My going-to-bed book, YOU NEST HERE WITH ME, (co-authored by Jane Yolen) has a surprise on the last page. Backmatter!
If you are as book-nerdy as I am, then you get all giggly-excited about backmatter.
Not all books need it, of course, but some books practically beg for it. Non-fictions, especially biographies, are really enhanced if they are afforded extra space to tell more of the story. But, in my opinion, it’s the books where you don’t expect it—books like going-to-bed books-- that are the most amazing when you turn the last page and find backmatter.
What is backmatter?
Backmatter is additional information found in the back of a book. It can come in many forms:
· An author’s note.
· A map or chart.
· An explanation or definition of subjects or settings of the story.
· Extra history or science that ties into the book’s subject matter.
· Place to go to learn more: websites or bibliography.
· Information about how the book was researched or where the idea came from.
· A combination or all of the above.
What can you do with backmatter?
· You can tie your story to a larger subject. This is especially helpful in bringing a book into schools and connecting it to a curriculum, thereby expanding your audience.
· You can lengthen the age of a younger book by making the text be just the beginning of the story.
· It can deepen and expand the meaning of your story without burdening it with too much detail and keeping the word count low.
· It can allow your story to stay lyrical or sweet or compact without bogging it down with extra words or facts that can make a story cumbersome and lose its unique voice.
· If your story is in a tradition of folk or fairy-lore, it can be a link to the historical tale.
· It can anchor your story to history.
Who is doing backmatter well?
I think one of my very favorite examples of backmatter is a book
from 2004. I Took the Moon for a Walk (Carolyn Curtis, Alison Jay). This is a lovely story of a boy and the moon’s imaginary friendship as they walk home one evenings. In the back, there are two spreads: The Mysterious Moon and The World At Night. Though the story is sweet and magical, the facts are there, subtly in the text but also, expanded in a non-fiction format in the back. Backmatter done brilliantly!
For the really young reader, SOME PETS (Angela DiTerlizzi and Brendan Wenzel) has some fun backmatter in the form of a captioned illustration of the pets from the book, which includes both their pet names and their animal species. It is both fun and educational.
Best In Snow (April Pulley Sayre) has included, in the back of her photography-illustrated poem, tons of information on snow’s journey from moisture to landing on the ground. It also includes a bibliography for further reading.
In the back of Quick Little Monkey! (Sarah L. Thomson and Lita Judge) you will find information about the actual monkey (the pygmy marmoset) that is the character in the book.
The story of a little girl wishing to be bigger in Imani’s Moon (JaNay Brown-Wood, Hazel Mitchell) is followed by a full-page author’s note explaining the origin of the story and the history of the Maasai people bringing the readers a greater understanding of both the character and setting.
Heidi is giving away a signed copy of YOU NEST HERE WITH ME! To be eligible for prizes throughout the challenge, you must comment on each post, be registered, and consistently read picture books throughout the challenge.
Heidi E.Y. Stemple is a 2nd generation kidlit author. After college, she didn’t jump right into the family business, instead she went into law enforcement. But, soon enough, writing, which she thought was a hobby, became her full-time job. She has authored and co-authored somewhere around 25 books with 3 new ones coming out in the fall and another 2 in 2019. She lives and works on a big farm in western Massachusetts with two houses—the other one is occupied by her mother, author Jane Yolen.
She wishes all books had backmatter.
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