Lesson 8: Genre

Getting Started

In this lesson, you'll learn more about the overseas voyages of the Adams family and explore the idea of literary genre.

Stuff You Need

  • Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober
  • crayons, markers, or colored pencils* (Activity 2 - Option 2)

* - denotes an optional material that may or may not be needed

Ideas to Think About

  • How do the lives of individuals interact with, influence, and become transformed by the events of the time and place in which they live?
  • What is the purpose of biography and how can biographies influence and inspire readers?
  • How does an author's choice of genre influence his or her decisions and the resulting literary work?

Things to Know

  • A genre is a category of literature that is defined by similarities in theme, style, or structure.
  • Adventure stories focus on exciting quests or perilous situations and are usually full of action, danger, and thrills.
  • Historical fiction stories are set in a real time and place in the past and often feature people, places, and events that really happened. Unlike nonfiction historical works or biographies, the author may also invent new characters, imagine new situations, or make up details that are not verifiable in the historical record.
  • Mysteries usually focus on the solving of a crime or puzzle, with secrets and clues revealed throughout the story.
  • Myths are legends and are often handed down from generation to generation. They tend to explain historical events or natural phenomena and may involve deities or mythical creatures.
  • Science fiction stories are driven by events related to real, imagined, or theoretical science. Many science fiction stories take place in the future or on other planets.
  • Realistic fiction stories could actually happen. These stories seem real to the reader and often include details of daily life.
  • Satire is a form of literature that uses ridicule or sarcasm to show the shortcomings and vices of a person, organization, or institution. Often, satire is used to make a point about a public figure or government in an effort to make a political or social statement.
  • A parody is related to satire in that it is ridicule-based, but whereas satire is usually making a social or political point, parodies are sometimes just for fun. In a parody, another work is imitated, usually in a way that pokes fun at the original.
  • Graphic novels tell a story using both written words and sequential art, often similar to comic books, but they can be more complex and experimental in their design. Japanese manga is a well-known form of graphic novel.
  • Readers can interpret allegories to find a hidden meaning in the text. The story may be a simple one on the surface, but embedded in the story is another meaning, usually a life lesson, that can be teased out.


  • Understand the idea of genre in literature, including adventure stories, historical fiction, mysteries, myths, science fiction, realistic fiction, allegories, parodies, satire, and graphic novels. (LA)

Introducing the Lesson

In this lesson your child will learn more about the overseas voyages of the Adams family and explore the idea of literary genre. She'll also have the chance to read the correspondence between Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson firsthand and think about the influence that these two people may have had in each other's lives.
Reading and Questions
Materials: Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober
Read Chapters 15 and 16 of Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober and then answer these questions.
  1. Why might John and Abigail Adams have had reservations about Royall Tyler's suitability as a boyfriend for Nabby?
    It was rumored that he had lost his fortune and wasted years of his life. John Adams hinted in his letters that Tyler was not up to John's standards for honor and moral character.
  2. How are Abigail Adams' preparations for overseas travel as described in Chapter 15 different from what they might be today?
    Answers will vary. Your child may mention that Abigail had to make plans based on the season of the year, that the trip took much longer, that she was traveling by sea instead of air, or other differences.
  3. What was Abigail Adams's first impression of Paris?
    She objected to the smell.
  4. Why did Nabby Adams break off her engagement with Royall Tyler?
    He had ceased answering her letters and was spreading gossip about her, sharing their private correspondence with others and behaving dishonorably. She also became interested in Colonel William Smith and needed to free herself from the engagement with Tyler before she could consider Smith as a suitor.