Today I am delighted to welcome Tracey Turner, non-fiction author extraordinaire (including The Comic Strip Big Fat Book of Knowledge which I reviewed here) to Library Mice to talk about non-fiction on this very special day! Happy National Non-Fiction Day to all!
There’s a lot to celebrate about children’s non-fiction books in 2011: today’s children have wonderful books to choose from to answer their never-ending ‘why?’ questions about the world. In fact I’m a bit jealous of them. When I was growing up, in the 1970s, there weren’t any of Stephen Biesty’s fascinating, intricate cross-sections of castles, pyramids and human bodies to pore over. No beautifully designed Dorling Kindersley books to lure me into an undersea or prehistoric world. No funny, irreverent Horrible books to tell me fascinating facts about the Tudors or digestion.
In my childhood home there weren’t many books, but there was a set of ancient encyclopaedias (from the 1950s) – serious, black-and-white, each volume nearly as heavy as I was – that filled me with dismay and deep, deep boredom. With that sort of introduction to non-fiction, it’s surprising that I’ve ended up writing it myself. To be fair, I wasn’t the encyclopaedias’ target audience because they weren’t aimed at children. But it’s true that children of the 1970s couldn’t have nearly so much fun with factual books as they do today – which of course isn’t to say there weren’t any good ones. I do remember a favourite birthday present, The Love of Horses by Anne Alcock, which was a big hardback with a photograph of white horses galloping through surf on the cover, and from which I learned about Appaloosas and the Tennessee Walking Horse.
I’m sure that some of the many inspirational non-fiction books available today will draw children along paths of discovery about many things, from polar bears to distant galaxies. And I’m glad that, despite the encyclopaedias, I did end up writing non-fiction – in fact perhaps they’re a reminder always to write enthusiastically and entertainingly, whatever the subject.
Thank you very much Tracey!