Pages

Friday, February 21, 2020

When the Line Between Truth and Fiction Blurs

By Kelly Milner Halls

My friend Chris Crutcher once asked me how I write nonfiction about fictional characters. He was referencing my interest in cryptozoology – mysterious animals that may or may not be real. I answered, “If you’d read the books, you’d know.”

I have written hard science – books like Death Eaters about scavengers and Dinosaur Mummies about soft tissue fossilization. Sourcing those is a matter of scouring professional journals and following up with interviews to fill in young reader gaps.

Writing more subjective books like Cryptid Creatures: A Field Guide about mysteries like Bigfoot and Goatman is a special challenge because the stories may or may not be true. For those projects, research is more important than ever.

I’ve explored these topics for roughly 15 years now, beginning with Tales of the Cryptids, released in 2006. When I started, I thought I’d prove the stories were falsehoods meant to deceive. To my surprise, when I did the deep dive, I discovered many of the eyewitnesses were credible. If they didn’t see the creatures they described, they certainly believed they did.

I realized, it wasn’t my job to prove or disprove the Loch Ness Monster. It was my job to track down the best possible evidence. Once I’d managed that, I could leave it to the readers to decide if the animal might be real or not. If I couldn’t prove it was a hoax, I didn’t say it was a hoax. That would be a lie.

That effort begins with exhaustive reading. I haunt my public libraries. I pore through search engines and databases. I track down books published by experts who have been searching even longer than I have, read them, then interview the authors for answers and assessments of my own.

I almost never rely on blogs or self-published materials for my research. Those sources haven’t been evaluated by professional editors and art directors. Those sources might not be rooted in reality. I rely on more traditional books, magazines, newspapers and conference lecturers.

Once I’ve found at least two reliable sources on any one mysterious animal, I decide if the evidence merits inclusion in my projects. Some make the grade. Some fall away from my final manuscripts. Some are enhanced by tracking down the witnesses quoted in the source material for one-on-one interviews.

I believe some could be proven real in time. I believe others are unlikely, at best. And I share my opinions with the readers – not as fact, but as educated evaluations.

I do my best to teach young readers how to be critical thinkers, through the text published in the finished books. And I seek out illustrators like Rick Spears who can imbue the visual representations with life, even if they’ve not yet been photographically and scientifically documented.

I’ve pursued the same process for cryptozoology, aliens and UFOs, and ghosts. I suspect other mysteries will be on my horizon. Why? Because kids are brimming with wonder. They don’t want all mysteries solved. They dream of being the first to prove their favorites are real. But they do want to trust that I’ve done my homework.

I try never to let them down. If I do my job, imaginations soar, as does healthy skepticism. If I do my job, young readers learn how to make thoughtful evaluations of their own. I try to be a trustworthy and reliable guide along roads less traveled – roads kids cannot resist.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelly Milner Halls has written quirky nonfiction for young readers for the past 25 years.  Her latest books, Cryptid Creatures: A Field Guide, Death Eaters: Meat Nature’s Scavengers, and Gross Science Projects prove her weird flag continues to fly.  She does conferences, festivals, and school visits all over the country and loves every minute of it. For more about Kelly, visit her website: www.wondersofweird.com



ABOUT THE PRIZE

Kelly is giving away FIVE prizes, one of each of the books pictured above, a critique, and a 15-minute phone call to discuss your questions or stumbling blocks.

Leave one comment below about what struck you in the post.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered NF Fest participant and you have contributed one comment below.
 

 

202 comments:

  1. When I worked in a school library, these types of books never sat on the shelf long. Thanks for sharing your process, Kelly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure, Gail. Those readers are my tribe and I love them as much as you do.

      Delete
    2. My pleasure, Gail. Those readers are my tribe and I love them as much as you do.

      Delete
  2. Mind. Blown. I am in awe of the research needed and the nuanced writing required for these kinds of books Kids love this sort of stuff, so I can imagine your books flying off the shelves! Thank you for this super interesting post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jyoti, I'm so glad you're a fan of the weird, like me. That wonder makes life a lot more fun.

      Delete
  3. Kelly, thanks for the great article. I love your approach to research. Two reliable sources and even then some don't make it into the final cut and not wanting to let the kids down. Teaching them to be critical thinkers is key! All the best!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sue, we've been friends for a LONG time now, so I'm glad I haven't let you down...so far.

