Oct 12, 2013

Facts Are Facts- Sorta!

I readily admit I am intrigued by unusual facts, but I rarely make an effort to recall them exactly. I tend to store the information in a "ballpark" sense. Sorta the way I balance my checking account. In other words, close enough.
Kids of all ages (which includes adults) find quirky facts fascinating. How else do you explain the popularity of trivia games, Guinness World Records, and sports statistics? Whether they retain the precise details (a la Rain Man) or just enjoy an unexpected discovery when it's encountered, readers have a treat waiting for them in the pages of picture books.

Templar Books (Candlewick), 2013
Paul Thurlby's art is always amazing, but especially so in his recent release, PAUL THURLBY'S WILDLIFE.  Even before reading the text I had fun comparing his approach to the styles of Peter Brown in MR.TIGER GOES WILD and Christopher Silas Neal in LIFETIME, featured in recent posts. 
Then his text won me over, too. He incorporated figurative phrases in the poster-like art that give literal clues to the animal facts.  A few of those facts were familiar to me, but most were surprising and even memorable. He takes something as common as "bears sleep through the winter for up to six months" and spices it up with the added detail: WITHOUT POOPING! So much for the toilet paper commercials starring bears.
More examples and a full analysis are included in this Kirkus starred review. I agree entirely with Booklist's assessment: "These zoology nuggets are unusual, specific, and accessible to young audiences, all while offering surprises to those reading aloud to them."

Viking, 1995

Enriched as they are by images, puns, and humor, Thurlby's facts are, actually, facts. On the other hand, real information and perspectives on people, places and things are presented in a book that is "sorta" factual. ZOOM is a wordless book created by Istvan Banyai. He fills the left page of each spread with black, almost as if the shutter of a camera is continually closing and reopening. The right pages display crisp images we think we recognize, only to turn the page for a "zoom out" to reframe the image with a wider perspective that reveals something more, or different, or both. The levels of understanding at each step back become more complex and generate more questions for the reader. And yes, despite being wordless, those who explore this book are "reading" it.
Banyai's subsequent books along this line include the equally engaging RE-ZOOM and THE OTHER SIDE and are well worth exploring, too.

W. W. Norton & Co. 2013
In the spirit of stepping back for a different perspective, I'll include a book here that is NOT a picture book, but raises a ton of mental images within its fact-filled pages. 1,227 QUITE INTERESTING FACTS TO BLOW YOUR SOCKS OFF was produced by John Lloyd, John MItchinson, and James Harkin, the creators of the earlier BOOK OF GENERAL IGNORANCE. Ranging from such nuggets as, "There are no moles in Ireland", (which begs the question, why not?) to "King George the Third's urine was blue", the contents of this book left me baffled, if not always sockless  To learn more about sources and the authenticity of their claims, they offer a website: 
www.qi.com/US1227. Of course, everything you find on the internet is true, right?

Among other outstanding non-fiction picture book titles are the ones featured here in a summer post by Mia Wenjen on her Pragmatic Mom blog. Whether your tastes run to precision and verification or exploration and investigation on your own, these books are good places to start. The power of some wacky facts or a wordless eye-opener to spark curiosity and generate further reading is not just "sorta" amazing. It's downright wonder-full.


  1. I really love your opening on this one, Sandy. :)

    1. Facts are facts, in this case, Jenny. My focus on precise details and numbers is limited to something with high-stakes, such as tax returns. That's when my ball-parking tendencies allow me to verify the reasonableness of what the calculations produced. Fun to imagine you smiling as you read the opening!
      And thanks again for your loyal reading!


Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.