I really appreciate Julie Danielson’s Kirkus blog post, “The Stories In Between” as she considers a topic near and dear to me — the blurry line between certain works of fiction and nonfiction. Two picture books she considers are Greg Pizzoli’s nonfiction Tricky Vic and Deborah Hopkinson’s Beatrix Potter & the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig. These are both works of history, something of particular interest to me. Julie refers to the following comment I made on a 2014 blog post of Betsy Bird‘s about invented dialog in picture book biographies:
… As you know I tried for years to write the story of Sarah Margru Kinson as nonfiction and finally was convinced to fictionalize it. The result is being called historical fiction, but it hardly is a novel in the conventional sense. I think it is a lot closer to some of the titles you cite here.
I’d love to see some sort of new genre that encompasses books like this, those that have fictional elements, but are based on true events and people. One of the reasons I feel so strongly about this is that I feel it will bring many more people to young readers’ attention. So many people did not leave the sort of paper trails needed to create a full work of nonfiction. As a result they are often not the subject of books for children and/or the same set of personalities get repeated attention. Additionally, the ones we need out there are may well be those who were marginalized in their time which is why the paper trail isn’t there. So if we were more open to books that stand on that fiction/nonfiction border and do so honestly and openly we’d have more diverse voices and stories.
With the current discussion on diversity and how to present slavery to children in their books, I think my final point about reconsidering or making a new genre in order to bring in more stories is all the more critical.
US Frances Hardinge fans have been continually frustrated that she is not better appreciated on this side of the pond. On the other side…well, here’s a lovely bit of news — her latest book The Lie Tree has just been awarded the Costa Award’s Book of the Year. She is the first children’s book writer to win the overall award (over adult finalists) since Philip Pullman over a decade ago.
Happily The Lie Tree is coming out this May in the US thanks to Abrams. I can say that it is fabulous, my favorite of all her books to date, and well deserving of the award. It is historical, mysterious, creepy, engrossing, and wonderful. Now I am just hoping Abrams will bring out an earlier book of hers I also liked very much, A Face Like Glass.
Some weeks ago I was preparing a lesson for our 4th graders as part of our Martin Luther King, Jr Day observances. The school (grades 4-8) was focusing on the music at the March on Washington and I thought of Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney’s Martin & Mahalia. When I talked about it this week I mentioned that a recent book Andrea had edited was getting negative attention. The kids remembered she’d been to the school a few years earlier to share with them Sit-In. I then read both books to them and we all relished the history, the art, the design, and the poetic language. Aware that Andrea might need a pick-me-up several kids were inspired to write to her about these two books. You can read their thoughts here.
…. a little bird told me the next two are in the home stretch of being finished and coming out some time in the not-too-far-off future. First the publisher will reissue the original four to bring a new generation of readers to them and then….numbers five and six. Excited moi? Just a bit.
a better world for children now;
forgiveness instead of vengeance;
trust, lots and lots of trust;
…at least according to someone or someones, I’m not quite sure who.
I happened to notice some tweets about this yesterday so went looking. The 100 titles were announced by Nicolette Jones on a major television show featuring celebrities in and outside the British children’s literature world. Evidently there is more about it in Jones’ Sunday Times article today, but since it is behind a paywall, I haven’t access so haven’t been able to find out who made the selections, criteria, etc. Was it Jones, a panel, who and how? If anyone can tell me how to find out, I’d appreciate it.
It is the usual eclectic mix that any such list always is with quite a few old chestnuts including my beloved Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at #12 (out of 100). But one big, shocking missing item was Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights (in the US it is known as The Golden Compass). Here are some of the tweets about that:
This seems a very strange decision to me given some of the others on the final list that seem equivalent to the Pullman as far as age range goes. In addition to Patrick Ness’s and Siobhan Dowd’s A Monster Calls there are Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engine titles, the latter Harry Potter titles, and Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books to name some I am familiar with (there are others I wonder about too, but haven’t read). Most puzzling and why I’d like to know more about the selection process.
Britain’s Book Trust did something similar — that is, create a list of 100 favorite children’s books — resulting in a very different list, one that does include His Dark Materials. They also provide information about how they came up with their titles, something I’ve been unable to discover about the one revealed yesterday.
… Melissa Sweet‘s picture book biography Some Writer: The Story of E. B. White. (Look around here if you don’t know why. To say I’m a fan of Charlotte’s Web is to put it mildly.) And I have to wait until October? The little I’ve seen (Melissa shared a smidgen at an ALA presentation last summer) is mouthwatering. Here’s the current blurb (no cover image yet) from the publisher:
In this stunning, first-ever fully-illustrated biography of legendary author E.B. White, Sibert medalist and Caldecott Honor winner Melissa Sweet uses White’s letters, photos, and mementos, as well as her original collaged art, to tell the true story of one of the most beloved authors of all time.