When researching a subject for a picture book biography, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the information one can find.
Where was your subject born?
What was his/her favorite song?
What school did he/she attend?
Was he/she married? Have any kids?
Did he/she play the clarinet? Tuba? Maybe the accordion?
Did he/she have a life-long dream to fly in a hot air balloon?
Gather all of the usual, the weird, and the inspiring details you can on your subject. But before you start drafting, you’ll need to find your focus. Narrow your purpose for the biography and weed out the unrelated content. It may be interesting that your subject discovered a genuine nugget of gold in his backyard when he was 12. But does it connect with the purpose of your story? If not, save it for the backmatter or consider not including it at all. That way, readers can follow your story without being detoured by distracting, disconnected details. Here are five examples that do this well.
BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET
Illust. By James E. Ransome
THE WILLIAM HOY STORY
Illust. Jez Tuya
ADA LOVELACE, POET OF SCIENCE: THE FIRST COMPUTER PROGRAMMER
Illust. Jessie Hartland
MARGARET AND THE MOON
Illust. Lucy Knisley
SHARK LADY: THE TRUE STORY OF HOW EUGENIE CLARK BECAME THE OCEAN’S
MOST FEARLESS SCIENTIST
Illust. Marta Alvarez Miguens
Kim is offering a signed copy of her debut book, Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer’s Historic Boston Marathon, to one lucky winner. To be eligible for prizes throughout the challenge, you must be registered by March 4, comment on each post, consistently read mentor texts, and enter the Rafflecopter drawing at the conclusion of ReFoReMo.
Kim Chaffee holds the Guinness World Record for the largest game of pick-up sticks every played. (It’s true! Check out pg. 111 of the 2005 edition) She is a former second-grade teacher who loves coffee, chocolate, and writing picture books that kids will want to read again and again. Her debut picture book, Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer’s Historic Boston Marathon, was inspired by her own journey with running. Kim is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and now lives not too far from there with her husband, two kids, and two cats. Find her online at www.KimChaffee.com or on Twitter at @kim_chaffee.