Recently one of my writing students wanted to know how to classify a book. She was reading STEM books and had found one set in a classroom with animal characters. They were learning about . . . rocks? She might have said rocks. I don’t actually remember.
There was a ton of information about the science topic but it was framed in a classroom setting with talking animals. So would it be fiction or nonfiction? She was really confused about how a STEM book could be fiction.
First things first, books that teach STEM topics can definitely be fiction. Do a Google search on “fiction in STEM” and you’re going to find numerous listings on science fiction in STEM. I’ve read fiction titles that demonstrate the scientific method, explain the fourth dimension, robotics, artificial intelligence, volcanoes, geology and more.
But it is easy to get confused. At my library, Magic Tree House books are shelved with fiction but Magic School Bus books are shelved with what we commonly call “nonfiction.” A talking bus that pops between one location and another? Really? I think we are going to have to start calling this section “informational books.”
But I can definitely see why Magic School Bus is shelved that way. If a grade schooler wants to learn about sound waves, chocolate growing or the human immune system, there aren’t going to look first on the Magic School Bus shelf. That said, it sure makes it hard for a Magic School Bus fan to read all of the books without going to the catalog.
I’ve never written a STEM book that was anything but nonfiction but I’m also matching series formats and standards. That means giving the publisher what they want. That said, I could see myself writing a fiction STEM book maybe in my spare time.