Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Marc Tyler Nobleman On Biography And Historical Nonfiction

I was just writing about historical nonfiction here on Monday. Last night I spent an hour listening to Marc Tyler Nobleman's talk at the Richmond Memorial Library. He was speaking specifically about two of his books, Boys of Steel and Bill the Boy Wonder, biographies about mid-twentieth century comic book writers and illustrators. Boys of Steel is about the co-creators of Superman, and Bill the Boy Wonder is about the uncredited co-creator of Batman. So, there you go. I'm writing about historical nonfiction again.

Nobleman's description of his books and how he went about writing them illustrate a couple of points made in a Horn Book article from a few years back on contemporary children's historical nonfiction.
  1. Children's history books are no longer simplified versions of subjects that were already covered for adult readers. Instead, they often involve new research. Nobleman describes lengthy searches for the pictures of the childhood homes of some of his subjects and finding and interviewing people who had never even been contacted before. Some of these people are now dead, so no one is going to be interviewing them again.
  2. Because children's writers often seek out new topics to write about, it's not unusual to find children's books that are the first on a subject or even the only book on a subject. That's the case with the titles discussed last night. Boys of Steel was the first stand alone book on Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Bill the Boy Wonder is still the only book on Bill Finger.
Attending last night's talk so soon after reading Jane Sutcliffe's The White House Is Burning makes me wonder if children's historical nonfiction won't become another area in children's literature that attracts adult readers. Well-organized presentation and new research on little-known subjects--who wouldn't want to read that?


Anonymous said...

Very interesting! It must have been great to hear him discuss this in person. If I want to learn about something quick, I often go to the kids' nonfiction section rather than wading through large adult books.

Gail Gauthier said...

I've been known to do that, too. It can get you started on acquiring information, at the very least.