      Delete
    2. I hit the wrong button again, and appear to be "unknown," every writers darkest nightmare. But you knew it was me, right Sue? Hugs.

      Delete
  4. I like that you share what you've researched and learned not as simply fact, but as a starting point for young readers to continue the quest on their own. Giving them that basis and allowing them to wonder and imagine is exactly what some topics require, and perhaps even more importantly, exactly what young readers want.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I couldn't agree more, Tanya. Kids also want that wonder respectfully addressed, and I do my best to see things from their point of view, and move forward with that in mind.

      Delete
  5. I love how you take a deeply critical look at captivating, yet questionable, creatures. I seems like an irresistible topic to children as they figure out what's real and not read in the world. I can't wait to check out your books. Many thanks for sharing your approach.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My math and physics father always respected my questions about weird topics, so I pass that on to the kids who discover my books. Who knows what they might discover, given permission to think outside the box.

      Delete
  6. Wow Kelly. You tackle subjects that are not for the faint of heart! Striking the right balance between fact and enigma seems particularly challenging. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the process.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That balance is incredibly difficult and requires extensive, professional research. I imagine my "weird" books take three or four times longer to write than most more traditional nonfiction projects. But I love seeing kids searching for information of their own, so it's more than worth it.

      Delete
  7. "That effort begins with exhaustive reading." I think I need to come to terms with this one. Research and reading the right resources. Reading the most credibility resources. Thanks for the insight.
    -Ashley Congdon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear you. I was a wild animal as a kid. Reading took way to long to be fun, for many years. But I've learned to buckle down and get the work done. And I sprinkle credible documentaries between the books and articles to keep my mind from exploding. :) Hang in there, it'll be worth it.

      Delete
  8. This is fascinating. I love the idea that you don't feel the need to prove or disprove, just to present the facts and let little minds come to conclusions. Thanks for all your insight!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Truth is, some things cannot yet be proven, so learning to evaluate evidence is not a bad skillset to develop. I love those topics, but I try to present them to kids without "cheap thrill" moments...just the most reliable information I can share, without a "scary" or "nonscary" agenda.

      Delete
  9. Fascinating! I have never thought about nonfiction about things we cannon prove are real (or not)! I love the way this blog series is broadening my definition of what nonfiction is and what it could look like. -Sara Ackerman

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the only way to fairly represent things like ghosts or bigfoot is to set aside your opinion and seek balance--attempt to offer evidence that might lead to the search for more evidence. I work hard to strike that balance. I hope I do a good job.

      Delete
  10. Wow, you are a bold and brave researcher! Amazed at your ingenuity and talent. What a great creative niche!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Cathy. I love the weird stuff and natural history topics most, but my next two book topics were surprisingly traditional, especially for me. But they were so fun to write. Anything can be a fun assignment, if you learn to love research.

      Delete
  11. I love the exploratory doors you open to your readers! You have expanded my definition of "nonfiction." What an inspiration!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Kathleen. Now dig into your memories and find something you loved that hasn't been written YOUR way--yet. Magic is born when you combine the child you were with the grown-up you became.

      Delete
  12. Very interesting post! It’s exciting to learn about all these different nonfiction possibilities during this NF Fest... Your books sound fascinating and I hope you continue your quests into the known and unknown! šŸ™‚

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jill. I love what I write. But here's a clue. A friend of mine once admitted she was discouraged because she couldn't embrace my "gimmick." I smiled and said that my gimmick was fun--for me and my readers--but her readers weren't looking for me. Her readers were looking for topics SHE loved. And that's so important. You don't have to be anyone other than who you are to find your tribe. You are magic just the way you are!

      Delete
  13. I can see how your books would appeal to kids (and adults) and spark that continued curiosity. It all starts with asking questions and wondering. Thanks for sharing your process.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rose, isn't that why we write nonfiction? Weren't most of us those annoying kids that were full of questions (and maybe a little mischief)? Here's to never losing touch with that kid you once were.

      Delete
  14. I can see these books would cause much discussion among my 5th graders!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How I love those 5th graders! They live on the cusp between childhood and young adulthood. They are discovering how much is truly possible. How could I not want to appeal to those magical minds? Love!!!

