Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Behind the Books: More Novelty in Nonfiction Design

Today we’re going to look at some more examples of how the art and design in nonfiction children’s books have changed over time. Let’s look at some stunning styles developed by some very creative people.

Here are some recent books in which the topic and art really dictate the format and design:

Most wildlife photographers refrigerate insects, spiders, and even frogs before the take photos. The cold-blooded creatures slow down when their bodies cool down, and that makes them much easier to handle. But it’s also kind of mean, don’t you think? After all, how would you like to be chilled into compliance?

Well, Nic Bishop is a kind, gentle man as well as a fabulous photographer who will do anything to get just the right photo. He respects the animals he spends time with. He doesn’t toss them in the fridge, and he works efficiently to limit the time they spend under hot lights.

He spends time with the critters—hours, days, weeks. He gets to know them and their habits, and they get to know and trust him. And the result is obvious. His patience and care is rewarded with stunning images.

Nic Bishop Spiders is chock full of big, bold photos of the eight-legged wonders, and the design only adds to the drama. Full page background of fire-engine red and bright orange and colorful pull-out text compliment the images perfectly.

Team Moon by Catherine Thimmesh features a vast array of information from a vast array of sources. It’s a wonder how the author pulled it all together and still maintained a cohesive presentation.

The dark page backgrounds with knock-out text and full-spread images with cleverly-designed sidebars and extended captions skillfully capture the excitement of the era and the camaraderie and teamwork of the many people involved effort to reach the moon.

And here we have some books with a perfect synergy between art choices and the writing style.

In River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant, illustrator by Melissa Sweet uses complex paper-collage illustrations (that often include surprising elements) to capture the time and place in which Williams lived.

The voice of the narrative and the feel of the art blend perfectly into a single art piece.

What to Do About Alice? How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy! by Barbara Kerley (illus. Edwin Fotheringham) has a completely different tone than River of Words, but, once again, it is the perfect integration of art and text that make the book work on so many levels.
The text is written is a sassy, whimsical voice that reflects Alice Roosevelt’s personality and view of the world. The art has the same energy and whimsy to it, so that each contributes to our understanding of Alice as an individual—and as an influence on her father, the President.

Next week, we have a special guest blogger. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. Great art, photos and design will only make kids more interested in non-fiction. My 4 yo picked up a non-fic way beyond his years yesterday, based mainly on the illustrations. And it kept him interested in the topic all the way through the book, which I thought wouldn't happen since it was quite long, and a bit over his head.