Monday, November 18, 2013

Everybody's Talking Nonfiction

Had a wonderfully busy day at the Rochester Children's Book Festival on Saturday. More than once I heard, "Oooh, nonfiction," and saw eyes go wide. Not the normal response I've had in the past. I remember one year sitting between Ellen Stoll Walsh, author/illustrator of the bright toddler books,
Mouse Paint and Mouse Count, and a YA author (whose name I can't recall).  Trying to smile and not feel slighted as a line of new moms with strollers formed to my right, and a throng of heart-throbbing preteen girls crowded the author to my left, I rearranged my bookmarks and pretended to make a shopping list.

Although people weren't queuing up before me on Saturday, nobody discouraged a child holding one of my books by saying,  "Oh, let's find a real book." (Honest- that really happened to me.)

At 1:00, I spoke to a healthy group (more than 3) of teachers and folks interested in nonfiction ( or putting their feet up for 20 minutes) about how to use nonfiction in the classroom. My main point was -- Read nonfiction not only for its subject matter, but also for its structure, voice, and style that was chosen by the author to compliment the subject.  Other than librarians and book reviewers, not many people think about the whole package. Most people just focus on the facts, not how it is delivered.  But a nonfiction author spends a lot of time and effort figuring out how to tell their true story, and it should be appreciated.

For example, I didn't use nearly a dozen bird analogies in For the Birds: the life of Roger Tory Peterson just 'cause I thought it'd be fun, although it was. I did it to get my point across that Roger had a close affinity to birds, real close (not like that), but he felt more at home with birds, a kinship that made him seem bird-like in many respects. Using figurative language shows that relationship, so I don't have to blurt out - he was like a bird.

I think nearly every trade nonfiction title you pick up can and should be appreciated for its form as well as content. And in the future, I'll post more examples. But now I have to go grocery shopping, 'cause I cleaned out my fridge and now it's empty.   

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. Yes, you do deserve more respect than you get, but telling the truth is always harder work than making stuff up. 8-)