      Delete
  15. This really spoke to me, " It was my job to track down the best possible evidence. Once I’d managed that, I could leave it to the readers to decide if the animal might be real or not." We need to treater readers with respect. Kids ARE smart. Kelly, I think my 8 y/o grandson may be getting a few of your books for his birthday. He reads "up" and loves gross stuff. TY.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Kathy, how I love that you "get it." It is all about respect. For years, kids at school visits kept asking me about "Slenderman," a character made popular from a work of fiction on CreepyPasta online. "Is it real?" they said. I didn't blow them off or make them think they were stupid for asking. I explained that I'd done the research and discovered it was fictional, but awe inspiring as a fictional work, like ET or Dracula. I respected their question and their need to know. If all adults tried that approach to Slenderman, those two girls in Wisconsin might never have tried to kill their friend in a quest to live with Slenderman in 2014 (https://www.foxnews.com/us/wisconsin-teen-in-slender-man-stabbing-sentenced-to-25-years-in-mental-health-facility). Kids NEED a safe place to explore all things mysterious, and help navigating the information. Who will they turn to, if not trusted adults? We have to make room for these curiosities.

      Delete
    2. PS If your grandson gets a gift of my books, email me and I'll send you as many signed bookplates as you need. Thanks for even considering it! :)

      Delete
  16. Very fascinating that you tackle these topics and handle your research the way you do. Thanks for talking about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are most welcome. Thank for reading...and writing.

      Delete
  17. I have SO many comments but I'll try to contain myself. :-) First, I'm waiting for the day when I see you on the TV shows that explore cryptids because those folks could use your serious skills. Secondly, yes, kids love these subjects but I know a TON of adults who do, too. (Ahem.) And lastly, I need your books for research so I'm using all my psychic abilities to make me the winner here. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love you comment, of course, and I hope you do win. But if you don't, libraries are free, thank goodness, and most of my books are in most libraries. And CRYPTID CREATURES was written with adults in mind, along with kids because we DO love these topics, too. Thanks for being part of my tribe.

      Delete
  18. The subjects you bring to the page are interesting , weird and gross, in a cool way! Way to go!
    Thanks for bringing unusual topics into the hands for further questions and... wonder!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I do school visits, I open by telling the kids I get paid for being weird. I do that for two reasons. One, it's true. And two, if I own my weird, it gives them the safety to own theirs too. Weird makes the world go round. Weird ROCKS!

      Delete
  19. Such intriguing research as you track down the evidence in these kid-magnet titles! Death Eaters was fascinating to this big kid:-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I loved writing DEATH EATERS. Those animals are the clean-up crew and they deserve more respect. Plus, how fun to explore creatures that eat dead stuff. Thanks for sharing that wonder with me. :)

      Delete
    2. Dang it, I hit the wrong button again. This is me, I promise. That was me, too...not "unknown."

      Delete
  20. Two reliable, credible sources are needed for you to pursue your interest and story. Thanks for sharing this information and your list of resources that have been vetted by other researchers. Thank you for sharing your process.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I studied journalism in college, it was a three (reliable) source rule. I've allowed my standard to hover between two and three now, but I try to find three. Old habits die hard.

      Delete
  21. 'I do my best to teach young readers how to be critical thinkers ...'

    I like this as it goes along with what I was already planning on for some back matter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't back matter a splendid development? A place to add important information that may have slowed the narrative of the main story, but add to the whole...so cool. As an old magazine writer, I love it! Well done!

      Delete
  22. I like how you say writing can help readers become critical thinkers...what a great skill to give them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Critical thinking is crucial in the age of the Internet--regardless of political affiliations. If we teach our kids how to evaluate evidence, almost anything is possible, including the rejection of nonsense.

      Delete
  23. Great post, Kelly! Thank you for sharing your process for research and giving us a peek at how you went about researching your book, Cryptid Creatures: A Field Guide

    I was struck by two things that you said. The first being that, “I do my best to teach young readers how to be critical thinkers.” Sadly critical thinking seems to have been left by the wayside which will, and is being proved to be disastrous… and the second thing I connected with was, “I try to be a trustworthy and reliable guide along roads less traveled – roads kids cannot resist.” Kids love this sort of stuff, the more weird and gross the better!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much. Critical thinking has been neglected, but we as nonfiction writers and speakers can help. And you're right, kids love these peculiar mysteries. If we don't help them search for the truth, they WILL fall for lies. The truth is a stronger ally.

