Monday, December 3, 2012
Mentor Monday: Creative Non-Fiction
Forbes does not let the need for accurate detail deter her from using metaphor, irony and even humor in her writing. When describing the British Army in the spring of 1775, she says:
"Armies have always tended to be inert in winter and to move in spring. And now it was April. No one could expect the sluggish scarlet dragon not to wake from hibernation in its Boston den, uncoil and meander a little through the spring-drenched countryside." (p. 232)
Of the first battles of the Revolution, Forbes says: "When only eight men have been killed, each one is a tragedy, and ten wounded men are heroes - although ten thousand may be primarily a sanitation problem." (p. 258)
"She tried to keep her children quiet during the inspection of their cart by the sentry at the gate and gave each child a piece of gingerbread. The sentry - a truly horrifying British ogre - took it all away from them. He said, 'gingerbread was too good for rebels,' and ate it himself." (p. 274)
The scene could represent any number of larger transgressions by the British Government upon the colonies. Colonials considered themselves equal to the British subjects in England. They were not treated that way. The actions of one soldier, one "British ogre" are symbolic of the actions of an entire government upon its subjects.
The writer of creative non-fiction for children can follow Esther Forbes's lead. One can immerse oneself in a subject by thorough research and use the details of that research not merely as exposition, but to develop a unique voice - even while maintaining complete accuracy.
"Paul spent the summer sitting around, cleaning his rifle and polishing his sword. And swatting flies. There were thousands of flies at Lake George that summer. But there were no French or Indians." (p. 12)