As I was saying last week, in my opinion, there is more than one kind of narrative nonfiction for children. Human-story based narratives are currently very popular, but it’s fun to consider the alternatives.
One of my own favorite books is Life in a Wetland. I really enjoyed writing this book because (1) the research was absolutely fascinating (well, except for all those mosquito bites) and (2) because my editor allowed me to try something a little bit unusual. At 72 pages, the text was long enough to create an extended narrative view of the Everglades that (I hoped) would make readers feel like they were right there in southern Florida.
Here’s a brief excerpt:
“A doe and her white-spotted fawn wade through the sawgrass in search of the plants’ hardy reddish-brown flowers. The deer also munch on the spike rush, water hyssop, and marsh mermaid plants growing among the sawgrass.
“As the deer feed, they are serenaded by the gentle chorus of oak toads and the harsh oinking call of pig frogs. But the smallest Everglades frog remains silent. The grass frog spends its days clinging to sawgrass, but sings for a mate only at night. When it spies a hungry snowy egret overhead, the tiny grass frog drops into the water and swims to safety.
“The frog’s narrow escape doesn’t discourage the egret. A moment later, it sets its sights on three crayfish lodged in the dense sawgrass. The egret quickly grabs the invertebrates, swallows them whole, and flies off in search of more prey. In its haste, the bird doesn’t even notice a cluster of pearly white eggs clinging to a nearby blade of sawgrass.”
I love how I was able to transition from one creature to the next, showing how they all interact. That’s what an ecosystem is all about. I guess the reviewers at Booklist must have liked it too, because they gave the book a starred review. Maybe I’ll write another book like that one of these days.