by Annette Whipple
What Is Back Matter?
You’ve likely heard it before: Back matter matters. And it
does. It’s a new term to some of us, and I’m eager to explore it with you
Like sidebars, captions, and other nonfiction text features, back matter provides authors another way to
share more information with readers. Back matter comes after the main text at
the back of the book.
Back matter is important to the curious reader because it
enhances, explains, or supplements the main text. Teachers and librarians love
back matter. (Therefore, editors love back matter.) The main text is often
nonfiction, but back matter is a fabulous and important addition to fiction
Though back matter dives deeper into a topic than the main text,
it must remain relevant to your story and to the reader who wants to
know more. Sometimes picture book back matter (or a portion of it) is addressed
to teachers and parents, however it is most often written for the target
audience. It can also explore technical terms even when the terms were not
named in the main text.
Back Matter Ideas
Think basics: author’s note, bibliography, glossary, index, resources
Think connection: trivia about your book’s topic, why YOU wrote the story, how
to support the book’s cause
Think information: clarify myths, how to interact with the topic to learn more,
fun facts, acknowledgements
diagrams, maps, timelines, photographs
Think interactive: crafts, activities, recipes, museums, QR codes
Examples of Back Matter
Now let’s look at some examples of back matter.
Water Is Water by Miranda Paul (illustrated by Jason Chin) and Freaky
Funky Fish by Debra Kempf Shumaker (illustrated by Claire Powell) tell
more about the books’ topics in the back matter. Each is unique and done well.
In The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by
Tina Cho (illustrated by Jess X Snow) shares more about real-life mermaids and
the history of sea diving without equipment as well as quotes from the women
she met during her research. Note: Sometimes back matter is highly visual. This
book shines as an example of text-only back matter.
Spi-ku: A Clutter of Short Verse on Eight Legs
by Leslie Bulion (illustrated by Robert Meganck) includes notes
on poetic form, Spi-ku spider identification with scientific names, relative
spider size, and more.
12 Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961 by Larry Dane Brimner includes information
titled “Beyond Birmingham” and details about the thirteen Freedom Riders and
The Truth About series began with Whooo
Knew? The Truth About Owls. I knew back matter would be important to
all some of those awesome details I couldn’t fit in
the main text. So I included three full spreads of back matter. (Note: That’s a
But for my fourth book in the series, Ribbit!
The Truth About Frogs actually devoted four full page spreads to the
back matter. The cool thing is the books’ back matter continues to draw in the
reader with bold images and the same style of fonts as in the main text. I
think it works.
Take a look.
The Truth About animal series will include five books by the
end of this year. Each of the books includes an activity, glossary, and
resources in the back matter. However, each book is unique, so most of the back
matter is specific to the topic.
More About Back Matter
There’s so much more I could say about back matter in
children’s nonfiction. And I did. I wrote another blog post at my own site
answering writers’ top questions about back matter and sharing more examples (from my own books)
for writers. Scurry over there to learn answers to these questions:
· Does back matter get included in word count?
· How do you include back matter in a manuscript?
· When do you submit back matter for a
· How do you make room for back matter?
But really, see for yourself how back matter enhances an
informational book—or even a work of fiction. Explore back matter through
mentor texts in the activity below.
Give It a Try
few nonfiction books that contain back matter. Read each and examine its back
matter. Make a list of all the different kinds of back matter you find. Use
sticky notes or a chart to comment on how each portion of back matter
effectively supports the main text. Note any back matter that may not be as
effective and why you didn’t think it worked.
You might also compare back matter from two books on the same
topic. I loved seeing Leslie Bulion’s Spi-ku: A Clutter of Short
Verse on Eight Legs because it came out right before my own book Scurry!
The Truth About Spiders. (My manuscript was already submitted to the
publisher, so there was no concern about copying her ideas.) Some ideas
overlap, but not all!
Which types of back matter will most benefit your reader?
Add it directly to your picture book manuscript (or to your proposal’s outline
for longer books).
Meet the Author
Annette Whipple celebrates curiosity and inspires a sense of wonder while exciting readers about science and history. This year, she’ll have twelve ten fact-filled children’s books including The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press), The Story of the Wright Brothers (Rockridge Press), and Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs (Reycraft Books) in The Truth About series. When Annette’s not reading or writing, you might find her baking for her family in Pennsylvania or teaching children and adults about history, science, or writing. Learn more at www.AnnetteWhipple.com and www.WilderCompanion.com