Define "Slight," PleaseRecently I attended an informative book talk hosted by an educator/books festival impresario. She discussed 60 books in 90 minutes and her knowledge of the genres was impressive. However, she kept referring to the picture book biographies being reviewed as "slight." These "partial" stories did not include birth to grave information.
Now, being a non-fiction aficionado, beginning my first draft of architect Mary Colter's life, I beg to disagree. A partial take on someone's life is not "slight," it's actually a creative way to draw young children into a true story. These slice of life stories are a way to open up a biographee's life via little-known facts, a focus on one event, or on the motivating circumstances that created the drive to be unique or outstanding. I personally find this type of biography fascinating, and I know kids and their teachers would prefer them, too!
Why Kids, Teachers and Librarians Like a Slice of Life
Just like pie, a slice is more digestible than the whole. A slice or glimpse into a person's life may leave students wishing for more; they may enjoy just a piece rather than gorging on the whole. A slice of life makes students wander and wonder about a person-critical thinking steps to real discovery and learning.
For years librarians have dreaded the all-inclusive report, be it on a person, country, animal, fill-in the blank, blah-blah-blah regurgitation research that teaches nothing but cut and paste and sometimes plagiarism. I know this since I was a school librarian for 15 years! We librarians had a rallying call of "Ban the Bird Reports," an actual book title by the brilliant David Loertscher, Professor of Library and Information Science, San Jose State University and Past President of the American Association of School Librarians. (You owe it to yourself to check out David's page and his book even though it's copyright is 2005!) Bland, boringly written nonfiction begets bland, boring reports, even if nonfiction is the "trend," due to the Common Core. So, writers be wise and finds ways to draw even the youngest readers into scintillating non-fiction!
A Partial List of "Slight" Biographies
Here is a list of "partial," biographies culled from the book talk I attend. In my Friday Finds post, I'll focus in on 2 of these biographies and share how they lead me to the focus for my first attempt of writing a picture book biography. In the meantime, why don't you add to my growing list of "slice of life" biographies in the comment section?
1. Benny Goodman&Teddy Wilson:Taking the Stage as the First Black-and-White Jazz Band in History by Lisa Cline-Ransome, James Ransome, Illus.
2. Daredevil:The Daring life of Betty Skelton by Meghan McCarthy
3. Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington by Jabari Asim, Bryan Collier, Illus.
4. Thomas Jefferson: Life, liberty and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman
5. Keep the list going in the comment section, please!