Guest Post by Marcia Williams
The final blog for this year’s National Non-Fiction November has been written by award- winning author/illustrator Marcia Williams, who looks back at the non-fiction books she loved as a child and considers the role of non-fiction for young readers in the future.
I think my passion for writing non-fiction goes back to my school days, when all non-fiction books appeared bleak and uninspiring. They were printed on tissue-thin paper, the print was tiny, they were wordy, often patronising, always dull, and the black-and-white library photographs were as far from the relevant passage as the publisher could manage! The only inviting non-fiction books that I remember were Père Castor’s wonderful and enchanting nature books, but they were for home time, not for lessons. This was probably because they were beautifully illustrated in full colour, and spoke to the child and not the teacher! They told the story of wild animals from the animals’ viewpoint, so putting facts into a context and narrative. These lovely books did far more than present a dry list of facts with no relevance to a child’s life; they drew you in to an enchanting world where you discovered that every claw and whisker is vital to the animal’s survival, and through the stories you learnt exactly why. They taught you to empathise with the animals and develop a love of nature, which in turn led you to an eagerness for more knowledge.
When it came to writing non-fiction books myself, I have always wanted to create that stepping stone to searching out more knowledge. I hope to create a world where the reader can find their own place, where narrative, empathy, humour and understanding go hand in hand with the facts. My latest non-fiction title is The Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Adventurers, which was such fun to write. Every incredible fact led to a story and every story helped to build up a picture of the Vikings as awe-inspiring, complex people, not just raiding gangs of violent hooligans! I hope the reader is led to wonder at Viking brilliance and understand at least some of the violence in the context of the time and conditions in which the Vikings lived – as well as being gob-smacked by their passion for adventure!
In the same way, when I wrote Children Who Changed the World, it was the stories as well as the facts of each child’s history that made me literally gasp in wonder at the compassion, resilience and determination of such very young people. I hope it may lead some young readers to be inspired to take action to protect their own Child Rights, or at least fill them with admiration for those contemporaries who do it with such passion, and often at personal risk.
I understand why some people may feel that the internet has made non-fiction books redundant, but to my mind it makes them even more important. The internet takes us back to my own long-gone school days, when information came without context or real narrative. I suspect that if we allow all information to be retrieved from the internet young people may end up with a narrow, distorted view of the truth. The internet is a brilliant tool, but that is all it is. In this complex world, we need to give children more than isolated facts – and I believe that it takes a book to do this. A non-fiction book can transport the reader to new and amazing worlds and inspire a passion in them, helping them develop empathy and understanding alongside knowledge.
The Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Adventurers was published on 2nd July 2020 by Walker Books, and Children Who Changed the World was published in paperback on 5th March 2020.
You can read Marcia’s blog about Children Who Changed the World here.
Both of the books mentioned above are published by Walker Books and available buy from local bookshops.
Any opinions expressed may not truly reflect those of the FCBG.