Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - cover reveal for Girl, Running 8.17.17

Every Wednesday I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

I am so excited to have author Annette Bay Pimentel with me today.  

You may recognize Annette's first book, Mountain Chef, which was published in August of 2016.  Mountain Chef introduced us to Tie Sing, whose quick thinking and culinary skills had a part in the creation of the National Park Service.

Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service
Mountain Chef:
How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, 
and Helped Cook up the National Park Service

Or maybe you recognize Annette as a fellow Wednesday nonfiction picture book blogger!  Maybe you have visited her blog (and if you haven't, I recommend taking the quick jaunt over there as it has a wealth of information!). 

Today Annette stops by to talk about nonfiction writing, her new book, Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon, and.... the cover reveal for the new book!

Here are some questions I had for Annette that she kindly agreed to answer.  Welcome, Annette!

1. Can you give your upcoming readers some more information about Girl Running?

In 1966 Bobbi Gibb tried to register for the Boston Marathon but organizers rejected her application out of hand, telling her that girls were capable of running only one and a half miles. Bobbi decided to prove them wrong, so she sneaked into the Boston Marathon. Girl Running tells the story of what happened.

As I researched this book, I was stunned to realize just how much our attitudes toward women in sports have changed in my lifetime. I started to remember incidents from my own life, like my grandmother warning me that jogging could lead to infertility. To my child readers, of course, 1966 is ancient history. But I hope they’ll be inspired by Bobbi Gibb’s joy in running and by her quiet belief in her own capabilities.

Micah Archer, who just won the Ezra Jack Keats Award for the illustrations in her book Daniel Finds a Poem, has created wonderful illustrations for this book. Her collages are beautiful, layered with timelines and maps to give the art a rich, complex feel.

2. Looking at your current and upcoming titles, how do you find the person you are going to write about?  Many of them are new to me people, or people I'm not very familiar with.  How do you decide their story is one you want to tell?

I’m fascinated by people on the margins of history who helped shape the world we now live in but who have been largely ignored or forgotten. This book started when I was reading an essay and the author mentioned in passing that she, like many other female runners, had been inspired by Bobbi Gibb’s 1966 Boston Marathon run. That caught my attention! These accomplished women had all been moved by someone I’d never heard of. I thought there might be a story there.

But I’m never sure if I’ll have enough information to properly tell someone’s story until I dig into the research. I’m thrilled when I find strong primary sources for one of these nearly-forgotten people. Then I know I’ve found a story I can tell.

3. With picture books, you have to be very selective about how much information you want to tell within the pages of the book.  How do you choose the parts you tell and the parts you choose not to use?

I once heard another nonfiction picture book writer, Alice B. McGinty, talk about finding the golden thread that runs through a nonfiction picture book. She explained that everything in the book must connect to that single thematic thread or it doesn’t belong. I love that image and think about it often as I’m revising.

Limiting myself to a single golden thread was especially tough in Girl Running. My original draft was more than twice as long as the published version. I told so many more parts of Bobbi’s life—how she got thrown out of a library because she was a woman, how she injured herself on a run to save a dog’s life, how she moved across the country to train for the marathon. They were all wonderful stories and all illustrative of her character but ultimately they didn’t fit the golden thread running through my book. Girl Running is much stronger and a much greater pleasure to read without those anecdotes.

(And luckily you can read Bobbi Gibb’s autobiography Wind in the Fire if you want all the stuff I had to leave out!)

4. I find the back matter an author includes to be very interesting, but I know many young readers who skip it.  What do you hope young readers get from the information you include?  Do you keep them in mind as you put it together?

I love back matter too! When I started writing nonfiction for kids, I thought of back matter as a piece of writing for adults. But as I’ve visited schools and libraries and talked with kids, I’ve been surprised at how many of them devoured my back matter.

So my approach to back matter has definitely changed. Now I write back matter for both kids and adults. I don’t expect all my readers to dive into the back matter. But for those who have been captured by the world of the book, the back matter gives them a place to linger, to find out what happened next, and to examine how the book connects to their broader world.

5. We see the finished product, but I always find it fascinating what we don't see.  Can you tell us something interesting about when you were going through during the writing of Girl Running?

This is the first book I’ve written about someone who is still alive, so I very much hoped to speak with Bobbi Gibb as part of my research. I tried several avenues to reach out to her but they were all dead ends. I’d been working on the manuscript for months when I complained to my husband that I hadn’t been able to connect with her. He disappeared into his office and emerged an hour later with a very old email address for her. Miraculously, it still worked! We exchanged emails and ultimately spoke on the phone. She answered my questions and was unfailingly gracious and kind.

I had a tough time finding the right tense for this book. It seemed like it should be in the past tense—it’s about the past after all!--but my versions written in the past tense felt leaden. In desperation I tried present tense and was surprised at how the story leapt to life. I’ve learned that, for me at least, writing in the present tense helps catapult me into the historical moment. I hope readers feel transported to the past with me!

After reading Annette's answers, I am so excited to read this next book. I already have it preordered... for February 6th!

And now, for all our Wednesday nonfiction readers, here's Girl Running!

Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon
written by Annette Bay Pimentel
illustrated by Micha Archer
published by Nancy Paulsen Books
February 6th, 2018

Make sure this book is on your 2018 TBR list! Looking forward to great nonfiction reading!


  1. I love seeing this cover enter the world. Thanks for hosting the cover reveal, Michele!

  2. Great questions and great interview!

  3. (Sorry--hit Publish too soon) I especially love the bit about the Golden Thread and figuring out what to leave OUT. That's always one of the trickiest bits about nonfiction. We agonize over it!

  4. I just put Mountain Chef on my reading list and I am excited for the running book.

  5. Yay! Been waiting for this book!

  6. I really enjoyed Mountain Chef SO I will definitely check out Girl Running!