Back Matter At It's Best
By Kourtney LaFavre
Hey Everyone! I'm glad to be here sharing about...drumroll please... back matter! As a self certified nerd, I always love exploring back matter in books. The purpose of back matter in kidlit is to add interesting tidbits that maybe didn't fit into the narrative. It's an incredible opportunity to incorporate more information that enriches and expands a books appeal. I'm going to share some fantastic examples that range from simple to complex in both nonfiction and fiction. I got too excited doing the research so I have LOTS of examples for you! Here we go...
ZAP! CLAP! BOOM! The Story of a Thunderstorm by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Elly MacKay, follows the weather of a thunderstorm from before the first raindrop falls till the breathtaking moment when the sky emits lightening and thunder, and then the clearing of the storm. The back matter has two pages which includes a note from the author about her experiences with thunderstorms while living in Florida. She also shares the science behind where the rain comes from, how lightening forms, and the sound of thunder. It's the perfect introduction to weather science and the forces that work together to create a thunderstorm. Websites and books are also shared for further exploration.
Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Steve Jenkins explores the wonderful variety of nests birds build for their babies. The back matter is shared in the form a note from the author about a hummingbird nest built right outside her kitchen window, which sparked many questions about the ingenuity behind the process. She also offers some more insight into the skilled, inventive, and adaptability of avian habitat design.
If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall is a moving picture book created as a comprehensive guide to Earth, with a clear message to care for Earth and others. The author uses the back matter as a opportunity to share about where the idea for the book came from, her experiences talking with children all over the world, and some beautiful philosophical thoughts on humanity and what we all share: the planet on which we live.
Have You Heard the Nesting Bird by Rita Gray and pictures by Kenard Pak is a beautiful book sharing the sounds of various birds, while a silent mother bird waits in her nest, waiting for the sounds of her eggs hatching. The back matter here comes in the form of an interview of the mama bird. With questions like "Why are you so quiet in your nest? Where is the father bird? Do you ever leave the nest?" And so on. It's one of my favorite examples because it's so unique and fun!
Home in the Woods by Eliza Wheeler tells the story of 6 year old Marvel. Her siblings and mother start over again after her father has died. At first their tiny, tar-paper shack doesn't feel like home, but soon they find joy being together, surrounded by nature. The author/illustrator uses the back matter to share how her family history was the basis for the book. "This book is inspired not only by the stories from their childhood, but by the entire generation that experienced the Great Depression. They will soon be gone, and if we haven't yet collected their stories, the time is now." It ends with a B&W family photo.
The Universe in You by Jason Chin, dives into the microscopic building blocks of life in a way that is engaging and accessible to readers (an incredible feat). The back matter here is extensive, offering 2.5 spreads worth of scientific information: atoms, molecules, the periodic table of elements, cells, DNA...it's a science lovers playground! It ends with an Authors note, illustration note, and acknowledgements.
The Bug Girl (a true story) by Sophia Spencer and Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Kerascoet, is the real life story of 7 year old Sophia Spencer, her love for bugs, and experiences being bullied for her love of bugs. The back matter covers 3 full spreads of super cool bug facts, Sophia's top four bugs (and why), and how to study bugs in the wild.
Crow Spirit by Debra Bartsch and illustrated by Gael Abary, is a heartwarming story about family, love, and the comfort to be found in spiritual connection with those who have passed on. The back matter is 2 full spreads sharing fun facts about crows and a snicker doodle recipe from the author's grandmother.
And speaking of recipes reminded me of Jen Malia's Too Sticky! Sensory Issues with Autism, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. The back matter here includes a recipe for slime, how fun! And the author’s note mentions her own and daughter’s personal experiences as autistic kids with sensory differences and some facts about autism and sensory differences.
Wow, thanks for sticking with me and exploring all the different ways to enrich and expand picture books with back matter. Do you have a favorite example? Have a book coming out with back matter? Please share in the comments, we'd love to hear about it!
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We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with awesome multi-published former student Shirin Shamsi who will be focusing on Muslim and cultural kidlit.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
And 5th Mondays we'll be taking a break