Wednesday, March 2, 2022

You're A Winner!

Congratulations to the winners of the prize drawing! We have 16 sweet prizes from our amazing bloggers. May the prizes encourage your nonfiction journey.

If you are one of our lucky winners, please email us at nonfictionchicks@gmail.com no later than midnight Friday, Saturday March 5. If we do not hear from you, we will move on to the the next person on the prize list.

The winners are:

Julie Rubini  - an hour Zoom with Kirsten Larson that you can use for career coaching, an in-person critique, or just an “ask me anything” session.

Kelly O'Malley Cerra - A manuscript critique from Ann Ingalls.

Gail Hartman - 30 minute sky Q&A with Melissa Stewart.

Lisa Gaines - signed copy of Revolutionary Prudence Wright: Leading the Minute Women in the Fight for Independence by Beth Anderson.

Rhonda Roaring - signed copy of From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement by Paula Yoo.

Joyce Uglowone of the following: a critique of a full picture book manuscript, the first 10 pages of a longer manuscript, or critique of an introductory packet to an educational publisher—winner’s choice by Carol Kim.

Melissa Stoller - signed copy of Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls by Annette Whipple.

Maria Marshall - signed copy of Fairy Tale Science by Sarah Albee.

Ruthie KirkChoose between a copy of Panel One: Comic Book Scripts by Top Writers edited by Matt Gertler sent via Bookshop.org or a half-hour ask-me-anything chat (phone or Zoom) Teresa Robeson.

Myra Faye Turner - signed copy of Our World: First Book of Geography by Sue Gallion.

Katie McEnaney - signed copy of The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just by Mélina Mangal 

Bettie Boswell - a 15 minute zoom session to help with research - Katherine House.

Kimberly Yavorski - a signed copy of VIP: Stacey Abrams – Voting Visionary by Andrea Loney 

Nicki Jacobsmeyer - PB critique or research brainstorm session to be used in the next 12 months with Anna Crowley Redding.

Amy Valore -Caplan - two titles sent by Abrams Books Diego Rivera and Funny Bones  (Jenny Choy) by Duncan Donatiuh.

Tonya Ann PemberThe Rise (and Falls) of Jackie Chan by Kristen Giang.


Congratulations to All!!


PICKING YOUR PASSION PROJECT!

 By Kristen Mai Giang 


Did you read that right? Passion project? But we’re here to talk about nonfiction. Hours upon hours of research. Facts, not fiction. Is there really room for passion?

There is. There must be. Because you will spend hours upon hours researching your topic. Reading every book you can find, watching every video, scouring the Internet for creditable sources and annotating them all so you can cite them months and possibly years down the line when you can barely remember your own name, let alone the obscure source of the obscure photo you once obscurely found.

Then, once your book sells, you may go through rounds and rounds of revisions, cross-checking to make sure your facts haven’t morphed into fiction. And once the art is complete, you may – you guessed it! – go through rounds and rounds of reviews to ensure that the art and text still tell a true story

PLEASE DON’T STOP READING. If you find yourself slinking away from the idea of writing nonfiction, passion is the thing that will make that sly nonfiction idea rear its head and compel you to return to it. Over and over again. Picking a passion project will save you during the dark hours, when you’ve stayed up too late, and your eyes just don’t seem to see anymore. Because you will care so much that you must tell this story, and you must tell it right.

So how do you pick a passion project? Passion is a daunting word. Do we feel passion about many things in our lives? I like many things, but do I have passions? (Cue shrug emoji.) As it turns out, passion lurks in unexpected places. It pops up and surprises you when you aren’t really looking for it.

My first nonfiction picture book is a biography of Jackie Chan. I like Jackie Chan very much. I find him hilariously cheeky and charming. His stunts are perfectly timed blurs of speed and grace, power and precision. I grew up watching his movies and laughing at all his silly humor and punishing pranks. But was I PASSIONATE about him?

I wasn’t.

