, though, nonfiction is experiencing a renaissance with, for example, books that take a global approach to history, explore ecological issues, present new scientific discoveries, or inspire readers to take action.  A special issue on nonfiction presents an opportunity to explore in many directions, from the publishing practices in different countries to the beliefs and assumptions of adult professionals. If we exclude textbooks and school work, where does nonfiction fit in the reading lives of young people?

Topics for papers might include, but are not limited to:

  • A description of the ways in which subjects such as history, science, technology, math, or engineering are crafted for young readers in a country or region – outside of textbooks.
  • An analysis of what defines a book as “nonfiction” in a given area. What rules of citation and evidence are expected? Where does memoir fit? What about books that use the forms of nonfiction on a fictional topic (Dragonology, for example).
  • Is a preference for fiction or nonfiction linked to gender? Why? Is this a social construct? A matter of concern? Is this true across lands, languages, and regions?
  • Are nonfiction books well served in awards and honors, why or why not?
  • Fiction is often praised for “story” or “imagination”: do these terms have a place in nonfiction? In contrast, nonfiction is often thought of as recounting known facts, but it can also be seen as modeling the never-ending quest for knowledge. How do story, fact, and exploration figure in the nonfiction of an author or authors?
  • In many countries nonfiction is presented in series. Why? Are there examples of authors writing individual books out of a passion for a particular subject?
  • Most nonfiction for younger readers makes extensive use of images; how is line, color, archival or current photography, utilized in nonfiction? What innovations in design creatively link images and text?
  • In schools the focus of history is often the story of that nation, so young people grow up in historical silos. How can nonfiction outside of school serve to connect separate histories?

Full papers should be submitted to the editor, Björn Sundmark (, and guest editor, Marc Aronson ( by 30 January 2017. Please see Bookbird’s website at for full submission details. Papers which are not accepted for this issue will be considered for later issues of Bookbird.