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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | photographs

A Picture and a Thousand Words

As a reporter and edi­tor for decades, I often heard peo­ple accuse my col­leagues and me of “bias,” of hav­ing a par­tic­u­lar slant on a story—usually a point of view that the accuser dis­put­ed. It was a com­mon charge, espe­cial­ly if the issue was con­tro­ver­sial.

But in truth, reporters are no dif­fer­ent than any­one else. Every­one comes to a sub­ject with some kind of bias.  If you know what a cer­tain beach is like, then you are like­ly to asso­ciate oth­er beach­es with that expe­ri­ence; if you’ve nev­er been to the beach, then you can only imag­ine what the smells, the sand, or the sea is like.

If you are pro-can­dy, you will read about can­dy dif­fer­ent­ly than some­one who doesn’t like it.

When you write non­fic­tion, these dif­fer­ent read­er per­spec­tives mat­ter. If we want to be thought­ful about a sub­ject or apply those all-impor­tant crit­i­cal think­ing skills, it helps to acknowl­edge our nat­ur­al biases—not to judge, but sim­ply to under­stand that our expe­ri­ences affect how we see things.

Tommy: the Gun that Changed America (hardcover on the left, paperback on the right)When I speak to junior high stu­dents, I often hold up a copy of my book Tom­my: The Gun that Changed Amer­i­ca and ask them what they think it is about.

Why would I write this,” I go on, “and why, espe­cial­ly, for young peo­ple?” Then I might show them the paper­back ver­sion, which has the same title, of course, but no gun on the cov­er.  “What do you make of that?”

From there, we can actu­al­ly start talk­ing about guns—what role they play in our soci­ety, what makes them inter­est­ing to read­ers and how they gen­er­ate strong feelings—without hav­ing to debate the Sec­ond Amend­ment.

Because we live in such a visu­al world, I spend hours track­ing down the right pho­tos, car­toons, and doc­u­ments to help tell a sto­ry. And even if these images don’t make it into the book, they influ­ence my writ­ing by remind­ing me what the world looked like and how peo­ple felt in that time peri­od.

The images that do make it into my books can change the reader’s expe­ri­ence, chal­leng­ing the bias­es they bring to the sto­ry.

Bonnie Parker

Bon­nie Park­er (pho­to: Mis­souri State High­way Patrol)

Con­sid­er this pho­to of Bon­nie Park­er, a key image in my next book, Bon­nie and Clyde: The Mak­ing of a Leg­end, due out in August 2018. It’s a cru­cial pic­ture, the first time she became known to the pub­lic. What do you think about her when you see this? What do you think she’s like?

Now com­pare it to the glam­our shot below, tak­en just a few years before. Does it change your per­spec­tive at all?

Maybe one way to make stu­dent research and non­fic­tion more engag­ing is to con­sid­er our assump­tions and bias­es by bring­ing images into the process. Some ideas:

Bon­nie Park­er (from the col­lec­tions
of the Dal­las His­to­ry and Archives Divi­sion
of the Dal­las Pub­lic Library)

  • Ask stu­dents to make assump­tions about a book from the cov­er. Then com­pare to what the sto­ry is inside. Did their per­spec­tive change?
  • Pull out a sin­gle image and try to guess what it means to the sto­ry. Then, read that chap­ter (or pic­ture book) and test it.
  • Ask stu­dents to search for a pho­to sep­a­rate­ly from their research on a sub­ject. Did the pho­to enforce or change their point of view?

What oth­er ways can you address how a reader’s expe­ri­ences can impact under­stand­ing?

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What a Picture’s Worth

 

Time and UmbrellaWhen I was a kid, a vis­it from my Texas grand­par­ents guar­an­teed hori­zon-expand­ing expe­ri­ences.

For one thing, we were exposed to food choic­es not com­mon to our lit­tle house in Minnesota’s north woods. I’m not talk­ing about chili—my Tex­an father cooked that all the time. I’m talk­ing about Grand­ma drink­ing hot Dr. Pep­per instead of cof­fee. And Grand­pa slather­ing peanut but­ter on his ham­burg­ers.

From the van­tage point of our small town, these out­landish approach­es to famil­iar food­stuffs con­vinced me that the wider world held unimag­ined pos­si­bil­i­ties: appar­ent­ly even peanut but­ter could be made strange and excit­ng, if expe­ri­enced some­where glam­orous like Texas.