Until I happened to learn that before Jackie Chan became a global action superstar, he had been classically trained to perform Peking Opera. In painted face and colorful costume, he sang and performed epic Chinese legends. This seemed such a disconnect from the Jackie Chan I thought I knew – that icon of kung fu comedy – that I couldn’t help learning more. And before I knew it, I had read every book I could find, watched every video, and scoured the Internet.

What I learned, what became my passion, was the multidimensional truth of who Jackie Chan is. So often people of color, even those as famous as Jackie Chan, are only seen in one dimension. A stereotype. The kung fu fighting part that doesn’t represent the three-dimensional whole. The whole in whom we might see a universal truth, in whom we might see ourselves, no matter what our race or background. I wanted to tell that story. The whole story of Jackie Chan. I was passionate about it.

Along the way, I unexpectedly fulfilled another passion – for representation. When I was growing up, there weren’t many Asian actors in leading or even supporting roles on TV or in the movies. Only recently did I realize that I gained that representation – I saw those heroes – in Hong Kong movies. My mom would take us kids to the Chinese theater in San Gabriel, California, that played Hong Kong double features. Sharing sticky sweet fruit-flavored beef jerky, we laughed at Jackie’s antics and cheered a star, many stars, who looked like us.

Perhaps Jackie Chan was fueling a passion I didn’t even know I had those many years ago. And perhaps there is a passion in you just waiting to be sparked.

 

GIVE IT A TRY

So how do you locate that lurking passion? How do you coax it out? Start with what you like. What interests you? What are you curious about? What do you enjoy? From there, research and learn more about a topic or a person related to that. If you love food or cooking, perhaps a chef or a pivotal moment in history related to food. As you research, take notes and free-write ideas that come to you. What themes arise? Why does this matter to you? The object of your passion may not be the topic itself, but an idea or theme or memory it represents. Something that makes you want to dig deeper. When an idea captures you, that’s when you know you have a book you want to write. Even better, you’ve done the work of figuring out the real story you want to tell – and that readers will want to read.

 

MEET THE AUTHOR

Kristen Mai Giang is a Chinese American author who emigrated from Vietnam when she was 18 months old. Her debut picture book biography, The Rise (and Falls) of Jackie Chan, releases March 29, 2022, from Crown Books for Young Readers.

She is also the author of Ginger & Chrysanthemum (Fall 2020) and the upcoming Last Flight (Spring 2023), both from Levine Querido.  

When not writing, Kristen has spent the past two decades creating Emmy Award-winning interactive media for Disney, PBS Kids Sprout, and Mattel, among others. She is currently developing a K-5 interactive learning platform funded by the NSF.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

YOU MADE IT!

You persisted with NF Fest and completed at least 20 activities / posts / books by the bloggers. Congratulations!

To enter the drawing, please include 3 things in your comment.

1.    YOUR NAME (Add the number of items completed if you like.)

2.    YOUR LOCATION (state or country)

3.    OPINION

·       What authors/illustrators would you like to see in the future?

·       What post(s) benefitted you most?

·       How can we improve?

Your comment would look something like this:

Pat Miller-24, Texas, future-Jocelyn Rish, favorites-House/research, Mangal/maps, improve-do it again next year!

All responses must be submitted by March 2, midnight, CST/USA

Bonus: Kristen Giang will send us off on March 2 with her post on Finding Your Passion Project.

2022 Prizes

Kirsten Larson - an hour Zoom you can use for career coaching, an in-person critique, or just an “ask me anything” session.

Ann Ingalls - manuscript critique for a nonfiction levelled reader. She will draw a name from interested individuals.

Melissa Stewart - 30 min Skype Q&A.

Beth Anderson - signed copy of Revolutionary Prudence Wright: Leading the Minute Women in the Fight for Independence

Paula Yoo - signed copy of From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement

Carol Kim – one of the following: a critique of a full picture book manuscript, the first 10 pages of a longer manuscript, or critique of an introductory packet to an educational publisher—winner’s choice.

Annette Whipple - signed copy of Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls

Sarah Albee – signed copy of Fairy Tale Science

Teresa Robeson -  Choose between a copy of Panel One: Comic Book Scripts by Top Writers edited by Matt Gertler sent via Bookshop.org or a half-hour ask-me-anything chat (phone or Zoom).

