There are not many writers who excel in both fiction and non-fiction. There are even fewer authors who write successfully for adults, young adults and children. Jane Yolen is a notable exception.
Four of her non-fiction children’s picture books are reviewed here. They are readable by children from Third Grade upward.
For parents with children who don’t like to read fiction, she has published four children’s picture books that present non-fiction historical material in the style of a mystery. The books invite the reader to decide what has happened. The books are framed through the eyes of a young girl who longs to become a detective. All four are historically accurate and include bibliographies listing other books for more information. They utilize some higher level vocabulary words, but include definitions on each page. They present information through words, pictures, time lines and notes. In addition to telling fascinating stories, the books also raise interesting questions about historical methods.
Roanoke: The Lost Colony presents both the known evidence about the disappearance of the 1587 English colony and the various possibilities that might explain that disappearance. With guiding questions, the reader is invited to consider each explanation and decide which, if any, seems most likely to be the truth.
The Wolf Girls is set in India and presents the story of two feral girls who were claimed to have been raised by wolves. It asks the reader to think about how history is written and how historians evaluate source material.
The Mary Celeste tells the story of a New York ship whose crew and passengers disappeared within ten days of sailing out of New York harbor in 1872. Perhaps most baffling was the fact that the captain had his family on board and there was no sign of pirate activity.
The Salem Witch Trails recreates the events of 1692 in the American colonial town of Salem, Massachusetts. It details the drama created by the hysteria of a few young girls and the damage done to the colony.
Dealing with cancer treatment usually involves reading either long, dry informational books or short, pain filled memoirs. Jane Yolen’s The Radiation Sonnets is neither type. In 43 sonnets she details her experience of, and reactions to, the trauma of the period of radiation her husband undergoes for his brain tumor. Each sonnet is only 14 lines long. The tight poetic form enables her to express her emotions without losing control. In brief introductory and closing remarks she muses on the experience. This is a short but thought provoking book that may be helpful for caregivers of cancer patients.
All of these books are available through our Mid-Hudson Library System or by ordering at Pawling’s Book Cove.
Marie King teaches 5th through 8th Grade literature at Mizzentop Day School. A resident of Pawling for twelve years, she has also led book groups for adults, children, and parents and children at the Pawling Library. Ms. King has edited and published The Voyage of the Hougoumont, Life at Fremantle: The Life of an Irish Rebel and John Devoy’s Catalpa Expedition.