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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Three Threads — Open for Your Comment

Let’s Follow Up On Judy’s Post

Since we now have the award announcements, and since we have a number of fine nonfiction books to consider, I think this would be a good time for us to talk about those books. We had a post about The Lightship back when I asked for favorites, but by now perhaps more of you will have had a chance to read it, or Spiders, or the Wall. I saw (literally saw, I got to look through a copy in an office) The Wall for the first time yesterday, and I was blown away. It really did look like a spectacular melding of art and text, the personal and the political. Actually it reminded me of Tom Stoppard’s new play, Rock n Roll, now in New York — which is precisely about the Velvet Revolution, the power of Rock n Roll in Communist Czechoslovakia – some of the threads I saw in the book. (I can’t help mentioning that any of you who know my first book Art Attack, will find a chapter in there called Plastic, which is about the Plastic People of the Universe, the same band Stoppard writes about).

Second thread — over on CCBC Susan Reich has asked why more nonfiction did not make mock Newbery lists, and from the few comments that have come back, it does seem that at least some people who run those mock award meetings do self select fiction, and a former Newbery member expressed the fear that publishers, too, may be sending fewer nonfiction choices to the actual committee, now that they also submit to Sibert. Comments?

Finally, did you all see this, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/17/education/17college.html?_r=1&ref=education&oref=slogin, echoied by http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/18/us/18graduation.html?ref=education. These articles point to the changing nature of a high school education. More and more states are realizing that their goal must be to get kids into college — poor kids, immigrant kids, kids from families which have never sent anyone to college — must be prepared for college. Well that relates directly to the question of what we are doing in nonfiction — especially in middle grades and YA. Because the essence of what you learn in college (and, for that matter, in IB http://www.ibo.org/ programs down to middle grade), is that knowledge is not discrete facts, it is part of a system of knowing, a world view – an approach to facts and ideas. If our books are to prepare kids for the kind of thinking they must do in college, they need to risk making an argument, and challenging readers. Your thoughts?

Comments

  1. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Marc,

    I’ve lurked on your blog for awhile now, but was hesitant to post about favorite nonfiction books because I was serving on the Printz committee. I’m disappointed that we didn’t recognize a nonfiction title. It *was* widely considered a weak year for nonfiction, but I do think there were some bright spots.

    Jonathan

  2. Marc Aronson says:

    Jonathan:

    Welcome aboard. Fell free to join in now as a more public speaker. Since you have been reading a lot of YA, I wonder if you have any thoughts on that college bound question — what do we need to do in YA NF to help prepare kids for that next step?

  3. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I wish we could just throw the textbooks out the window and teach with trade books, magazine articles, and newspapers. I know the YA nonfiction market is limited largely to school and library, but if we could replace textbooks with trade books, wouldn’t that provide the shot in the arm that would reinvigorate YA writers and publishers alike?