Sue Gallion - signed copy of Our World: First Book of Geography.

Mélina Mangal - signed copy of The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just.

Katherine House -  15-minute Zoom session to help someone with a research project.

Andrea Loney - a signed copy of VIP: Stacey Abrams – Voting Visionary

Anna Crowley Redding - PB critique or research brainstorm session to be used in the next 12 months.

Duncan Donatiuh - two titles sent by Abrams Books (two winners) Diego Rivera and Funny Bones  (Jenny Choy)

Kristen Giang – The Rise (and Falls) of Jackie Chan

Monday, February 28, 2022

YES, THE TRUTH IS FUNNY

 by Helaine Becker

 

If you’ve ever typed “Florida Man” into your Google search bar, you know it’s true: real life is stranger than fiction - and often funnier. So it should come as no surprise that nonfiction books can be equally hilarious.

In the olden days (pre-Internet), information books for children tended to be dry bones fact delivery systems. Today’s books are much more than that. They offer context, connections, and narrative. And perhaps most importantly, they engage and inspire young readers.

Humor is a high-octane tool for hooking a reader. And a bit of rib-tickling makes the subject matter stick!  That’s why I use humor frequently in my own nonfiction writing, even for super-serious subjects.

Here’s how I keep kids cracking up from the Table of Contents straight through to the glossary.

     The Subject, naturally: When choosing which experiments to highlight in my book Science on the Loose, I opted to include “the famous fart experiment,” an actual study in which scientists in the UK measured both the amount and intensity of flatulence in male and female populations. While kids giggle and guffaw, they discover how to set up and conduct a scientific experiment (starting with a hypothesis, controlling the variables, accurate measurement, etc.) It’s real science, it’s really funny, and it’s explosively (!) engaging. 

     Approach:  Even when the subject matter is not inherently funny, like an authoritative biography of a forgotten math genius, a light touch can go a long way. As an example, consider the tone I used in Emmy Noether: The Most Important Mathematician You Never Heard Of: “Emmy was much smarter than everyone else in her classes. The other students knew it and didn’t much like it. After all, girls were not supposed to be smarter than boys (See page 6: not be geniuses.”)”   The style is direct and wry. Lots of the side notes and captions are laugh-out-loud funny. The hits of humor highlight Emmy Noether’s own genial personality and acts as leaven for a text that might otherwise be dense with math and physics.

     Language: Anyone who’s had to slog through an academic paper knows that convoluted sentence structure and jargon can make even a simple subject hard to understand and deadly dull. When I write for kids, I pay careful attention to my word choice, with a special focus on the way words and sentences sound. I use rhymes and alliteration liberally and tons of puns. I up my game with major league word play, and up the chuckles with sly juxtapositions (see what I did there?).  

Some words are funnier than others. Words with the letter K in them, like kazoo or nincompoop, are widely considered the funniest. Repeated syllables also solicits smiles. In a choice between apples or bananas, I always go bananas.

Art: The illustrations are an important part of many books for children. They set the mood and convey lots of information that round out the text. A weighty subject, like dinosaur taxonomy, can get a lift from lighthearted pictures.


This is very much the case in That’s No Dino! – Or Is It?, my primary-level book about, yes, dinosaur taxonomy. Goofy, brightly-colored graphics by Marie-Eve Tremblay definitely get the giggles going – and clarify the subject matter in a way that is accessible to even young readers.

So if you’re no-nonsense about nonfiction, go for books that serve up giggle fits along with the facts.  Because well-researched information is absolutely a laughing matter.

Give It a Try: Choose a nonfiction topic that appeals to you. How can you make it fresh and fun?

First, noodle around with your approach. If you’re writing about the rainforest, for example, think about different, unexpected approaches that lend themselves to humor. For example, you might present the Amazon from the point of view of a sloth – upside down!  

Once you’ve got your angle, write a sample introduction. Try a variety of tones. Pick one that best captures the subject  - and your own unique voice.

