Yesterday Candace Fleming Skyped in to my NF class at Rutgers, and we spent a lively 90 minutes talking about her books, her process, her passion for giving young readers history in new ways that may spark new questions. By the end we began talking about the book she has just finished, and she told us that it has something new for her in it: within the book itself she writes about her own journey in creating it. That sounded wonderful, perfectly in key with the Common Core (which she did not know), and a real hand out to her readers. As you all may know, I’ve done something similar at the end of some of my books, Jim Murphy has told me he has started to add such notes, Loree Griffin Burns has a tab about her “research trips” on her website. More and more writers are adding this feature to their books. But it is not something that shows up in the TOC necessarily, and if a parent, teacher, librarian did not read the initial reviews, s/he would not know it was there, or which books had it.
Which brings me to any and all of you, librarian friends, who read this. Could someone start to compile a database of NF books (and sites linked to books) in which the author said something about his/her journey in researching and writing? Having one central listing, perhaps searchable by age and genre, would make it so much easier for the rest of us to know where to look for such books — could even create a new kind of book talk in which you compare and contrast research styles — and, not incidentaly, might inspire other authors, editors, and publishers to make this a regular and expected gift from the author to his/her readers.
If there were one place to find out what everyone is doing with research logs, we might learn from one another — following Loree, maybe we should all create book trailers on our sites — or if we go to interesting places, take some video that we upload; if we find a primary source that is fascinating in its own right, above and beyond the way we use it in the book, we could scan in the image and include it in a “research file” that is not the book, but adds to the value of the book for some teachers and students. Maybe readers could be prompted to ask as much about how we researched books as how we write them (or how much we make, which comes up so often in school visits we all ought to hire some comedy writer to provide us with a standard answer). There is much fun to be had — and all the more so if there were one central place that kept track of and displayed what we’re doing. Anyone game?