by Christine Liu-Perkins
Sidebars can add to a main text in many different ways from expanding comprehension to injecting fun to inviting participation. Here's some things I've learned from writing sidebars for various nonfiction projects:
For more tips, here's a good article on creating sidebars for magazine articles (useful for books, too): "Preparing a Sidebar Feast: Planning, Writing, and Submitting Sidebars" by Carolyn Short.
By Nancy Churnin
We honor groups in specific months because they've been historically underrepresented. As you seek nonfiction subjects that haven’t been written about, those groups provide ideas worth exploring.
A quick online search will show celebrations for every month. April, for instance, is packed with everything from Arab American Heritage Month to Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Jewish American Heritage Month and Autism Awareness Month. But before we skip to April, let’s consider March, which includes Women’s History Month. It’s a great time to think about where you’re NOT seeing women – in literature, fashion, science, art, adventure, history – and put them back in the picture where they belong.
In 2018, Wendy Hinote Lanier was asked to write two titles for an Abdo Publishing series on women in the arts. She wrote her riveting Women in Literature, featuring J.K. Rowling, Maya Angelou, and Kate DiCamillo, and Women in Fashion, featuring Vera Wang, Tracy Reese, and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. “I hope kids understand that women have always made great contributions to the arts, even if they didn't always get the credit,” Wendy says.
My own books about women came about because of not seeing books about women in certain fields. After wondering where all the women painters are, I came across an exquisite painting by Laura Wheeler. That led me to write the first picture book about her: Beautiful Shades of Brown, illustrated by Felicia Marshall (Creston Books).
The fact that most people know that one of our great patriotic songs, “America the Beautiful,” was written by a woman, Katharine Lee Bates, compelled me to research the book that became For Spacious Skies, illustrated by Olga Baumert (Albert Whitman).
Women aren't highlighted as much as they should be in the worlds of science and adventure. Linda Skeers found wonderful stories to tell in those areas with Dinosaur Lady: The Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Paleontologist, illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns and Women Who Dared, 52 Fearless Daredevils, Adventurers & Rebels, illustrated by Livi Gosling (both from Sourcebooks).
And how many stories do you read about women from different countries and historical times? Christine Liu Perkins dug deep for her remarkable At Home in Her Tomb, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen (Charlesbridge), a middle-grade chapter book that explores the archaeological finds in the tomb of
Lady Dai, who lived in China 2200 years ago.
There are a lot more stories to tell about women and other underrepresented groups, too. Check your calendar and make a date with the one that speaks to you.
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The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas and a strong belief in The First Amendment. The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.