Friday, December 19, 2008

Nonfiction Report from the Field

Well, finally back home after a busy fall of school and conference visits. Though these visits are tiring, nothing beats talking to kids about science and books in person. It also gives a great on-the-ground feel for what kids are interested in. To wit, I’ve never seen greater kid interest in nonfiction. Science, biography, sports, history—kids are gobbling it all up, a fact confirmed by almost every librarian I talk to. That doesn’t mean that their parents are buying nonfiction books, but it’s nice to know they are at least flying off of library shelves.

Environmental literature especially seems to be in great demand these days. Recently, I’ve had several librarians ask me to write books about global warming, for instance. I probably won’t, since there are some excellent books already out by Laurence Pringle, Lynne Cherry, and others. But I am glad people are at last realizing what dire straits the planet is in.

My last gig of the fall, in fact, was a panel on environmental literature at the NCTE convention in San Antonio. Since I write both nonfiction and fiction, I thought I would compare the two. Thinking about it, I realized that nonfiction and fiction can complement each other in wonderful ways. While nonfiction might be better at educating a person about how the environment works or is being damaged, fiction has a greater potential to reach a reader’s emotions—and perhaps spur action.

A wonderful award that honors both nonfiction and fiction environmental literature is the Green Earth Book Award, given by the Newton-Marasco Foundation:
Looking at their list of past winners is a great starting point for becoming familiar with the best environmental literature of recent years. And with that…back to work.

Have a great, low-emissions holidays!


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