Posted by: nancyisanders | November 26, 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book: Gather Research Books

Do you have a library card? I hope so ’cause you’re gonna need it now, even if you didn’t before.

The next step for us to take is to order in 20-30 children’s books on the general topic you choose to write about for your nonfiction picture book.

I can already hear some of you protesting and saying “We’re not supposed to use other children’s books in our research, we’re supposed to use big authoritative reference books!”

Well… it all depends on what we use children’s books for!

Personally, I love to read children’s books on my topic because of a number of fantastic reasons:
1) These books are written in the language kids need to read so it helps me get my brain in gear to write about my topic at their level.
2) These books often include highlights of my topic so I don’t have to wade through long adult books trying to find the golden nuggets myself.
3) These books help me quickly get a good feel for my topic that forms a nice foundation as I’m preparing to launch into serious research.
4) These books help round out my research and can provide solid second and third sources, especially if they’re nonfiction books, too!
5) These books make great resources to list at the back of MY picture book as teacher or student resources, a big plus in today’s picture book market that likes to support the Common Core State Standards.

So go ahead and look for a whole bunch of children’s books on your topic. Go on Amazon and do a search for titles on your topic, Google picture books on your topic, and look at your local library’s online catalog. Then order in a whole pile of children’s books on your topic. I’ll be doing the same.

And start reading. Just read for pleasure! Don’t worry about taking any notes at this point, but if you want to, you can. And if you start getting ideas jumping around in your head, be sure to jot those down!

We’ll be talking again in the days ahead about what to do next. But for the next couple of weeks, just enjoy reading about the fantastic topic you want to write about. And have fun!


  1. one thing you might discover is that there is very little out there on your topic – at least in kid’s books.

    • Oh I’m so glad you brought up this point! If you discover there’s very little on your topic for kid’s books, at this point, go ahead and switch to a different general topic. Why? For a couple of reasons…to experience breakthrough into the nonfiction picture book market through these exercises we’ll be doing, really try to choose a “top 100” general topic every kid studies in elementary school. These topics all have lots and lots of kids books out there about them. So for getting our feet wet in this genre, try to choose a topic that every publisher wants to have on their product list.

      The second reason to do this is because we’re trying to experience breakthrough into the nonfiction picture book market. Publishers are often more willing to work with a new author (to their publishing house) on a safer, better-known topic they know every elementary teacher needs to purchase picture books on to read to their class and to supplement the learning environment when they teach on that topic. Save a more obscure topic for your second book idea because then you can query your editor who published this first book with that second idea and she might be more willing to give it a try since there aren’t many other children’s books out there so they can’t be quite sure if it will sell or not.

      Does that make sense?

  2. Hi Nancy!

    My problem is that my topic covers a one of a kind event and the months & months of research I have done so far has only uncovered a small handful of articles, no similar books and only two personal conversations with first hand observers of this event. I could look for books covering one component of the event (which I have) but unfortunately it will not give me anything to compare it to. Darn me for uncovering such a unique event that every child (and every adult for that matter) can relate to…lol…

    Great post!

    Take care,

    Donna L Martin

    • Hi Donna, your topic sound sooooo fascinating and I can really really tell that you’re passionate about it. Hooray for you! I wonder, however, if you’d be interested in setting this topic aside for your SECOND nonfiction book instead of the book we’re going to work on together right now.

      For picture books, it’s good to plan on writing oodles of them! And the more times we write nonfiction picture books, the better we get.

      So if you think you could do that, then it might be help you be a better writer if you “cut your teeth” on a different topic first that’s more universal and more well-known and more sought-after. You know…write a nonfiction picture book on a “top 100” topic that will help you learn the ropes and the different steps to take. (as an exercise or writing class so to speak) and then use the skills you’ve learned to write the book that is near and dear to your heart, making adjustments to fit your particular topic.

      What do you think?

      Or, if you choose to write about this topic for starters, just know that you’ll need to adjust some of the researching tips I’m recommending people follow for this project. Adapt the exercises to fit your own need.

      Whichever you choose to do, I’m happy you’re joining in the journey!

  3. Hi Nancy!

    Yes, I can work on another NF idea. My major concern with this one is the fact this event happened almost 60 years ago and the people who could provide first hand accounts are quickly disappearing. When it comes to research, time is NOT on my side which leads to a sense of urgency on my part. But I DO have other ideas I could focus on if, in your expert opinion, you think I have a better chance to create something more viable via a different focus.

    Take care,

    Donna L Martin

    • Oh dear, time is really of an essence for you on this one! Perhaps you could work on both side by side as different projects if it’s not too overwhelming. Whatever you decide to do, I hope this series of blogs helps you reach your goals!!!!

  4. I’m certainly going to read each one of your posts and see how it can apply to not only THIS topic but another NF idea I have as well. Thanks so much for your input!

    Take care,

    Donna L Martin

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