Anita Silvey's choice: The Storm in the Barn or Sweethearts of Rhythm
And the book moving on up is....
Both of these books involve a marriage of text and illustration; and Silvey takes that element of the books very, very seriously. Talking about the font seriously. Silvey also shows how to write critically about a book; this is not a "bad review," but the best example of a review that examines the various parts of a book, from design to text.
But, most interestingly, Silvey says "I have very strong biases about presenting history to young readers. Unless a work is obviously historical fiction, I prefer for writers to focus on what we believe to be fact—rather than to blend fact and fiction. Because I grew up in a family than never allowed the truth to get in the way of a good story, I myself from age three on wanted to know what was true and what was invented—both in my books and in life. I think many young readers, particularly the picture book set, have the same need."
First -- let me point out how Silvey explains states her bias, explains it, and then proceeds.
Second -- I have to say, I agree with much of what Silvey says.
Except that, for me at least, I don't mind the blending of fact and fiction (because, hello, we are talking fiction books!) as long as it's pointed out in end notes to the book. Otherwise, you get to the end and wonder -- what was real? Oh, you can assume perhaps that the child/teen lead character was invented. Figure out that some of the emotions and dialogue are guesses and conjecture. But if a time period is compressed? Figures that never knew each other meet?
Basically -- if a reader was to take a test (or be having a discussion with people they respected) and used their knowledge remembered from the book to answer the test (or engage in intelligent discussion) and it would turn out they were wrong? Because the book mixed fact and fiction? The reader should be told in an endnote.
Of course some things don't need to be explained! "Endnote: this book supposes that King Richard III was a warlock who time traveled to 1925. That is fiction" isn't needed. But to change King Richard's birthyear from 1452 to 1460 and his mother from Cecily Neville to Margaret of Anjou? That should be told.
Who triumphed? The Storm in the Barn, and Silvey nicely acknowledges both Matt Phelan and his team in reaching that decision.
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
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