When you’ve got something that you think has potential, tweak your text until it feels light and fun on your tongue. 

Humorous writing can be hard to pull off, especially if you feel nervous about putting yourself out there. Like all other writing skills, it requires practice and courage.  So, stick with it! The verbal skills you develop will be useful in all your writing.



Meet the Author
Helaine Becker is the award-winning author of more than 90 books for children and young adults, including the international bestseller Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 and An Equal Shot: How the Law Title IX Changed America Forever. Recent nonfiction titles include Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao and Emmy Noether: The Most Important Mathematician You Never Heard Of. Watch for The Fossil Whisperer: How Wendy Sloboda Discovered a Dinosaur later this spring.



Sunday, February 27, 2022

A Shape For Your Story

 by Duncan Tonatiuh

 

The first nonfiction picture book I wrote and illustrated was about Diego Rivera. A big challenge I had while writing that book was deciding what to include in it. Diego Rivera was a very famous muralist. He was a larger than life, complex, and often controversial figure. Many articles and books have been written about him. There is a lot of information about his life available. I couldn't include everything about him in a thirty-two page picture book. So what do I include?

I became very interested in Rivera's artwork after I got a small job doing an illustration for a textbook about Mexican history. I looked at Rivera's work for inspiration. In his murals Rivera painted the history of Mexico. He painted the conquest, the fight for independence, and the Mexican revolution. He also made murals about technology and science, like the one at the Detroit Art Institute depicting the process for making a car. He painted epic and pivotal historical moments. While looking at his artwork I began to think What would Diego Rivera paint nowadays? Would he paint the computers and smart phones we use nowadays? Would he paint satellites and the internet?

That question –What would he paint nowadays?—turned out to be a good guide. It helped me decide what to include in the book and it helped me find a shape for my story. The first part of Diego Rivera: His World and Ours is a short biography depicting formative events is Rivera's life. But then the book takes a turn and asks what would he paint nowadays and compares it to things he painted. Would he paint a modern metropolis as he painted the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlán? Or would he paint students at their desks like he painted factory workers in the production line?



There are different shapes a story can have. A very good and very common shape for a picture book is the arc. There is a beginning, a conflict, and a resolution. But it is not the only shape. Diego Rivera: His World and Ours has a “juggling” sort of shape that jumps back and forth between information and questions. I used that shape again in my book Funny Bones; Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras.

In college, for a fiction class I took, I read a book called Making Shapely Fiction. In the book, Jerome Stern presents different story shapes like facade, juggling, iceberg, and onion among others. I recommend it. Even though the book is aimed at adult fiction writers I think that his insights can be useful to nonfiction children's book authors.

Give It a Try: What are different shapes for a story that can you think of? Find picture books with different story shapes, especially ones that don't have a traditional arc.

When you are working on a book I encourage you to make a book dummy, especially at the early stages. Don't worry if you are not an illustrator. Your mockup doesn't need to be detailed. It doesn't even need to have drawings. Your book's illustrator is usually the one that will decide how to break up the text once the story is finished. But I think it is a good exercise for writers to make a dummy while working on a book and to think of how the text could be split up. I think it can help writers find the flow of the book and the shape for the story.





Meet the Author


Duncan Tonatiuh (toh-nah-tee-YOU) is an award-winning author-illustrator. He is both Mexican and American. He grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and graduated from Parsons School of Design and Eugene Lang College in New York City. His artwork is inspired by Pre-Columbian art, particularly that of the Mixtec codices. His aim is to create images and stories that honor the past, but that are relevant to people, especially children, nowadays. Two of his recent nonfiction books are Soldier for Equality: Jose de la Luz Saenz and the Great War and Danza!: Amalia Hernandez and el Ballet Folklorico de Mexico.



Saturday, February 26, 2022

Gamification: A Cool Way to do Nonfiction Picture Books

By Roxie Munro
         

For my work about architecture or places, nature and science, art, and other nonfiction or informational content, I find using "gamification" as a writing/illustration technique challenging, and fun. It can impart a lot of information for children in an accessible, creative and lively way. 

