Sunday, August 24, 2014

Unpacking the Process of Writing Nonfiction

 Like my fellow bloggers on this site, I am interested in knowing about how nonfiction is created. I want to understand the process better myself, and I want to share it with my students. That’s why I am pleased to let you know about the blog written Meghan McCarthy, author of many nonfiction picture books for elementary school readers such as Daredevil, Pale Male, Seabiscuit, and Pop! This blog is called Children’s Books: The Good The Bad and The Ugly.

A post written on June 14, 2014 is particularly interesting for anyone who wants to learn about historical thinking and writing history. You can access it at This post is about the author’s quest to find the answer to two questions for a book she is writing about the 1904 Marathon at the St. Louis World’s Fair:
1.     Was Alice Roosevelt—Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter—at the 1904 Marathon?
2.     Did she place a wreath upon Fred Lorz’s head?

McCarthy shares with us the inconsistencies she found in “the facts.” Some articles report Alice Roosevelt was there and did place the wreath. Others report that she was in St. Louis a month earlier and was in Newport, RI on the day of the Marathon. Not only does McCarthy share her conclusion after weighing the evidence, she also provides links to this evidence so we can see it for ourselves.  And she shares other odds and ends of interesting information she found while researching. This is wonderful stuff to share!

Another good thing to share is this quote written by McCarthy from the same post:

I have stumbled upon many inconsistencies in "the facts." I put this in quotes because the more books I work on the more I have come to realize that there is no truth, it is all perspective. 

I know that “facts” are slippery and subject to change, but I am not willing to go this far—at least not yet. I’m still thinking about it. What do you think? Is there no such thing as truth? Is history all perspective? It’s a great question to discuss.

In the meantime, check out Megan McCarthy’s nonfiction picture book The Incredible Life of Balto and be sure to read the back matter entitled “Detective Work,” which explains the contradictory accounts she dealt with in order to write that book. Also, get ready for McCarthy’s Earmuffs for Everyone: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs, which also has a very interesting and detailed author’s note about researching the past and looking for the truth. This book is due out in January. These books are great for introducing young children to important ideas about historical thinking.

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