Anoth­er ele­ment of my grand­par­ents’ vis­its was Night at the Movies. We’d crowd togeth­er on the couch, the lights would dim, and then we’d have: the slideshows, the director’s cut ver­sions of every road trip my grand­par­ents had recent­ly ven­tured upon. I’d see cap­tured images of exot­ic places like Okla­homa or Mis­souri, and I’d mar­vel at how much world was out there wait­ing for me. Those pho­tos were enough to inspire me to grand imag­in­ings.

Pho­tos are also a per­fect way to trig­ger writ­ing road trips. Cre­ate a col­lec­tion of quirky or out­landish images (like the one of mine at the top of this page, which you are free to use). Sort through your own pho­tos, or take a local road trip with your cam­era in hand, or ven­ture online to track them down. My writer friend Lau­ra Pur­die Salas posts a new writ­ing-prompt pho­to on her blog every Thurs­day morn­ing. Once you’ve col­lect­ed your pho­tos, hand them around your class­room, let­ting stu­dents pull out the one that most intrigues them. Then ask them to write a poem or start a sto­ry based on what­ev­er the image inspires in them. Some­times, you’ll find, a pic­ture is worth a thou­sand words.

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There’s Nothing to Dooooooooo

by Vic­ki Palmquist

By this point in the sum­mer when I was young, the charm of being out of school had worn off, I’d played every game on my grandma’s shelves, and I’d had a few fights with my friends in the neigh­bor­hood, so I’d retreat­ed to read­ing as many books as I could, con­sum­ing sto­ries like Ms. Pac­man swal­low­ing ener­gy pel­lets.

When your kids claim that there’s noth­ing to do, here are a few sug­ges­tions for books that inspire doing things, think­ing about things, and inves­ti­gat­ing more.

How Come? Every Kid's Science Questions ExplainedAs I was grow­ing up, I believed that I didn’t like sci­ence or math. Turns out it was text­books and work­sheets and tests I didn’t much care for. Give me a para­graph like these two:

One very big num­ber was named by nine-year-old Mil­ton Sirot­ta in 1938.

Milton’s math­e­mati­cian uncle, Edward Kas­ner, asked his nephew what he would call the num­ber one fol­lowed by a hun­dred zeroes. Mil­ton decid­ed it was a googol.”

And the num­ber nam­ing doesn’t stop there. This tid­bit is part of a chap­ter called “What is the last num­ber in the uni­verse”” found in How Come? Every Kid’s Sci­ence Ques­tions Explained (Work­man, 2014), writ­ten by Kathy Wol­lard and illus­trat­ed by Debra Solomon with won­der­ful­ly com­ic and live­ly depic­tions of the con­cepts in the text.

Oth­er chap­ters address must-know top­ics such as “How does a fin­ger on a straw keep liq­uid in?” and “Are ants real­ly stronger than humans?” and “Why do the leaves change col­or in the fall?”

I prob­a­bly don’t need to point out that kids aren’t the only ones who will find this book fas­ci­nat­ing. Read a few chap­ters to your­self at night and you’ll be able to answer those end­less­ly curi­ous chil­dren who pull on your sleeve.

PhotoplayFor the visu­al­ly curi­ous, and I believe that means Every Child, you’ll be inspired by Pho­to­play! Doo­dle. Design. Draw. by M.J. Bron­stein (Chron­i­cle, 2014).

Ms. Bron­stein pro­vides exam­ples and work­space for kids to draw on exist­ing pho­tos (print­ed in the book), telling a sto­ry with those draw­ings or even writ­ing a sto­ry. The book can be used in quite a few dif­fer­ent ways … and then you can take your own pho­tos and print them out for kids to con­tin­ue hav­ing fun and using their imag­i­na­tions.

Who Done It?A book that takes some inves­ti­ga­tion and one that looks like a book for very young chil­dren is actu­al­ly a sophis­ti­cat­ed guess­ing game. The humans and crit­ters line up on Olivi­er Tallec’s game pages in Who Done It? (Chron­i­cle, forth­com­ing in 2015).

A sim­ple ques­tion such as “Who played with that mean cat?” requires look­ing into. Can you spot the most like­ly sus­pect?

For kids who are learn­ing about facial expres­sions, body lan­guage, and tak­ing one’s time to rea­son through a puz­zle, this is an ide­al book that will engen­der good dis­cus­sions or occu­py a few of those “there’s noth­ing to doooooo” hours of sum­mer.

Who Done It?

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ill_matchboxdiary.jpg

Gifted: The Matchbox Diary

When a young girl vis­its her great-grand­­fa­ther for the first time, her imag­i­na­tion swirls with every­thing she sees in his antique shop. He asks her to pick out her favorite item and he will tell her a sto­ry about it. She choos­es a cig­ar box filled with match box­es. As it turns out, this is […]

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