The Thief of Mirrors (Capstone Young Readers, 2016) by P.D. Baccalario was a fun read set in Applecross, Scotland, well, mostly set in Applecross. There’s a trip on the Incognito Bus, a visit to the Sunken Castle, plus a puppet who talks in rhyme, and of course a villain.
Thirteen-year-old Finley McPhee has just had one of the best summers of his life until his older brother Doug ruined it. Doug’s got the scorpion key and likes Aiby Lily, the girl Finley likes. Doug says he’ll give the key back in three days, after the meeting that Finley is not invited to. But when everyone is missing, Finley has to go to the rescue.
The book was originally published in Italy in 2013. The translation was well done, except copying editing didn’t catch some errors. Turns out it is book 4 in the Enchanted Emporium series, so I’ll have to catch up on those. But the book stood alone just fine.
Here’s info about the author here.
If you’ve considered writing nonfiction, but aren’t sure where to start, my first recommendation is to find some magazines that have articles you enjoy. Focus on the magazines where the articles are similar to what you’d like to write. Read lots of those articles. You’ll learn so much seeing what other writers have done well. You’ll know what style and tone those magazines prefer. Writing for magazines is a good place to get some writing credits, too.
How to Find Topics
Consider the skills you already know that children or teens might be interested in. Could you turn your experience into a “how to” article?
Or think about an unusual place you visited or lived. Is there something there that kids don’t commonly know? If you find something fascinating, there’s a good chance young people will too.
A third option is to think about something you wish you knew more about. Researching can lead to article ideas.
Don’t forget theme lists. Many magazines share the topic where they want articles. Maybe one of those topics is perfect for you.
Helpful Resources to Start
“Children’s Nonfiction: a Niche Worth Pursuing” by Sue Bradford Edwards
“A Crafty Way to Break into Children’s Writing” by Mary Cox
“Six Tips to Help You Break into the Children’s Magazine Markets with Your Non-Fiction for Kids!” by Suzanne Lieurance
Note: Tip 6. says “lesson known.” It should be “lessor known.”
Resources on Researching Nonfiction
“Writing Nonfiction” by Ann Bausum
“10 Easy (ha-ha) Steps For Nonfiction Research” by Kristen Fulton
“NonFiction Picture Books: Research Required” by Darcy Pattison
Of course as with any writing, you’ll need to do revisions. One of my tips for those who write an article without an outline is to make an outline after the first draft. Look at each paragraph and write a one to three word summary of the paragraph. Does your mini-outline make sense? Does it follow a logical progression? If not, use this mini-outline to rearrange paragraphs, balance out the information you’re presenting, and move the article along. It can help you see holes and redundancy too.
Resources for Different Areas of Nonfiction Writing
“From Spark to Story: one writer’s take on the joys and challenges of picture-book biographies” by Tanya Lee Stone
“Finding the Micro-Niche in Science Writing” by Darcy Pattison
“How to Propose, Research, and Write a Children’s Nonfiction Nature Book” by Steve Swinburne
Other Resources for Writing Nonfiction
“Three Keys to Writing Nonfiction for Children” – a podcast by Katie Davis
(I also answer a question about rhythm and meter at the end of this podcast.)
“Seven Tips for Writing Children’s Nonfiction” by Brandon Marie Miller
“Ending It All”–it isn’t written specifically about children’s articles, yet it has some very helpful points.
“Focus on Nonfiction with Agent Ken Wright & Three Authors”
Nonfiction Blogs and Ezines
Educational Markets for Children’s Writers by Evelyn Christensen
I.N.K. – Interesting Nonfiction for Kids
In this blog, 26 respected nonfiction children’s book writers shared research and writing techniques. It’s no longer updated, but search for specific topics.
Nonfiction Monday – Rounding up the best nonfiction for children and teens
A blog by Anastasia Suen
STEM Friday = Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books
A blog by Anastasia Suen
Tips for Writing for the Education Market by Evelyn Christensen
Writing for Children’s Magazines by Evelyn Christensen
Writing for the Education Market
Nonfiction for Kids Listserv
Members discuss the craft, marketing and publishing of nonfiction for children. You’ll need to join.
NonFiction Writer’s Facebook group Join.
NFforKids on Goodreads – a public group
I know there are more wonderful resources out there. Anyone wanting to share more, can add a note in the comments.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
Tuesdays at the Castle (Bloomsbury, 2011) by Jessica Day George is the first book in a series about a castle that changes on it’s own. Unwelcome visitors end up in bare rooms that move far away from the throne room and welcome visitors in luxurious rooms that move into desirable locations. Rooms change size, too. And when the King and Queen disappear, the castle helps the Prince and Princesses defend themselves against those who want to take over.
The opening lines (and the cover) show the sense of fun in this book: “Whenever Castle Glower became bored, it would grow a new room or two.” Here’s what the author has to say about how she came to write the book: http://www.jessicadaygeorge.com/#/tuesdays-at-the-castle/. It has been published in the UK and in French in Canada.
The sequel, Wednesdays in the Tower, came out in 2013. It also has been published in the UK, in French Canada and in Spain.
In 2014, Thursdays with the Crown came out and finished up where book two left off.
Coming in February 2016 is book four: Fridays with the Wizards! (Cover reveal here.) I need to catch up my reading before then.
All four books were illustrated by David Hohn. See more of his work here.
But, wait! Jessica has more books! See them all on her site.
The Last Child of Hamelin (Spencer Hill, 2014) by Ray Ballantyne follows up on what happened after the Pied Piper took all the children.
It’s 60 years later and twelve-year-old Pieter, sometimes just has to escape from Hamelin. Escape from his abusive father, from the other boys who pick on him, and from where he’s forbidden to express the music that wells up inside of him. Up on the mountain he meets the old man Simon–the only child who didn’t follow the piper–and Pieter hears the music of the piper himself.
I love how much the author has made me care about Pieter. I think you’ll find yourself caring for him too in this intriguing fantasy.
I’ve met the author in person. You can visit Ray on his Facebook page.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2015) written by Kelly Jones and illustrated by Katie Kath is a fun peek into Sophie Brown’s experience with super powered chickens. Written in letters, starting with one from twelve-year-old Sophie to Redwood Farm Supply requesting a catalog, which is way more fun than it sounds, to letters to her dead Abuelita and her dead Great Uncle Jim, whose farm the family is now living on, this story is a great read. You’ll also find quizzes, to do lists, a correspondence course, and a bad typist. You’ll meet a small white angry chicken, Agnes from Redwood Farm, a chicken thief, a mailman, a librarian, and even learn a bit about raising chickens yourself.
This story makes me smile every time I think about it. Debut author Kelly Jones makes me laugh on her website, too, with her witty comments about school visit experiences. Check it out: http://curiosityjones.net/. From there you can follow links to interviews with Kelly.
I think you’ll also enjoy the delightful illustrations that add to this book. Illustrator Katie Kath is new to the field and already has a bunch of books lined up. Read about how her career got it’s jump start and see what she’s working on here: http://www.ktkath.com. Make sure you click on Kids and Middle Grade to see a variety of illustrations!