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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Some Thoughts that Circle Back Over The Course of This Blog

I was sorry to hear that Brian Kenney is leaving Mediasource, though heading up the White Plains Library seems like a good post. I can still recall the lunch with Brian and Luanne Toth where we discussed having a blog dedicated to nonfiction on the SLJ site — it sounded like a bully pulpit, and, at least for me, it has been. Good luck Brian — I suspect many of the other bloggers have said similar public goodbyes. One theme that has come up often is my dissatisfaction with the name for the books I edit and write: nonfiction, informational books. But yesterday I suddenly realized that the answer was just in front of my eyes.
What does information mean? In one sense it is that dead database I have been objecting to — a collection of certifiable, and certifiably dead, data points. Now, as Monica says, facts can indeed be fun and helpful, they can even confer a sense of power. But the lepidopterologist version of nonfiction — pinning facts on a grid like dead butterflies — is just one part of what we do. Another part is organizing and classifying — we line up what we have learned — names, dates, causes, effects, insights, speculations — in an order, or, to put it another way, in formation, like ranks of soldiers. And then, as I suddenly realized last night, there is the part which I love, and which I see light up young people’s eyes: we offer knowledge in the act of being found, taking shape. That is, our books show insights, ideas, in formation, taking form. In turn we hope to inspire young people to search, find, examine, research, postulate, think, express, discover, question, challenge new ideas — that is, to form their own conclusions, theories, and insights.
Our books offer knowledge in formation, knowledge caught in the act of becoming, and thus aimed at inspiring young people to search and find and discover and contest on their own. So with that definition in mind, I am fine with in formation books — books that are alive and catch the thrill of discovery. I can even accept information (without the space) so long as we, and young readers, crack the code and are let in on the secret of what the term really means.