Monday, February 22, 2021

Questions and thoughts about place, time, and how a picture book starts

These are some random thoughts and questions that I am trying to bring together into a coherent paragraph that writers, editors, teachers, parents... everyone, really, can use to think critically about picture books. These thoughts might look like a poem but that's not my intent. I've got it laid out this way to give space to my thoughts. 

A picture book.

Any picture book.

Set in what is currently called the United States of America.

Every time, every book, 

I think about how it starts,

And where it starts,

And when it starts,

and what the answers to those questions tell me.

In the Arbuthnot lecture I gave,

I was critical of Sophie Blackall's book about a lighthouse.


It centers a white family on what I see as the homeland of Indigenous people.

People love that book.

No... some people love that book.

It won the big award.


But it--and most books about people in what is currently known as the United States--leave out Inconvenient Facts. 

People say "but that [those Inconvenient Facts] is not what that book is about."

That is a Convenient Defense.

It lets them collude with a narrative they don't want to disrupt.  

I want to disrupt that narrative.

Do you? 


Anonymous said...

My name is Chloe and I’m a preschool teacher. Do you mean every book should have a statement before the story that says “this book takes place in what is currently called the United States and on land that belonged to American Indians” or do you mean within the story such as “Corduroy was a bear who once lived in the toy department of a big store that stood on land that once belonged to American Indians.”

Unknown said...

Please disrupt this narrative!

Randell Baze

Tricia said...

I attended a conference in Phoenix last February (2020) and the opening speaker began by telling us about the indigenous people who once owned the land we gathered on and asked that we honor and remember them. It was something that I thought about through the entire conference. It was powerful. Is it enough? I don't know, but it certainly made an impact on me and I hope, others.
Would it be difficult to preface a book this way? I don't think so. I think this is particularly important in nonfiction and historical fiction, and realistic fiction where the setting is known.
Are any editors talking about this?

Val O. said...

To Chloe.

Would it be bad if books did say that?