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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Of Beginnings

The New, the Connections, the Possibilities

Friends: I am sorry if my last blog struck any of you as inappropriate — highly personal and sad in a space generally devoted to very different sorts of subjects. (I didn’t get any complaints, this is just an expression of my concern.) I am pleased to say that, as is appropriate for a new year I have some more uplifting links today. If you have not seen it already, here is the interview I did with Phil Hoose, which is also a call to arms for the new kinds of nonfiction we’ve all been talking about here: Let me know what you think. (I just noticed a flip flop in the attributions, will see if they can fix it.)
        During this break I’ve been hunting around for comparative information on teenagers around the world. So far at least I’ve found it easy to get stats on teen pregnancy, teen media choices, and teen cell phone use, but much harder to find out anything else (either physical facts like height, weight, or experiential survey data, like mood, beliefs, preferences, activities). But while that hunt has been frustrating, using search terms including teenager and global led me to The Global Teenager, and this digital link, Have any of you worked with this group? At a glance, they seem to have more traction in other countries, but a potentially good resource here too.
     Any other new leads you’d want me to share from here?


  1. Linda Zajac says:

    Great interview. It was an award well-deserved. I found that book (currently on my dining room table) eye-opening and captivating throughout. There were a couple of theater photographs that made the point crystal clear. Another interesting thing that I never really noticed was the size of YA nonfiction books versus fiction. I never would have guessed he’s 62.

  2. Linda: You mean the trim size — how tall and wide the books are — or length — the number of pages? In YA we do have some room to experiment with height and width, and generally try to limit the page count.

  3. Linda Zajac says:

    Yes, the trim size. It seems to me most fiction YA books look more like adult books, but the nonfiction YA books I’ve looked at remind me of picture books. I figured this had to do with making room for photographs. I should think it would not matter to teens, but you never know.

  4. Vicky Alvear Shecter says:

    Enjoyed the interview. His passion for nonfiction really came through.

  5. There is more variation in trim size for YA NF than for fiction. In general, fiction stays within a couple of choices — in part to make the conversion to paperback easier (since most YA fiction sales will be in pb). NF does not necessarily go into paper, and, yes, it is heavily illustrated. So we can go larger, wider, more oblong, etc. Still there are constraints b/c some standard sizes such as 8 X 10 are cheaper. I think our opportunity to use different trims is a great benefit. Does it make the books seem a bit younger, more like middle grade, and less like YA? Maybe, but and I know some editors who like 6 X 9 (a novel trim) for that very reason. But the benefit of more room for art, more air in the pages, more chance to experiment with design, seems higher to me than that of matching a novel trim (at least in most cases).

  6. Linda Zajac says:

    Thinking about this made me wonder what my three teenagers had to say. I showed them the backs of two recent reads (Orchid Thief(adult) and Colvin(YA/NF)) and asked them if they were the exact same book which one would they choose. All three chose the smaller book. “It’s easier to read when laying in bed.” “More like a normal book. The other one looks like a picture book.” “It’s smaller. I don’t like big books like that.” But she couldn’t pin down exactly why that was so. Granted this isn’t a great study, but I thought their comments were interesting and food for thought.

  7. the problem is the counter argument: kids are so visual, they have many highly illustrated choices for NF on the net — a book in a smaller trim means both smaller art, and the art-text balance on a spread means art always has to squeeze. Take a look at Betsy Partridge’s Lennon, or Tanya Stone’s Almost Astronauts — see how the art makes the pages more like magazine spreads — which kids like. Now if a YA NF is primarily a reading experience, not a reading and art experience, I see the point.

  8. Linda Zajac says:

    I have read Stone’s book and I think it is close in size or equal to Hoose’s book. Don’t get me wrong, I like the mix of photographs and text. I agree, NF YA needs art to clarify information. I guess I wondered if YA NF were sized more like adult books if teens would be more apt to purchase NF. Ah, but this is a school/library blog, not a bookstore blog.