      Delete
    2. Rats, I hit the wrong button AGAIN. It is me, I promise. :)

      Delete
  24. I love your emphasis on simultaneously inspiring imagination and healthy skepticism. Kids are learning machines and we have a responsibility as writers to provide good fuel for those machines. Thank you for your thoughts and examples for doing this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank YOU for being an ally to kids yearning to learn. They deserve the best we can give, regardless of topic.

      Delete
  25. Kelly is so right that kids crave the offbeat, and I would add, the safely-scary. The pages of the book are both the source of satisfaction and the safety net of being able to leave them there. Remembering them later, however, is another whole thing.
    The other point of reading and evaluating what you've read is another critical skill needed all the rest of your life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment, Mary. I got one of my worst reviews ever after I wrote ALIEN INVESTIGATION. The Kirkus reviewer said, and I paraphrase, the book was more boring than your neighbors vacation slides for the third time. They were wrong. It was not boring. It was reasonable. My aim was not to terrify kids. My aim was to share the credible evidence I found for and against the subject of UFOs without the manipulation. If they want to be afraid, they can read fiction or watch movies. If they want the most reasonable evidence possible, they can read my books. As a kid who loved scary stuff, I can say with some authority, both have value, for very different reasons. And I still love Kirkus.

      Delete
  26. Hi, Kelly! Thanks for sharing info about your interests and research! You do it right! FYI, people, her offer of critique is GOLDEN! She gave me the best NF critique I’ve ever had.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sherry, you are so sweet. I'm glad I offered some fresh perspective on your work. Here's to new contracts for us all in 2020.

      Delete
  27. Kids learning critical thinking is huge! Love books that emphasize that!

    ReplyDelete
  28. How wonderful you write to create readers to think critically, Kelly.

    Thank you.

    Suzy Leopold

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Suzy. Imagine if all little people learned how to evaluate information. The world would be a smarter place.

      Delete
  29. Fascinating. You're giving kids permission to use their imagination while teaching them to be critical thinkers. What a winning formula!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Suzanne, thank you. I've been writing nonfiction for kids for almost 25 years now. I've honed my craft. But every book begins as if I'd never created another, in professional terms. I may have a little more confidence, but my process is the same as it was the first time. So when I say if I can do it, anyone can do it, it's faith renewed with every contract. Here's to us all finding that formula...repeatedly.

      Delete
  30. I love stories about the unlikely and wonder about their origins. Thanks for sharing your process.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I love that you use these "mysteries" as ways to teach kids to evaluate what they read and think critically. What a great idea!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Emily. It's kind of been my life's work--that and helping them celebrate the unique. If we teach them different is amazing, bullying is a little harder to embrace.

      Delete
  32. I like how you want kids to become critical thinkers. Also some new ideas of places to search for information.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Carol. I hope it helps your work move forward, too.

      Delete
  33. Going on a Cryptid hunt - what fun! And yay for critical thinking. I once took my high school science class on a hike in search of snow snakes. I had told a story about them, their supposed habits, and that they might have been sighted nearby. Though it's hard to say, as they tend to blend in with drifts...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sue, This sounds like a hike that I would have really enjoyed!

      Delete
    2. Sue, I'm not sure your snow snakes would have made it into CRYPTID CREATURES, but I love the adventure and the exercise in critical thinking. Super fun.

      Delete
  34. Wow! Kelly has uncovered a really fascinating, kid-friendly niche within nonprofit. I was very intrigued by how she tackles the research.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Susan. But I hope the niche continues to be profitable. :) A full-time, single mother writer has bills to pay.

      Delete
  35. I like how you work with helping kids to be critical thinkers while feeding their sense of wonder.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Christine. It's been a wonderful career.

      Delete
  36. My takeaway today is this gem, "Because kids are brimming with wonder. They don’t want all mysteries solved." Critical thinking comes directly from curiosity. It was interesting to read how extensive your research process is as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Pam. My "weird" books are seldom given awards. I think committees assume I breeze through retelling legends. Too simple for awards. But the truth is, researching a book like CRYPTID CREATURES or GHOSTLY EVIDENCE requires far more work than books like DEATH EATERS or TIGER IN TROUBLE. I love all my books, but the mysteries require far more time than traditional nonfiction.

