I review a fair amount of non-fiction picture books in my spare time. And truth be told, half the mental rules I follow for this activity come from a one week section on How to Review taken during my MLIS graduate school days. It’s funny what remains ingrained in the woodlike section of your head. I remember certain rules very clearly. Things like Always mention both author and illustrator when reviewing a picture book and Consider the audience. That sort of stuff. One rule I have also always followed in terms of non-fiction picture titles is Look for a Bibliography at all times. I’ve never questioned the logic of this. After all, why should we hold non-fiction for 5-year-olds to standards any lower than those for a book for a 15-year-old?
Then recently someone called me on it. Does every single non-fiction picture book absolutely need a Bibliography? Really? Really really? Let’s say it’s a short look at your average every day trashman. How short a book is too short for a Bib? How simple too simple? What if the information being presented is so basic that anyone could easily find additional titles if they wanted? Is a Bib always 100% required on every single non-fiction text at all times?
Take Seymour Simon as your example. He has this lovely little series on every possible element and living creature under the hot white sun, yet he never names his sources. Does he need to?
On the whole, I’d have to say yes. I like recommended web sites and lists of books. I’ve had little ankle biters show me a list of titles on fire trucks in the back of their fire truck book in the hopes that I’d help them find some. This doesn’t happen all that often, of course, but more than never. Do you always need to know where the author gets their sources in these cases? If not, where do you draw the line?
Food for thought. I think I’ll continue to praise good Bibs and sigh morosely at those writers that don’t include ’em, but I’d be interested in hearing how other people judge this element of non-fiction. Maybe I should hop on over to Marc Aronson’s blog and ask him. I’m sure he has some interesting thoughts on the matter.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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