Because I am an artist - a "visual thinker" - as well as a writer, I often create my books first in images (a storyboard, a dummy, rough sketches), and then write the text to coordinate with the art, not visa-versa (which most editors prefer!). Thinking visually is a form of cognition. My books are dependent upon strong visual ideas. The art dictates the format, sequence, and even the content.

I wrap the content around a device - a conceit or a construct. Studies show that engaging in games helps children learn, concentrate, set goals, problem-solve, work together and collaborate, persevere, and celebrate achieving goals. Many games also help with decision-making and critical thinking skills. They make kids think ahead and plan steps in advance, sometimes teaching alternative ways to solve problems. Working with mazes has been shown to improve children's handwriting. Game ideas are particularly suited to reluctant readers, boys, and special needs children.

People don’t always think of print books as being interactive, or using games, but they are and they do. To engage children and keep them interested, and to impart information in a compelling way, I create books with mazes, guessing games, inside-outside concepts, search-n-find, lift-the-flaps, ABCs and numbers, puzzles, size/scale relationships, hidden objects, and more.

My books often follow a similar structure. I start with front matter (an introduction giving an overview - maybe some history and context, how the book was researched, what's to come). Sometimes there are "instructions" to help navigate the game-like format, and maybe quirky factoid-like questions (answers in front or back matter). Then the main content - the body of the book - usually two-page illustrated spreads with expository text. Often there's a big illustrated finale, and then the important back matter, which usually consists of the following: "the answers" to the maze, seek-n-find, counting or alphabet game, often with smaller B&W versions of the spreads; maybe a schematic illustration showing, say, the featured animals in scale relative to each other and/or their environment; sometimes extra content (facts not mentioned in the body text) like each animal's species/scientific name and/or pronunciation, size or habitat, breeding habits; an "essay" (lately discussing global climate change, species preservation, or a call-to-action); a map if appropriate; glossary (usually the word is highlighted first in the main body text); a bibliography; and an index.    

Some of my early books used an inside-outside device to show places and cities (New York City, Washington DC, Paris, London, Texas, and American libraries). Others, for example the lift-the-flap paper-engineered books, like Go! Go! Go! (about transportation), Circus, Rodeo, and Doors (you learn about what’s in a doctor’s office, horse barn, a train, mechanic’s garage, space station, etc), are a little quirky and are occasionally even considered “novelty” books. They don’t fall neatly into the nonfiction category, though they are about "real" life. There are guessing games incorporated into the flaps, which hide items, show action or motion, and how things work.


EcoMazes: 12 Earth Adventures uses mazes to explore and understand ecosystems, and a finding/counting game to learn about which animals live in the habitat. In Hatch! an egg or a clutch of eggs is shown. Children try to guess what kind of bird it is from hints (“The bird that lays these eggs is found on every continent except Antarctica.” “…fastest running two-legged animal on Earth. But it can’t fly.”). In Busy Builders children see a bug up close, and then turn the page to check out the unusual structure it makes, and why. In Slithery Snakes, they figure out what kind of snake it is from the close-up scaly skin patterns shown, along with tantalizing facts about the critter.

Several of my nonfiction concept books teach the alphabet, vocabulary, and counting. In Mazeways: A to Z, the alphabet letter forms a maze … A is for Airport, H for Highway, L for Library, R for Ranch, and so on – children are playing, but also learning about places and how they function. Ranch and Desert Days, Desert Nights combine a search-n-find game with information. In Market Maze children explore where food comes from and how it arrives at their town greenmarkets (also involves a counting and finding game). Masterpiece Mix explains art genres, ending with a large finale where you find 37 classic paintings in a modern scene context. The back matter, as with other books, has a B&W schematic with the "answers" and more information on each artist.

                                                                                                                                                                        

            


Lately I've shifted back to nature. Recent books use size as a device: Rodent Rascals: From Tiny to Tremendous - 21 Clever Creatures at their Actual Size; Dive In: Swim with Sea Creatures at Their Actual Size (you take a journey; each spread leads into the next at the top, bottom, or sides); and Anteaters, Bats & Boas: The Amazon Rainforest from the Forest Floor to the Treetops (a walk with actual size creatures, again, each page leads into the next). The last two books have a giant 4-panel foldout to show size.