      Delete
  37. I appreciate your child-centered approach: they want to wonder, but they also want to trust you. Perfect!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And it's our job to BE trustWORTHY. Thanks, Teresa.

      Delete
  38. Kids absolutely love books of this genre, the mysterious unknown. Thanks for a detailed look at researching controversial topics.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I love your approach. What is more exciting than feeling like you're being given a way to unravel a mystery? Great post, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Karen. Aren't we lucky to have this calling?

      Delete
  40. Hi Kelly, kids are fascinated by these subjects and want to know if cryptid creatures, UFO's and other things are real. I am fascinated by UFO's. Some of the eye witnesses seem very critical.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too, Jeanette. I loved writing ALIEN INVESTIGATION. I even went to the MUFON conference to do research and line up interviews. So much fun.

      Delete
  41. Thanks for unblurring the lines :)

    ReplyDelete
  42. Have you ever tracked down a Chupacabra? I love tales of monsters and mythical creatures, and I love your approach to binging the information to kids so they can make up their own minds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Deborah, I've written about chupacabras, of course. I love them. But I've yet to see one and I'm leaning toward thinking they are not real. But I don't have proof, so until I do, it remains a favorite mystery.

      Delete
  43. Love these topics! Weird is awesome;) Be Inspired, Nicki Jacobsmeyer

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly, Nicki. Never forget your inner child. That kid will guide you well.

      Delete
  44. Thanks for sharing your research process! I love what you said, "Kids are brimming with wonder." So true!

    ReplyDelete
  45. Kelly, I'm a big fan! Kids do love topics like the ones you write about (I do myself). I so endorse the idea of respecting their love of mystery and wonder, while still teaching them to be critical thinkers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kids spend so much of their lives drenched in disrespect. I love that we can lighten that load through our work. Thanks, Lisa!

      Delete
  46. Kelly, your books and methodology are fantastic. I love how you reframed your purpose from "not proving it was real" to sharing the best possible evidence. It gives readers a chance to have an opinion and engage with your book. Great work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. So much in life remains uncertain. Seems logical to help kids sort those things out, along with the hard facts. And even hard facts can shift. We once thought sauropod dinosaurs lived in bodies of water to accommodate their weight. Evidence is our friend, regardless of age.

      Delete
  47. As a former elementary teacher, I know my kids would have loved these books! I'm sure you're great at school visits. Thanks for sharing your process.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Melissa...for your comments and for teaching our kids. I do give great school visits, but what you did was wizardry! May it bring magic to your books, too.

      Delete
  48. Thanks for sharing your process and encouraging young and old critical thinkers. Appreciate it!

    ReplyDelete
  49. It always come down to research, research, research! Thank you for an inspiring post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kimberly--a great writer yourself. Here's to new horizons as long as we want them.

      Delete
  50. When I first saw your topic, I thought you would be using fiction techniques to embellish nonfiction. Instead you are doing the reverse, using nonfiction techniques to investigate what might be fictional. Cool reversal. Keep flyin' that weird flag!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the biggest flag I have, Roberta. I'll do my best! Thanks for your kind words.

      Delete
  51. "Because kids are brimming with wonder. They don’t want all mysteries solved." Yes. Kids love mysteries and you've left room for them to have a go at it. Thank you for sharing your process Kelly :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for taking the time to read the blog, Charlotte. Here's to serving the kids well.

      Delete
  52. Here is another aspect of how diverse children's nonfiction can be. What an amazing field we are all in! Thank you for this interesting post, and thanks to the organisers for such a fascinatingly diverse array of information in NF Fest. Awesome!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nonfiction is a big tent field. Almost anything you find fascinating can be written up for young readers. And the real magic is this. Almost anything you're asked to write about turns out to be amazing. It's our job to find the magic in every subject. So whatever you love, you can share with kids. Thanks, Julie.

      Delete
    2. PS This blog host is making me do up to seven "security" tests to prove I'm a real person and I'm really tired of tagging stoplights and crosswalks, buses and bicycles. So for the rest of these responses, I'll just LOOK "unknown" but I'll sign my name. It's still me, I promise.

