ALA Midwinter 2014

ERT/Booklist Author Forum #alamw14

Bolden, Tonya. Tell All the Children Our Story: Memories and Mementos of Being Young and Black in America. New York: Abrams, 2001. Print.
Bolden, Tonya. Tell All the Children Our Story: Memories and Mementos of Being Young and Black in America. New York: Abrams, 2001. Print.

Author Ilene Cooper moderated the all-star panel of children’s nonfiction book creators. Cooper asked panelists Brian Floca, Kadir Nelson, Tonya Bolden, Steve Sheinkin, and Melissa Sweet to discuss the process of writing nonfiction, their research methods, influences, and inspirations.

Brian Floca showed slides from the making of his book, Locomotive. To research the book, Floca took a road trip along the transcontinental route. Floca explained that he is inspired by landscapes and journeys, and by the machines that make journeys possible.

Kadir Nelson told us about his personal journey to find himself, and how this quest inspired his latest book, Baby Bear. Nelson explained that he was feeling lost like the bear in the story. Nelson spoke about his passion for American and African-American history. He said that he is attracted to great stories, and that African-American history is full of great dramas and stories of triumph.

Tonya Bolden told us that she hated history when she was growing up because it was taught “flash card style.” She now tries to make history come alive for children. When asked how she deals with the nitty gritty of getting ideas, she answered “with prayer.” She explained that research is everything–great stories are found through research.

Steve Sheinkin started his career as a textbook writer. He joked that everything he has done since is to make amends for his dry textbook writing days. Sheinkin told us that great stories come from great sources, and that he would not have been able to write Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon if he hadn’t been given access to a private oral history collection.

Melissa Sweet told us that Balloons Over Broadway was inspired by a video clip of the puppeteer Tony Sarg. Sweet was astonished that no one knew about the man who started the world famous Macy’s parade, so she decided to tell his story. Sweet said that she enjoys research and finds it as exciting as creating the actual book.

— Rebecca Hickman, Youth Services Librarian III
Alvin Sherman Library, Nova Southeastern University

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