You’ve Got To Have Heart, and a Good Story

Part I    Nonfiction for Children

Nonfiction – the Latest and Greatest –
Orbis Pictus Awards

Bravo to the winning book, author and illustrator –

Monsieur Marceau: Actor Without Words by Leda Schubert and illustrated by Gerard DuBois, published by Roaring Brook Press.

Informational books for children keep getting better – innovative designs, creative presentations, plus captivating images that often mix photographs, historical papers with colorful art.

I think the most striking quality of current nonfiction books for children is that each book is a story – a story with setting, characters, plot or “through line,” and most important “heart.”  What I mean by heart is that the passion of the author for the subject shines right through the words and captures the heart of the reader.  When children read that last page, they not only know new information, but just as important,  the reader cares. Wow! I want to read more. Where’s another book?

Leda Schubert’s picture book biography of Marcel Marceau does just that. Recently we posted an interview with Leda here at ReaderKidZ and two of her comments are especially relevant:

How did you think his story might translate into a picture book? In other words, why not a middle grade or YA biography?

LEDA: I love picture books. That’s the truest answer. I think they are one of the great art forms. A good picture book is an entire world for a child; it opens minds and creates images that stay forever (or until the memory goes, as mine is, ugh). Also, I’ve been involved in one way or another in early childhood education for most of my life, and it seems natural for me to gravitate to the child reader. On the other hand, I don’t really think about audience when I write–but that’s another question. Plus I wanted illustrations! I wanted readers to see him and experience the magic as much as possible.

How is this book different from your other writing?

LEDA: I think the World War II sections are much darker than anything I’ve published, and they’re certainly dark for a picture book. They were difficult to write and I almost deleted them, but they were also the core of M. Marceau’s story. Other than that, it’s more similar than different, in that it’s always a matter of finding the right story, the through-line, and the right words–and then cutting it down to what’s absolutely necessary.

Look over the entire list of winning books this year found at NCTE’s site which includes Honorable Mention books and Recommended books.

The entire list is invaluable – especially for anyone looking for engaging nonfiction books for classroom use.  Books for this prize have to be not only excellent but appeal to a wide age of readers, K-8.