Friday, 5 February 2016

Town Underground / Clever Computers • Non-fiction First Readers

I've just had two new non-fiction first reader books published as part of Cambridge University Press's Reading Adventures series.

They are Town Underground, which looks at underground living spaces around the world …

… and Clever Computers, which looks at how computers have developed through history,

 from the Antikythera mechanism (shown below) created by the ancient Greeks to the modern smart phone.

Both books are written for children of around the age of 5 to 6-years-old to read on their own, so the text is relatively simple.

For some reason nonfiction does not seem to command as much respect and attention in the world of children's books as fiction does. This is a shame because non-fiction books often appeal to the children that fiction cannot reach and there is still a lot of great children's non-fiction being written. Author Andy Seed wrote a good blog post on this subject here.

Creating an appealing non-fiction book for young readers isn't easy. For one thing, a non-fiction author can't fill the pages by simply making things up like a fiction author does. Everything has to be researched and double checked. All of the non-fiction books I've worked on have been picture books, illustrated with photographs and this presents an additional challenge as I have to make sure that I can find an appealing photograph to go with whatever I want to write about.  Here's a spread from Town Underground.

You may recognise the carved temple on the right, Al Khazneh (also known as The Treasury), from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. When I'm putting together a non-fiction book for very young readers I'm always looking for striking images like this that will draw the reader in. That way they'll want to read the text so that they can learn a little more about it. Sometimes I can't find a good photo of what I want to write about or the publisher can't get permission to use photos of it, so I have to write about something else instead. As such, writing a photo-illustrated non fiction picture book is the opposite of writing an illustrator-illustrated picture book (fiction or non fiction) where the illustrations are made to fit the words.

There's a page in Town Underground that looks at fictional underground bases from film and television. I'd selected three prime examples, Thunderbird 2's hanger, Batman's Batcave and SPECTRE's volcano base from the James Bond film You only Live Twice. It can be difficult to get permission to use images like these as the film and TV studios that own them are often very particular about how they are used, so I was delighted when we given permission to use all three.

Buy Town Underground

Buy this book online at Hive stores Buy this book at amazon UK Buy at amazon US

Buy Clever Computers

Buy this book online at Hive stores Buy this book at amazon UK Buy at amazon US