Here at Books and Quills, we have this thing we like to call “Genre of the Month”. We post puzzles, prompts, and articles about that month’s genre. This October, for example, was Horror month. So, what is a genre?
When we describe a book’s “genre”, we are talking about the type of story it is telling. A book can be a romance, a fantasy novel, historical fiction, or something else entirely. There are many genres in the literary world, but these are a few of the most common ones for children’s books.
Supernatural creatures, funny names, and magic galore; fantasy books use all of these and more to tell stories of heroes, villains, and quests that could never happen in real life. Some fantasy stories take place in other worlds, like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit. Others, like Harry Potter, use a magical version of our own world to tell their stories.
Science fiction (or sci-fi for short) is similar to fantasy in that it uses people or things that are fantastical and beyond our understanding. However, instead of using magic to explain these things, sci-fi stories use science. This means that aliens, time travel, and advanced robots are all elements of sci-fi stories, since they are all subjects explored by science and might one day be discovered or created by scientists. Books like The Giver and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH are examples of sci-fi books.
Fantasy uses magic, sci-fi uses futuristic science. Realistic fiction uses the world as we know it today. These stories are still made-up, but they mimic real life. Many of Andrew Clements’s books, like Frindle and The Landry News, are realistic fiction. Holes (Louis Sachar) and Because of Winn-Dixie (Kate DiCamillo) are also examples of realistic fiction.
Historical fiction books are like realistic fiction except that they take place in the past. They are usually about a specific time period or event, like the 1920s or World War II. Walk Two Moons (Sharon Creech) and Goodnight Mr. Tom (Michelle Magorian) are examples of historical fiction. Some novels, like The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett), were not historical fiction when they were published but are now historical fiction because they take place in our past.
Some stories are about a character or a group trying to solve a mystery. These mystery-solvers can be detectives, or they can be any person who stumbles on a mysterious event. The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew are examples of characters in mystery novels.
All of the books mentioned so far are fictional, or books that involve made-up characters and plots. Nonfiction, on the other hand, deals with real life. This is different than realistic fiction because though realistic fiction takes inspiration from real life and they all seem very real, the characters are still made up. The Little House on the Prairie series is an example of a nonfiction series. They are memoirs: stories written by a person about their own life, with little exaggerations here and there.
There are many other genres, sub-genres (genres within genres), and stories that have more than one genre. Some authors write all of their stories in one genre. Others write in many genres. Many write most of their stories in one genre but step out of their comfort zone to try something new.
We as readers can be like that as well. Take some time to figure out what genre you read the most. Why do you like that genre? Are there genres that you avoid? If there are, try to find a book in that genre that you like. It is okay to prefer one genre (I personally am very fond of fantasy novels), but if you never explore what’s out there, you never know what you might be missing.