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Not-So-Trivial Pursuits: The Wrong Plot

By James Cross GiblinSometimes you think you’ve finished the research for a key section in a nonfiction book, and then something occurs that makes you realize you’ve got it all wrong. This happened to me recently in connection with a book I’m working on about silent screen star Lillian Gish...

Narrative Nonfiction: Kicking Ass at Last

Between songs, Arlo Guthrie likes to strum his guitar and tell a story he learned from his father, Woody Guthrie. It goes like this: Two rabbits, a mama and a papa, are running full speed from a pack of baying hounds. Spotting a hollow log, the rabbits rush in and...

Not-So-Trivial Pursuits: Wooing the Secret Holders

There is no sure-fire, never-fail road map for research. There certainly is no GPS with a reassuring British voice guiding you when you make a wrong turn (“recalculating…”). Research takes you into unexplored, wild, rocky terrain, and each book teaches you how to research that book. Sure, there are techniques...

From The Guide: Good Scientist Books

The following reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. To find even more good books about scientists, look to the Guide subject index and the Guide Online fully searchable database. For more information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, please visit...

Sing a Song of Science: Scientists in the Field

In the mid-1990s I was listlessly working my way through requisite science and math classes on my way to graduating from high school and likely going on to a liberal arts school where hopefully I’d never have to take another science or math class again. I excelled in peer editing,...

A Fine, Fine Line: Truth in Nonfiction

I love chocolate. I love fruit. But I prefer to enjoy them separately. If, on the off chance, I do bite into a clever combination of the two, it is generally after I’ve been given some kind of heads-up — perhaps one as simple as the label on the inside...

What Makes a Good Picture Book Biography?

What is a picture book biography? Its simple title gives us everything we need to know: it is a picture book and it is a biography, and it is both of those things simultaneously and symbiotically. Imagine two spotlights on a stage. One light illuminates picture books, where story and...

New Knowledge

Once upon a time, there were two sure signs that a nonfiction book was aimed at young readers: it had illustrations, and the facts, ideas, and insights were securely based on existing adult research. Authors saw themselves as translators whose job was to take the work of adult writers —...

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