Does Back Matter Matter? A Peek at New Picture Books and their Back Matter

Does back matter . . . matter?

If you’re reading our blog, you probably already know that yes, of course it does! Who doesn’t love a good context-exploring author’s note, an events-organizing timeline, or a pronunciation guide that helps make sure you’re not butchering unfamiliar terms? Back matter can be useful for the curious adult reading to a child, for the teacher creating a lesson plan, for the child looking up glossary words, and so much more. Here is a look at some recent picture books and their illuminating back matter. Click each back matter image to take a closer look at the stellar information and context it provides.

Call Me Miss Hamilton

By Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Jeffery Boston Weatherford

This picture book biography about Freedom Rider Mary Hamilton, who not only fought against racial inequality but WON her fight in the Supreme Court, tells an inspiring tale of true courage and heroism. At the end of Call Me Miss Hamilton, you’ll find a detailed timeline that provides important context to Miss Hamilton’s story, as well as a note about the importance of a name and a further reading list.

Make Way for Animals!

By Meeg Pincus, illus. by Bao Luu

Across the globe, communities have come up with creative solutions to help animals whose access to resources has been blocked by city highways and country roads. The back matter in Make Way for Animals! includes further information about wildlife crossings and photographs of real wildlife crossings, such as the Nutty Narrow Bridge for squirrels in Washington State and overpasses in Germany and Canada. There is also a prompt for kids to design their own wildlife crossing.

Rumble and Roar

By Sue Fliess, illus. by Khoa Le

The lyrical, rhyming text and atmospheric illustrations in this nonfiction picture book invite young readers to pay attention to the sounds all around them, so a note on “The Sound of Science” is a natural follow up to the simple poetry of the book. Labeled illustrations of the ear canal and vocal cords bring the science to life, and the Fun Facts are, well, fun!

Today Is Different

By Doua Moua, illus. by Kim Holt

Today Is Different is a beautiful story about the power of solidarity and how much stronger we are together. Author and actor Doua Moua wrote this book in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, and his author’s note offers important information about Hmong history and the historical relationship between Hmong and Black communities. A glossary of activism-related words and a list of ideas for how to be an ally provide springboards for deeper conversations with young people about these crucial topics.

Back matter in our books is always chosen carefully and selectively and included with the intention of carrying a book’s topic further than the main text allowed. It often gives context or facts that enhance the subject matter and is particularly helpful for engaging kids whose interest was piqued during the course of the book. For another behind-the-scenes look at back matter, check out this post by editor Carol Hinz: “What’s the Deal with Back Matter?”

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