But what about nonfiction picture books? When an author has just 32 or 40 pages to work with, how much space should be sacrificed to back matter? And should the back matter consist of the same sorts of research-assisting information as books for older readers?
I do think that a page or two of back matter is often a good idea even in picture books. It’s the perfect spot for background information that provides context for young readers with limited knowledge of the world. A general note about the author’s process is also helpful because it pulls back the curtain to reveal how professional writers work. And that can inform students’ own writing habits and techniques.
Should a picture book author also include source notes or bibliographies? IMHO, no. Why waste the precious space when the young audience lacks the skills to follow the research trail.
For example, for my book Feathers: Not Just for Flying, the research came from personal observations of birds all over the world (which kids can’t repeat), from interviews with scientists (which kids can’t repeat), and from articles in science journals (which kids lack the skills to read).
For No Monkeys, No Chocolate, the information came from observing cocoa trees in Costa Rica, from reading journal articles, and from picking the brain of co-author, Allen Young. Dr. Young is the world’s leading expert on cocoa tree growth and fertilization. Again, kids can’t repeat this kind of research on their own. So rather than wasting valuable real estate listing all the articles I read and scientists I spoke with, it seemed best to simply explain my process in a few sentences.
In some cases, it might make sense to include age-appropriate materials that can expand upon a book’s general topic. But not for the two books I mentioned above. There are no other books or websites that focus on non-flight uses of feathers or the microhabitat of a cocoa tree—for adults or for children. And if a second or third grader wants a general book about chocolate or feathers, let them type the words into an internet browser or a library database themselves. The results of their own exploration will be much more satisfying.