Fact Feeds Fiction: Pairing Non-Fiction and Fiction Titles

Fact Feeds Fiction: Pairing Non-Fiction and Fiction Titles

Written by: Colette Huxford-Kinnett

September 6, 2023

Have you ever read a non-fiction book and immediately knew a fiction title or verse novel or graphic novel that would pair with it and add to the story?  Have you ever read a fiction book, based on a true story, and wanted to know more?  Do you have students who love to read, but shy away from non-fiction?  What if you could grab their curiosity and make their reading experience richer by handing them a non-fiction title that builds on something they have already shown an interest in?

Pairing up fiction and non-fiction titles allows us to do just that, and once you introduce your students to these well written non-fiction titles, they will learn that non-fiction books have such great appeal because they actually happened.  This is by no means an exhaustive investigation, and it will take us a couple of months to explore, but here are some combination treasures that I have discovered.

Chernobyl's Wild Kingdom Book Cover

Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom: Life in the Dead Zone
By Rebecca Johnson

Definitely written for the young adult/middle grades audience.  A very approachable explanation of what the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl meant, and still means, for the wildlife of the region.  

Discover what happened to pets that were left behind.  Learn how birds have shown the most visible abnormalities.  Filled with facts. stories, and statistics.  Truly fascinating.

Nicely arranged with photographs, pull out quotes and stories, charts, and graphs. Great table of contents, glossary, and index. A great book for helping students understand text features- in a truly engaging way.

The Blackbird Girls Book Cover

The Blackbird Girls
By Anne Blankman

A beautifully written novel that weaves together the stories of WW2 and Chernobyl.  When you read the author’s note at the end, you learn that much of this tale comes from a true story.  WW2- Rifka- A Jewish girl taken in by a Muslim family.  Chernobyl- Oksana- A Ukrainian girl taken in by a Jewish family. The horrors young people have endured during times of war and catastrophic disaster.  The kindness that can come from the most unexpected sources.  The importance of love and a home where one feels safe and cared for.

Very much a middle grade novel as the main characters are in middle school.  Excellent for teaching kindness and the ramifications of choices.

Ghosts in the Fog Book Cover

Ghosts in the Fog: The Untold Story of Alaska’s WWII Invasion
By Samantha Seiple

Anything by Samantha is fantastic.

During WW2 the American government was worried about the Japanese landing on American soil, with good reason.  The Aleutian Islands were a short distance away.  In order to not panic the American public, natives were moved off of the islands and soldiers were stationed there, supposedly to study the weather.

Well written for a strong 4th or 5th grade reader clear through adult.  Anyone fascinated with WW2, which is many of my boys, will love this little known story of Japanese soldiers on American soil.

Aleutian Sparrow Book Cover

Aleutian Sparrow
By Karen Hesse

The Queen of Historic Verse Novels.

This Verse Novel tells the story of stationing American soldiers on the Aleutian Islands from the point of view of the natives who were moved off of their oceanic islands and moved to an abandoned logging camp deep in the Washington woodlands.  While it was done with the best of intentions to keep the Islanders safe, conditions were less than desirable.

Again, very appropriate for an upper elementary reader through adult.  This is also a good choice for a hesitant reader as it is written in verse- lots of white space on the page. Adults will find it interesting because of the little known piece of history that it brings to life.  All readers will be drawn to Karen’s weaving of words

We Will Not Be Silent Book Cover

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student
By Russel Freedman

Russel Freedman is simply the best.  I was so sad when he passed.  He does an excellent job of taking a piece of history and making it approachable for upper elementary, middle school, and high school students.  This is no exception.

I find that my students are fascinated with World War 2 and the Holocaust.  I think they are shocked that something so horrible happened and no-one stopped it for so long.  This particular piece of non-fiction tells the little known story of a group of college students, in Germany, who realized what a menace Hitler was, and were willing to risk their lives to enlighten other Germans.

I love it when authors like Russell Freedman and Phillip Hoose bring us the stories of young people from history who had an impact and who made a difference.

White Rose Book Cover

White Rose
By Kip Wilson

The fiction version of the true story of Sophie and Hans Scholl, told from Sophie’s point of view.  The brother-sister pair that may have started in the Hilter Youth movement, but grew to realize the evils of the regime and the steps they were willing to take and the risks they were willing to make in order to try and reach fellow Germans.

Inspiring for young readers to realize that they can stand up for what they believe and make a difference in their world.  This version of the story feels more appropriate for middle and high school students than elementary.



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  • Colette Huxford-Kinnett

    Colette Huxford-Kinnett is in her 26th year as School Librarian at Shenandoah School Corporation. She received her BA from Purdue University in Creative Writing and Secondary English Education in 1994. She then obtained her certification for Library Services from Ball State University, followed by her Masters of Secondary Education in 2000. For the past five years, Colette has been travelling the state presenting one day workshops on topics of interest to school librarians and teachers via the Indiana Educational Service Centers. Colette served as a co-chair of the Eliot Rosewater Committee for twelve years. She has had the privilege of having five works published: The Way I Want to Remember with Mellen Poetry Press in 1996, Daddy’s Girl with Author House in 2006, and Noelle, Courageously Cayleigh, and Lillian Frances with Create Space, in 2014, 2015, and 2016 respectively. Colette is the 2013 recipient of the Indiana Library Federation’s Peggy Pfeiffer Service Award.

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