I am writing a middle grades book, and I want to include some educational knowledge in the book, but I'm wondering how much is too much. My book is science fiction, but includes a storyline about maps and exploration, with some references back to the ancient Greeks, which the main character is studying in school. I don't necessarily have to include that, but I think it would be possible to include it without making the reader feel like they are being taught. I've certainly read books that have done the same for me.
So where's the line? Do you have some examples? What novels have done a good job of including educational topics but not made it feel like you were being taught? Do you have or know children who have favorite books with an underlying educational theme?
Along the lines of what Cindy suggested--using your character's voice/personality to your advantage can take out the textbook taste of information and make it more palatable. Depending on the tense you write in, you can go for a really strong character voice but still slip the information in (even if the character is thinking "Oh brother, I don't want to listen to Prof. Smith talk about the battle of Waterloo again).
Many books also use information as a plot device. Using a math equation as the clue to unlock a mystery, building an historically accurate trebuchet to take out the enemy, etc.
Educational books I loved growing up were the books in the Dear America series. The characters had strong personalities and interesting stories, which made the different settings/histories come alive rather than remain dry old facts.
I was thumbing through the discussions and came across this one...sorry for the late response.
I know that the Percy Jackson books, which my son loves, refer to Greek Mythology with a lot of detail. In fact, they even make trading cards of the Greek Gods and relevant characters with facts and "stats" on the back. I am not afraid to admit that I have learned some Greek Mythology from those books!
I think as long as the educational topics come up organically, the more the merrier. But if they come up like: "Hey, Joe, tell me about ancient cartography" it would be hard for the reader. The factoids have to somehow be relevant and move the story forward. But I agree with you, fiction can teach fact, and sometimes more effectively than non-fiction.
Best of luck with your writing!