Before I started working for Lerner, I never gave much thought to the nonfiction picture book genre. I think I took it for granted that picture books had to be quirky or funny or warm-fuzzy-inducing. Now, I certainly don’t say this to belittle those characteristics, because they apply to many of my very favorite picture books. Some of which I have strong attachments to from my own childhood, as well as some other, more recent favorites that I’ve picked up thanks to a job that keeps me in daily contact with my inner child.
But picture books are capable of other things, and that’s been one of my happiest surprises. Thorough research, an irresistible narrative voice, and rich artwork can combine to tell a true story–like the one in Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal, written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. When all those pieces line up, a nonfiction picture book can sweep you up in the story and then leave you so excited about what you just learned that you can’t wait to share it with someone else.
Based upon what the Just One More Book podcast had to say about it, it sounds like Bad News for Outlaws has that effect on someone other than myself. And I’m glad to hear it!