      Kelly

      Delete
  53. It's impressive how you step up to such a challenge. And what a fun way to foster and feed kids' sense of wonder.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jennifer. If you do it right, every book project is a challenge, but that's why kids love the finished products. The effort shows.

      Kelly

      Delete
  54. What fascinating topics! Thanks for sharing your research process and your commitment to kids. It is so true that writers need to show much respect to their readers while leading them to higher level thinking skills and decision making.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Respect is everything, isn't it Gloria. That and love, and the two are like hands intertwined.

      Kelly

      Delete
  55. ❤️kids are brimming with wonder!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So are grown-ups, if they're honest. :)

      Kelly

      Delete
  56. Researching for obscure creatures, what fun! Thank you, Kelly, for sharing. I have always loved the legend of the Loch Ness Monster. I'm going to have to read your book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Debra, I want Nessie to be real SO BADLY, but I'm still undecided. Here's to watching for more information!

      Kelly

      Delete
  57. I love it that you see your work as teaching kids to be critical thinkers.That's what we need more than anything!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do we ever, Susan...regardless of political affiliations. Critical thinking and civics--long forgotten studies, but so in need of revival.

      Kely

      Delete
  58. Thank you for your post, Kelly. I love how your research into cryptozoology didn't lead you to where you expected. And I agree, letting kids know there are still discoveries to be made is exciting and inspiring for them.

    ReplyDelete
  59. I love that you are teaching children how to be critical thinkers. In our society today, that is definitely a skill that has become essential.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Kiddos would love just the word and meaning of cryptozoology; you've got them hooked from the beginning! Really liked your statements: "If I do my job, young readers learn how to make thoughtful evaluations of their own. I try to be a trustworthy and reliable guide along roads less traveled – roads kids cannot resist." As a teacher, I recognize the importance of teaching kids HOW to analyze and evaluate, using NF books such as yours to help them learn analysis makes that process easier! Thank you - Priscilla

    ReplyDelete
  61. I appreciate the way she says: "If I couldn’t prove it was a hoax, I didn’t say it was a hoax. That would be a lie." I would love to know if the Loch Ness monster still exists. I think it does.)

    ReplyDelete
  62. Thanks for a very interesting post. You gave me a lot to think about. I thought all non-fiction had to be "true."

    ReplyDelete
  63. I love a good mystery. And I love your comment that kids don't want every mystery solved for them. So true! It's a ton of fun to imagine "I might be the one." Big Foot - here I come! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  64. Fantastic post. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  65. This was absolutely fascinating. Thanks so much for these techniques.

    ReplyDelete
  66. “Because kids are brimming with wonder... But they do want to trust that I’ve done my homework” Just says it all! Thank you for a very interesting post with a way to think about and go about writing non-fiction for children.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Enjoyed reading your post. Thanks! Especially liked the idea that if you, as a writer and researcher have done the best you could and done your homework, you've contributed to helping "young readers learn how to make thoughtful evaluations of their own."

    Celia Viramontes

    ReplyDelete
  68. Kelly, thanks for sharing the process you use for research, and for working to teach kids how to be critical thinkers.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Kelly, I love your outlook on these weird subjects. I remembering being completely obsessed with ghosts and local ghost/creepy stories when I was a child. I guess you are right... kids don't always want all the answers.

    Five prizes... that is super generous! Thanks for giving so many prizes.

    ReplyDelete
  70. Kelly, You have done an amazing job with these books. I know many kids are so excited to find and read them. Thank you for sharing your process with us. Though I do have to admit, "Saving th Bagdad Zoo" is still one of my favorites.

    ReplyDelete
  71. I am off to get your books out of the library. I was just looking for Nessie this summer in Scotland with no luck. Maybe I will find out that she was just off on vacation when I visited. Thanks for keeping young children (and grown children) wondering and thinking critically.

    ReplyDelete
  72. Thank you for sharing how you deal with the mysterious. I look forward to checking out your books.

    ReplyDelete
  73. My favorite line: "If I do my job, imaginations soar, as does healthy skepticism." What a wonderful way to summarize the result of your hard work. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  74. Kelly, I love that you love to send kids down those roads less traveled, to learn on their own more about things they are passionate about.

