Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Don Tate on Writing Nonfiction Picture Books at Nonfiction Chicks Present: Nonfiction Fest

This excellent interview with author/illustrator Don Tate, Questions I'm Frequently Asked About Writing Nonfiction for Children, covers a lot of important ground.

What is the biggest obstacle you face in writing a biography?

Creating a story. A biography isn’t a chronological list of milestones. That’s a timeline, it goes in the back matter. For me, a biography is story with a beginning, middle, and an end. A biography has a scene-to-scene plot with rising and falling action. A good biography demonstrates change in the character from beginning to end. But researching a person's life doesn’t fall so easily into my criteria. Therein lies the obstacle.
Many of your stories deal with hard, painful truths about U.S. history. How do you tell these stories and make them appropriate for children?

Hansel and Gretel is the story of two young kids who are kidnapped by a cannibalistic witch. They are threatened to get baked in an oven. The story of Hansel and Gretel is a fairy tale; it’s not nonfiction, obviously. But for generations, it was a popular story for young readers. Children are tough. They can handle tough stories. I don’t think it’s a good idea to hide our tough history from children. The enslavement of Black people was an inhumane institution that existed lawfully in the U.S. at one time. That’s an ugly truth. It should not be sugar-coated or erased. Children are our future, and they need to know what happened in the past in order to prevent bad things from happening again. That said, there are certainly things within the topic of slavery that I cannot address in a children’s book. My stories serve as an entryway to discussion.
Read the full interview here.

Illustrate and Write On,

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