Monday, 24 January 2022

G Guest Editorials

Celebrate Lit: How to Research Using Children's Books

When the Pilot Falls website availableResearching accurate information at the beginning of a new book project can be daunting. While I use a variety of techniques, including internet searches, subject matter expert interviews, and the review of historical documents, my absolute favorite starts at the library. While many would head to the adult non-fiction section, you'll find me, instead, in the tiny chairs and knee-destroying tables in the children's section reviewing books meant for someone a fifth my age.

It should make sense. These books are a broad view of a topic in easy to understand language. Most of the time, they include definitions of key words and references for further reading. Plus, they're fast reads, which makes them easy to consume in a limited amount of time.

Let's look at a recent example from my most current book, When The Pilot Falls. When I decided my main character, Willie Labeau, was going to be a biplane pilot, I could have panicked. Instead, I sent myself to the library with a single word, biplane, to start my research journey.

Fortunately, I found several books on early aviation through the library catalog. As I read, I found more dynamic and specific terms, like Curtiss JN, Jenny, and barnstorming. And this is the important part. By using a rather simple source, I was able to move from a generalized term, biplane, to a more specific one, Curtiss JN. These more precise terms allowed me to narrow my later internet searches and, in turn, I was able to find even more niche terms that offered a goldmine of information. It's a bit of a snowball once you figure out those early, targeted words and phrases.april

While children's books are a good starting point, I also use advanced Google searches using .edu and .org as parameters, small museum websites, YouTube, and Wikipedia for additional information. Textbooks and subject matter experts are also great sources. I particularly like emailing contacts at small museums and niche magazines about specific questions that I have about my research topic. I've found that a politely worded inquiry usually results in a response, even if they can't answer the question.

There are so many ways to conduct research that it can be overwhelming, especially when one can enter a keyword, like biplane, and end up with 17 and a half million results. Start simple and move into more complex territory with niche phrases and keywords to narrow your search. I really do think children's books are a great jumping-off point for any research project. Plus, spending time at the library is never a bad idea.

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