Marc Aronson, in his Horn Book Magazine article “New Knowledge”, has provoked some interesting conversations by arguing that there is a distinctively new and different kind of nonfiction for young people, something that involves original research and speculation. He concludes:
Just as we have both realistic fiction and speculative fiction, maybe we ought to split up our nonfiction section into books that aim to translate the known and books that venture out into areas where knowledge is just taking shape. See you on the borderline.
I’m definitely on the side of those who do not see such a sharp distinction between old and new. I’ve read older works of nonfiction for children filled with original research and am wary of speculation in nonfiction writing in general, be it for an adult or child audience. And so I appreciated Jim Murphy’s response “The Line of Difference” as well as Laurie Thompson’s “Drawing Lines in Nonfiction: ‘Old’ vs. ‘New’.” Marc’s responses to them on his blog are here and here. Be sure to read the comments too — lots to mull over here.
ETA As Marc and others know, I’m a big fan of many of the new books that introduce new ideas, say his and Marina’s Sugar Changed the World, a SLJsBoB contender. But I still read it more than once carefully, critically and, yes, warily.