Give it a Try

You should explore different methods of casting your nonfiction content. Think outside of the box - play around with formats and ideas. Can you impart your content in a fresh, new, or different way? Give it a try - have some fun. Use your unique skills and point-of-view. A reviewer once grumpily wrote that "Munro's books are hard to categorize." A compliment. It's good to be original. The best nonfiction books are content filtered through an individual human consciousness.



About the Author:

Roxie Munro has written and illustrated more than 45 award-winning nonfiction and concept books, earning numerous starred reviews, the NY Times Ten Best Illustrated Award, NCSS-CBC and NSTA-CBS Outstanding Trade Book honors, the Bank        Street Cook Prize Silver Medal for STEM, numerous Notables and Best Book of the Year lists. She's also created a dozen interactive book apps and 14 New Yorker magazine covers. See: http://www.roxiemunro.com/








Friday, February 25, 2022

Infuse Your Facts With Lyricism

By Gloria Amescua


Deepen the reader’s heart connection to your fact-based research using a lyrical approach through figurative language and rhythm. If you are reading this, you know that kids (and adults) love rhythm, sounds and images. You want to know more about how to infuse your nonfiction writing with the lyrical heart connection that’s so important. 


I can only tell you what I’ve done for my nonfiction biographies and what I love about other lyrical nonfiction books. I’ll give you a short list (but certainly not inclusive) of books and some strategies to try. 


What I did with CHILD OF THE FLOWER-SONG PEOPLE:

When I revised my manuscript from prose to a lyrical approach, I first wrote a poem about Luz Jime... Even though I've written poetry since I was a kid, it felt daunting to write a biography using a lyrical approach. But I'm thankful I did. A poem for me comes from my emotional connection to the subject. It gave me details and metaphors such as "flower-song people," "shadow-people," and "words disappearing in the wind." It also led me to use flowers as an extended metaphor and "flower-song" to represent the Nahua people and their spirit: "The budding flower in Luz's heart might have withered./ But it did not" and "her dream seemed to swirl away forever/ like petals on the wind." I also varied sentence lengths and repeated words, phrases and sentence structures to enhance the rhythm. "Just by being Nahua,/ just by being herself,/ Luz breathed life into xochicuicatl, the flower song of the Nahua,/and carried their fading voice into the future."


The following are examples of how beautifully the following authors have created lyrical/poetic books of nonfiction with poetic devices.


FRY BREAD: Using the rhythmic refrain “fry bread is…,” Maillard describes the literal description of what fry bread is as food with dimensions of size, shape, color and specific sensory details and alliteration, “Fry bread is sound. The skillet clangs on the stove./ The fire blazes from below/Drop the dough in the skillet/The bubbles sizzle and pop.” Then fry bread becomes symbolic of history, place, and the people, “Fry bread is history/the long walk/the stolen land/strangers in our own world/with unknown food….” “Fry bread is nation. /Fry bread is everything.”  


SONG FOR JIMI, a biography about musician Jimi Hendrix, fully creates a musical experience through its overall structure as a song, its rhythmic verse, repetition, rhyme, onomatopoetic words, alliteration, assonance, metaphor and voice. Here are several examples: “So Jimmy lived the blues,/ oh, yeah, Jimmy lived the blues,/ from his tattered family tree/to his cardboard-soled shoes”; “He already had the song/but needed a musician,/and there before his eyes/stood a git-tar magician,/ a sonic tactician,/ a Picasso with a pick/painting in the blues tradition.” “Eyes popped,/ jaws dropped/and ears almost bled/when Jimi plucked the fireworks/exploding in his head.”


RISE! Here are a few examples of lyricism: “Momma Henderson—/as tall as a Sycamore, /as dignified as a Queen--/rules the roost”; “the seesaw of the South”; “…the twisting, turning/conga line of language/that pulses across the page”; “…a voice that is/as gravelly and gritty, /as jubilant and joyous/on the page/ as on the stage.” Throughout, Hegedus’ use of metaphor, alliteration, repetition of words and phrases, rhyme, and sentence structure convey the facts but definitely appeal to the heart.


