Using Fiction for My Non Fiction by Lynne Garner

When I’m not writing about those crafty critters Anansi the Trickster Spider, Coyote and  Brer Rabbit I’m writing non-fiction activity based features for magazines such as Practical Pre-school and Child Care magazine.

Usually my topic is based around something real, for example animals, modes of transport or historical events. However earlier this year I was commissioned to use picture books as a basis my non-fiction activity features. So having recently received a copy of the picture book Three Billy Goats Gruff by our very own Susan Price I’ve decided to show you how I use a picture book as a basis for a non-fiction feature.

So here goes.

Many of my features will include a little life science, Any excuse to ensure I didn’t waste three years at university studying Environmental Science. So a book about goats provides me with a great opportunity to do this. So if I were using this book as a basis I’d need to know what type of goats I’m writing about. Therefore, my starting point would be to discover the answer to the question ‘who originally put pen to paper and retold the three billy goats gruff?’ Being a research addict I stopped writing this post and found it was Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe and their retelling appeared in their book ‘Norske Folkeeventyr.’ So the goats in the story are Norwegian. As I’ve admitted I love research so I just had to do a little digging and I found the Norwegian goat was, and still is kept for its milk and meat. I also found they come in four colours, grey, blue, white or pied and have long hair. Yes, also discovered goats don’t have fur or wool but hair (I love odd facts). I also discovered goats were extremely important to the Norwegian economy for example goats, their meat, hide and milk were widely used as a means of payment right up until to the l9th century. 

Sorry I’ve side tracked myself. To get back on track, because of the target audience I’m typically writing for (teachers, child minders, children’s group activity leaders etc.) I also  include information such as what a female, male, baby and a group of goats are called. Again I couldn’t stop myself and found a baby goat is called a kid and that a kid is considered any baby goat up to the age of 6 months and the term is used for both genders. Once they reach 6 months but not sexually mature females are generally called doelings. Whilst male goats over the age of 6 months and not sexually mature are called bucklings. Once a female goat has reached maturity she is called a doe and a male is called a buck. Whilst a male goat that has been castrated is called a wether.

Once I’ve shared these facts (perhaps on this occasion I'd leave out the name for a castrated goat) I then suggest a number of activities, which I normally have to relate to the educational learning outcomes (English, maths, ICT etc.). On this occasion thankfully Susan has already helped me by publishing a colouring and activity book. However, for a 1,000 to 1,300 word feature I need additional ideas, so here are a few I could possibly add for younger children:

  • Use small world figures to allow the children to re-enact the story (providing opportunities for imaginative and collaborative play)  
  • Create stick puppets using images of goats either drawn or taken from the internet (supporting ICT and small motor skills)
  • Source free-to-download goat themed PDFs for word play and colouring (promotes use of English and provides opportunities for practicing small motor skills)  
  • Provide links for online goat themed activities such as a goat themed online puzzle (ICT)

Whilst for older children I could suggest they:
  • Explore the Chinese zodiac and the year of the goat (opportunities to include understanding of the world and diversity)
  • Play the ‘what if’ game and encourage the children to come up with new story ideas for example ask themselves what if the troll came back? (English and imagination) 

Finally, for all age ranges I’d support a love of literate and encourage them to explore other goat themed stories such as:  

That would be me, job done. 

In 1,000 to 1,300 words I’d have covered a little life science, some history, a smattering of English, provided ideas for practicing small motor skills, encouraged the use of ICT, supplied ideas for exploring other cultures (diversity) and hopefully created the odd book lover or two.


So that’s what I do when I’m not writing short stories.  



Now for a blatant plug:

My latest short story collection Coyote Tales Retold is available on Amazon in ebook format. Also available Meet The Tricksters a collection of 18 short stories featuring Anansi the Trickster Spider, Brer Rabbit and Coyote choose paper back or ebook.    

I run the following online courses for Women On Writing:


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