Author Spotlight: Nic Bishop

Just FYI: if you do a Google image search of “Nic Bishop” you get a bunch of pictures of this guy

and a few of this guy

The guy we’re talking about today is the second guy: the one who looks like he might put gum and carved soap in a tree hollow for neighborhood children (rest Harper Lee’s soul).*

This guy is a great guy, because this guy takes absolutely hypnotizing photos of the kinds of animals you don’t see every day and collects them in the very dopest nonfiction books for children available.

Besides the fact that kids’ nonfiction is often offensively dull, which I’ve covered before, it’s also often written by corporate authors or ghostwriters, which means it’s really rare to be able to have a go-to author in this genre. But you can feel confident that if “Nic Bishop” is on the cover next to a startling picture of a snake, it’s a solid choice, which means making good nonfiction a regular part of your library rotation just got easier.

In my experience, children’s nonfiction tends to either read like a standardized test or try so hard to be accessible they end up sort of weird and pointless. It’s almost as if writing them was as much a chore for their authors as reading them is for us—-we’re all in cahoots to Make Kids Learn using various complicated strategies. But if you’re reading a nonfiction book to a kid in your down time, it’s because that kid is curious about the actual world around them, and that world is full of interesting stuff all by itself. Bishop must understand this, because he doesn’t interfere too much with his subject matter. Did you guys know that some frogs are gliders? And they look like this?

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From Frogs, Nic Bishop, 2008.

That’s hella engaging! Those colors are way more intense than a cartoon—-and you can actually see all the little sinews in the critter’s feet! And that’s what Bishop does: he offers the clearest possible look at tons of actual awesome living things for kids—-without dressing them up with cartoons, or mediating how much truth about nature we share with them (one picture features a frog with a mouse’s tail sticking out of its mouth). Bishop writes brief, descriptive captions, and then lets his stunning full-page photos do the rest.

Bishop’s work does what books do at their best: they take us to places we couldn’t otherwise go. That the places Bishop takes us actually exist on Earth makes them even more fascinating. That he does so with kids in mind (so, leaving out graphic images of, like, mating and killing or whatever that you might see in National Geographic—-the aforementioned frog picture is pretty clean, and not too scary for littles), means you get to learn cool stuff at the same time as your kids. Around here, we call that a good day at the library.

*I think it’s the straw hat and gentle aura.

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