In 30,000 STITCHES, Davis uses the repetition of “the fabric of America with a varying verb to show the evolving emotional healing of our country through the symbol of the 9-11 flag’s repair. Along with alliteration, other repeated phrases, varying sentence length, the text develops a clear rhythm, “The flag wove its way across America--/crisscrossing borders, cross-stitching lives.”  “Throughout the journey, stories of/tragedy transformed into triumph--/repairing scars,/ restoring faith,/ uniting people.”


MARTIN & MAHALIA: Pinkney uses short repeated phrases or sentences with a word change that develop the cadence of a sermon or song, as well as contrast, assonance and rhyme. “She sang the gospel/worked the gospel/led the gospel/spread the gospel” which echoes the words describing Martin’s.  Another example is “They wanted to/lift their gospel gifts higher/grow them bigger/shout them louder/make Americans even prouder.” She also structures the text around the symbol of the journey on a map. 


In STUFF OF STARS, Bauer’s lovely use of alliteration, repeated and varying phrase and sentence structures, specific details and onomatopoeia link the birth of the universe to the birth of “you.” “In the dark,/in the dark,/in the deep, deep dark,/ a speck floated, invisible as thought./weighty as God.” “And then/the beginning/of the beginning/of all beginnings/ went/ BANG!”


Give it a Try:

  • Write a poem letting the emotional connection you have to the subject lead you.

  • Draw a web/map with the subject at the center and add whatever comes to mind, brainstorming in a non-linear way. 

  • In one column write a short list of important characteristics. In the next column, write specific nouns, verbs and sensory words that might be associated with the words in the first column. 

  • And, of course, study mentor texts. I’ve used all of these strategies.


Things to Remember: 

You might overdo poetic devices at first and need to cut. (I did.)

You might try something and need to change to totally change it. (I did.)

Sometimes metaphors or specific/sensory details, rhythms just pop up! (That’s happened! Yay!)


I hope these examples and suggestions help you as you infuse your facts with lyricism!


Example Nonfiction Picture Books: 

30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (2021) by Amanda Davis, illustrated by Sally Were Comport.

Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jiménez, Daughter of the Nahua by Gloria Amescua (2021), illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh.

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln (2019) by Margarita Engle, illus. by Rafael López. (Metaphor, repeated phrase structure, alliteration, internal rhyme)

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story (2019) by Kevin Noble Maillard, illus. by Juana Martinez Neal.

Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston) by Alicia D. Williams, illus. by Jacqueline Alcántara. (Personification of the sun and more, word choice, dialect, voice, metaphor)

Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song (2013) by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illus. by Brian Pinkney.

Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou (2019) by Bethany Hegedus, illus. by Tonya Engel.

Song for Jimi: The Story of Guitar Legend Jimi Hendrix (2021) by Charles R. Smith, Jr, illus. by Edel Rodriguez. 

A Songbird Dreams of Singing: Poems about Sleeping Animals (2019) by Kate Hosford. (Individual poems with specific meter and rhyming structure)

The Stuff of Stars (2018) by Marion Dane Bauer, illus. by Euka Holmes 

Survivor Tree (2021) by Marcie Colleen, illus. by Aaron Becker. (Word choice, metaphor, symbols and circle structure)


About the Author:


Gloria Amescua’s (Ah MES qua) debut picture book biography, CHILD OF THE FLOWER-SONG PEOPLE: LUZ JIMÉNEZ, DAUGHTER OF THE NAHUA is illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams Books, 2021) and was awarded a Pura Belpré Author Honor.  It was also listed as a Junior Literary Guild Selection, ALA Notable Books and various Best of Nonfiction/Informative lists for 2021/2022. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt published one of Gloria’s poems for their national textbook literature series. Gloria is an educator, poet and children’s book writer. Connect with her on her website GloriaAmescua.com or Twitter @GloriaAmescua.