Posted by: jeannineatkins | December 10, 2007

Cheering for Nonfiction

I enjoy reading Marc Aronson’s blog, Nonfiction Matters over at School Library Journal. Recently he was noting, no, I think we can safely say he was complaining, about how few of the “favorites of the year” that smart people were mentioning on the CCBC list were nonfiction. (We might also note how few are poetry). He just began a nonfiction favorites list, and wanting to contribute I realized all the work involved in recalling a year’s worth of reading, trying to articulate why each book is memorable, and accurately naming and spelling the titles, authors, and illustrators that wash more vaguely through my mind.

I love reading novels, and I love reading nonfiction, and maybe I especially love when novels and history blend into historical fiction. It is great to have Marc as an advocate that nonfiction does matter. Those of us who write it adore teachers and librarians who help put informational books into students’ hands. They’re usually not the glamour choice – although I read Sharks! Sharks! Sharks! enough times many years ago that I can still recite phrases, and I know people who’ve compiled quite a bit of truck and big machine knowledge via picture books. Only sometimes do biographies find their way under readers’ pillows. I enjoyed the movie “Enchanted,” and even laughed when the adorable little girl ditched her Biographies of Famous Women, wanting to be a princess rather than Marie Curie. Give me a book about Curie and I’m happy, but I get that who really wants to spend four years stirring pitchblende when you’re six years old and that’s more than half your lifetime? Of course a little girl might choose soft hands over radium-burned fingertips, even if two Nobel prizes came along with it.

Literature and love and is complicated. You can check out Nonfiction Matters (Dec. 10 replies) to read about some of my current favorites and see if we can get some gushing going about intrepid scientists, bulldozers, half-forgotten explorers or math.


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