    ReplyDelete
  75. It seems like it would be so hard to get the right balance of wonder and healthy skepticism. Thanks for sharing your process.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Thanks, Kelly! Great tips to remain diligent about the sources.

    ReplyDelete
  77. I like your double-source standard for inclusion. Really smart thinking. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    ReplyDelete
  78. You make me want to be a kid again so that I can discover and devour your books! Love this: "If I do my job, imaginations soar, as does healthy skepticism." Thank you so much.

    ReplyDelete
  79. Amazing research techniques! I love that you want to teach young readers to be critical thinkers. We need more of that!

    ReplyDelete
  80. I'm so glad that you've never come out & said X animal/creature was a hoax, nor actually real, as either way, we sometimes just don't know. In fact, it irks me at school when we tell 4s & 5s that some animals are imaginary because they're not in zoos. Really?! I try to counter back that true belief & faith is not with the eyes, but with the heart. Keep up the great work!

    ReplyDelete
  81. Great post. Kelly, you have a way of picking topics that are of great interest to children! And I love your statement about not having to prove whether or not the Loch Ness monster exists, but rather, to present evidence to children and let them decide. Genius!

    ReplyDelete
  82. Cool topics, Kelly. This is what fascinates kids. I love that they get to decide/believe.

    ReplyDelete
  83. Kelly, Sounds like you have a lot of fun. I like that you track down the witnesses quoted in the source material for one-on-one interviews.

    ReplyDelete
  84. Your research sounds fascinating. I love that you let the reader decide the truth and the respect you have for kids.

    ReplyDelete
  85. I never realized nonfiction could also explore the unknown like this. Amazing topics you have explored.

    ReplyDelete
  86. I love how you trust the reader, Kelly, and use research to turn fictional topics into NF books! And I appreciate that you pick quirky topics.

    ReplyDelete
  87. Kids are full of wonder. We have to track down information and be able to verify.

    ReplyDelete
  88. Critical thinking is essential! I love that you leave it up to the reader to decide.

    ReplyDelete
  89. As a science librarian, just about everything spoke to me: Finding credible, evaluated resources, teaching your readers to be critical thinkers, letting their imaginations sore and healthy skepticism. I love that you leave it to the readers to decide. Thank you for this wonderful post!

    ReplyDelete
  90. "Kids are brimming with wonder" - I love that quote! I believe that quote! And that is what inspires me to write non-fiction - because the world is a wonder-filled place and inquiring kids want to know! Thanks for an inspiring article.

    ReplyDelete
  91. I NEVER heard the term cryptozoology - very cool! I have a few books in mind that I need to re-read with your post in mind. I'm sure when you present to children they come away with an entirely new way of viewing the world of are-they-real creatures! Thanks, Kelly.

    ReplyDelete
  92. Wow! What amazing subjects to explore. I appreciate how you've laid out your process.

    ReplyDelete
  93. I love the idea of teaching critical thinking this way.

    ReplyDelete
  94. I like the idea of challenging kids to wonder whether something is true or not, leaving it open to their analysis.

    ReplyDelete
  95. Love this: lay out the evidence and let the kids decide!

    ReplyDelete
  96. Kelly, Never has the need for critical thinking to tease the truth out from the fake news been so great. Your books are fascinating reads that tantalize our youth to develop a critical life skill. Keep up the great work!

    ReplyDelete
  97. Thank you. An interesting subject to research. I would have devoured these books as a kid.

    ReplyDelete
  98. Kids and adults are so interested in these topics. I’m glad you locate 2 solids sources and teach critical thinking. Thanks for sharing your very interesting post Kelly.

    ReplyDelete
  99. What fascinating topics you've chosen for yourself. And I love how you developed an approach that develops critical thinking skills in kids. Bravo!

    ReplyDelete
  100. You must have endless energy! So amazing what you do. ANd I'm take by how you draw the line(s) between truth and fiction. Very helpful. thnx-

    ReplyDelete
  101. Kelly this is great perspective on managing facts.

    ReplyDelete
  102. I would have loved your books as a kid! Who am I kidding? I still love these sorts of books.

