Fact Feeds Fiction (Part 2)

Fact Feeds Fiction (Part 2)

Written by: Colette Huxford-Kinnett

December 13, 2023

In the fall, we began exploring the pairings that can be found between fiction and non-fiction books, especially Young Adult Fiction and Non-Fiction books.  I love to read a story, a fiction title, about the Chernobyl Explosion or World War 2 or the Korean War or the Japanese Tsunami and then continue my journey of exploration by reading a non-fiction title that gives me more.  I think students are often intimidated by non-fiction titles or think of them as boring.  If I can take a story, a fiction book, that they understand the structure of, and ignite their curiosity, I can give them the intrinsic motivation they need to tackle a non-fiction book.  Let’s explore a few more possibilities.This month I cannot help but include some trilogy combinations.

“If I can take a story, a fiction book, that they understand the structure of, and ignite their curiosity, I can give them the intrinsic motivation they need to tackle a non-fiction book.”

Hatchet Book Cover

By Gary Paulsen

Ah… Gary Paulsen.  Who doesn’t love Hatchet?  The classic survival story.  Students who will not read anything else will stick with this one, especially hesitant male readers.

Just in case you are not familiar with Hatchet, Brian is the sole survivor of a plane crash deep in the wilderness.  All he has to help him survive, until he is found, is a hatchet. 

This book is, of course, based on true events from Gary’s own life.  The story continues in The River, Brian’s Winter (an alternate Book 2 of what it might have been like if Brian had not been found), Brian’s Return, and Brian’s Hunt.  

Guts Book Cover

Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and The Brian Books
By  Gary Paulsen

What better combination than when the author gives us the story behind the story?  Gary lived an amazing life.  He experienced more things in life, both wonderful and tragic, by the time he was twenty-years-old than many people do in their entire lives. 

This particular title chronicles the true events in Gary’s life that can be found in the Brian Saga: plane crashes, hunting trips, mishaps, nature, and a very personal encounter with a moose.

Gone to the Woods Book Cover

Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood
By Gary Paulsen

While this one may not be the exact stories behind the Brian books, it is still one of the best nonfiction titles I have read in the past ten years, and it still offers great insight into how Gary Paulsen became the man, the writer that he was.  This is the story of how 1 person, 1 encounter can make all of the difference in someone’s life.

I particularly love this book because a librarian is a hero in this story.  I also love how Vocational Education, something that I feel America in general, and Indiana in particular do not promote enough, becomes Gary’s educational salvation.

This book is also precious to me because it is one of the last publications that we will ever have from Gary Paulsen.  Sadly, he passed away in October, 2021.

Cleopatra’s Moon
By Vicky Alvear Shecter

I LOVE this book!  Of course, it’s hard not to be entranced by tales of Egypt; however, this one takes a different approach than any others I have ever seen.  This is the story of what happened to Antony and Cleopatra’s children after they were gone!  I had not thought about their children, let alone what happened to them.  While this is an ancient setting, the conflict is very modern- children from parents of very different cultures- Egypt vs. Rome.  Where would those children fit in?  What happens to the children of the very powerful when the very powerful are gone?  I also love that we have a very strong female character.

Cleopatra Rules! Book Cover

Cleopatra Rules! The Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen
By Vicy Alvear Shecter

What fun!  We have two very different books by the same author, so what an amazing way to go more into depth about the true story behind the fiction.  While this particular title focuses on Cleopatra herself, not her daughter Cleopatra Selene, it does do a beautiful job of helping the reader understand what a truly remarkable person Cleopatra was- a strong, educated female leader in a very male dominated world.  It helps the reader understand how Cleopatra’s daughter very well could have become the strong character that we meet in Cleopatra’s Moon.

On a structural note, the layout of this book is well done.  It is filled with photographs, paintings, sculptures and side stories that add to the reader’s understanding of Cleopatra’s world. 

The Curse of the Mummy Book Cover

The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun’s Tomb
By Candace Fleming

Want even more on Egyptian history?  While this may not continue the story of Cleopatra, it is still none the less fascinating.  King Tut’s tomb was one of the last discovered, and while his tomb had been raided, his personal sarcophagus had never been disturbed.  Join 2 British gentlemen- 1 who financed the digs and 1 who led the digs- as they searched for the legendary tomb of King Tut.  

This book also features a second story line.  King Tut’s tomb was said to be cursed.  Anyone who violated it in any way would encounter trouble and a tragic end.  As Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter are searching for the tomb, learn about others who ended up with artifacts from Tut and the various calamities that befell them. 

This book is filled with a treasure trove of maps and photos.



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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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