I spent spring semester 2022 as a Fulbright grantee in The Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, in Simmons University, Boston, MA, with my project ”Data visualization in children’s non-fiction picture books”.
I created six categories on presentations of data in children’s nonfiction picture books published in the United States (and originated; with a few exceptions), especially in the years 2021-22. My main source library was Simmons University’s Children’s Literature Department’s BookNook. In addition I have looked into older books, mostly through recommendations from teachers and students at Simmons and staff at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and interviewees. I have also explored books from nonfiction award listings and at the Public Library of Boston and at bookstores.
I focused on nonfiction picture books with illustrations (not photographs) that were told through visual and verbal narrative. The picture books could be narrative or expository. I excluded books that more resembled atlases (with primarily verbal narrative and illustrations in a secondary role) when I felt they were closer to story books. I excluded ‘infographics’ books.
In the project I wanted to look into what changes in communication with infographics and data visualizations when they are intended for children and not adults. How do those who are only just beginning to develop visual literacy perceive infographics and visualizations? What is data visualization in children’s nonfiction picture books?
The intended audience of the project are children’s books illustrators, authors, publishers and other practitioners in the field.
Read my blog article of the project on Fulbright Finland’s blog: “Why We Need Data Visualization in Children’s Picture Books, Too“
I want to thank everyone who helped in the project: Cathryn Mercier, Shelley Isaacson, Betty Carter, Michelle Cusolito, Nicholl Montgomery, Melanie Kimball, Courtney Waring, Allie Martineau, Alyssa Mito Pusey, Marlene Kliman, Alexandra McKenzie, Neal Porter, Eugenia Mello, Jonathan Schwabish, Steven Franconeri and everyone else ❤
Background of the project
I have visited the Bologna Children’s Book Fair three times, in 2017, 2018, and 2019. The book fair is the leading professional fair for children’s books in the world. During my first visit in 2017 I was introduced to a whole new world of nonfiction picture books based on visual ideas, typically with little text, and a theme and execution that make them interesting also for adults. I felt I had discovered my genre. During those three years and visits, I found inspiration, ideas and contacts from the publishing industries of Europe and North America.
Ever since the visits to Bologna Book Fair I have been eager to look into the world of non-fiction picture books in a more deeper level. Fulbright Finland’s Mid-Career Professional Development grant 2021-2022 gave me a chance to do so, and to combine the very dear world of data visualization into the concept of picture books.