Marc asked to guest blog about some of the new areas being covered in nonfiction for younger readers (Marc sent images of the book covers, but I have to learn how to import them):
Kids these days. They now bring aliens, bubble gum, and bikinis home from school. “In the form of library books,” you say. And you’re right—but what you might not guess is that I’m talking about nonfiction books.
Once upon a generation ago, it seemed that the nonfiction picture book was reserved mostly for “textbook” names and events: Martin Luther King, Jr., the Titanic, any president, any war. Today, however, many nonfiction picture books are about pop culture, “pop” being the operative word. These books indeed pop off the shelf. Kids simply don’t expect to see such high-interest subjects featured in that kind of book. Take Aliens Ae Coming!: The True Account of the 1938 War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast by Meghan McCarthy. Space invaders in a picture book is a child’s—and a picture book writer’s—dream! (While the broadcast was not literally a dream, it wasn’t real, either; “luckily,” it was a hoax.) McCarthy’s latest book also pops—and this time, literally so. Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum is as hard to resist as gum itself.
And try this on for size: Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way to Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History! by Shana Corey. This lively book is about the woman who, in the early 1900s, led a feminist revolution—no, not that revolution. (Getting the vote has already been well covered.) Kellerman pioneered both water ballet and the women’s one-piece swimsuit, which eventually led to even more revolutionary styles such as the bikini. Some of those swimsuits come in fluorescent colors, which wouldn’t have been possible if not for Bob and Joe Switzer, whom I personally wouldn’t know about if not for Chris Barton’s luminescent The Day-Glo Brothers. And as a bonus, it’s the first and only standalone book on its subject.
Today’s nonfiction picture books not only surprise us with quirky pop culture stories, but may further surprise us by linking these stories to one or more “textbook” events; my book Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman dovetails with both the Great Depression and World War II. Even a subject that seems as un-educational as Batman can headline a picture book biography. Of course, the Dark Knight was not a real person, but Bill Finger, his uncredited co-creator and original writer, was. I’ve tried to do justice to his heartbreaking story, and it’ll be out in 2012.
Pop over to your library and bookstore and join the evolution of nonfiction picture books.
Marc Tyler Nobleman grew up thinking he might become a superhero because his last name sounded like one. Instead he became the author of a book about one–Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman. His nonfiction picture book on the story behind Batman is due out in 2012. He blogs at http://noblemania.blogspot.com.