    ReplyDelete
  103. Your process is phenomenal, Kelly. Something that really stuck with me is "helping readers to become critical thinkers". That's one of the most valuable skills writers can give kids. Kudos!

    ReplyDelete
  104. I love how you described your "Hunt for Research". How many resources would you say is your "max" before you've felt that an obscure topic is well supported? Thanks for sharing with us!

    ReplyDelete
  105. I love to research - it almost invigorates me more than the writing...almost. I'm a format journalist, so I'm used to digging for the truth. The hardest part for me is finding the initial story and getting started. After that, I'm usually hooked and just can't stop.

    ReplyDelete
  106. Never thought of writing about fictional character as non-fiction. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  107. What fascinating topics, and loved hearing your work helps kids become critical thinkers. That is sorely needed today.

    ReplyDelete
  108. I think Kelly's "it wasn’t my job to prove or disprove" perfectly sums up how to write a book like Cryptid Creatures. :)

    ReplyDelete
  109. Thanks for sharing your process! These are great books!

    ReplyDelete
  110. These types of books were popular in my libraries. Glad to see the reminder to seek out vetted info. I like the idea of giving all the evidence and letting the readers decide. We need more healthy skepticism and critical thinkers.

    ReplyDelete
  111. Kids are curious and your books certainly feeds their wonder!

    ReplyDelete
  112. Great post. I like that you said "kids are brimming with wonder". That is so true. And instead of just feeding them facts on a page, you go beyond that ("do my best to teach young readers how to be critical thinkers"). That is so important.

    ReplyDelete
  113. Thanks for broadening our horizons!!

    ReplyDelete
  114. A great post -- I think wonder balances on that knife edge of fact.

    ReplyDelete
  115. I really connected with your realization that it wasn't your job to prove or disprove the existence of cryptids but instead to just do good research. And I LOVE that you're trying to teach kids to think critically.

    ReplyDelete
  116. Great points, thanks for sharing! And I can’t wait to read your book about Cryptid Creatures.

    ReplyDelete
  117. I have some budding cryptozoologists in the third grade class I teach. They are going to love Cryptid Creatures!

    ReplyDelete
  118. Kelly, your books are fantastic. Loved seeing your process behind the stories. Thanks for the insights.

    ReplyDelete
  119. Kids "don’t want all mysteries solved." I am definitely adding your books to my library hold list.
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  120. I love that the foundation of your books is research and that your job is to select the best evidence you can find for your readers. I can do that! Thanks for giving me new eyes for new opportunities!

    ReplyDelete
  121. This was an interesting topic. I love that you do the research and then let the reader decide (if it's true or not). And I love your comment, "I do my best to teach young readers how to be critical thinkers". Great philosophy - we need kids to be critical thinkers.

    ReplyDelete
  122. I love your point about not setting out to prove something false but to find the best evidence and teach kids to think critically. Such a good lesson to keep in mind!

    ReplyDelete
  123. Such a great concept--writing NF about fictional subjects! I understand even more how there is no limit to what makes a great subject.

    ReplyDelete
  124. Interesting! This was my favorite point: "... kids are brimming with wonder. They don’t want all mysteries solved." THAT is so true.

    ReplyDelete
  125. "I try never to let them down. If I do my job, imaginations soar, as does healthy skepticism. If I do my job, young readers learn how to make thoughtful evaluations of their own. I try to be a trustworthy and reliable guide along roads less traveled – roads kids cannot resist." This quote will stay with me! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  126. So very interesting! Kids do love learning about quirky subjects! Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  127. This is a new twist on nonfiction for me. The idea that kids don’t want all mysteries solved opens up a lot of doors. What fun to research topics like this!

    ReplyDelete
  128. Hi Kelly! The last paragraph of this post says it all! I, too, believe kids need the chance to make thoughtful evaluations of their own. And, they DO LOVE your books!

    ReplyDelete
  129. Critical thinking is a skill needed now more than ever. Wonderful! Maria Johnson

    ReplyDelete
  130. Your book sound delightful and sure-fire conversation starters. Thank you for sharing your fact-finding process.

    ReplyDelete
  131. "Kids are brimming with wonder. They don’t want all mysteries solved." I love this!

    ReplyDelete
  132. I just love this post. My students love to be detectives along with the author. It gives them a deeper investment in the story.

    ReplyDelete