One example of quality literary non-fiction is Portrait of Spain for Kids produced by the Queensland Art Gallery. It was shortlisted for the CBCA Awards this year in the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books category. In review of Gill’s (2009) discussion of quality literary non-fiction, this book certainly has strong visual emphasis. The layout includes beautifully reproduced full-page and double-page artworks, speech bubbles which work in eliciting interaction with our gallery guide Pepe, a generally predictable format with each painting including sections “About the artist” and “About the painting”, as well as the inclusion of recipes, quizzes, and other interesting additional information that would by appreciated by the intended child audience. (Such as urine being used to create yellow pigment – gross, but you know they’ll like that!) The text is actually quite diverse as multiple text types are employed but attractive and skillful design brings unity to the work. Returning to Gill’s criteria, the written information provided is varied and truly engaging, and the tone is personably, often referring to the reader directly as “you”, employing the directness of speech bubbles, and providing clear explanations of new terms, as well as being just wonderfully creative in marrying art to pursuits such as making Spanish hot chocolate! The cover is shiny and gold with a silken bookmark…gorgeous! Perhaps the anthropomorphism can be forgiven.
I would use this with my middle/upper elementary students. Just wonderful for transdisciplinary units: How We Express Ourselves and Where We are in Place and Time perhaps focussing on culture through time as expressed through the Arts. Our specialist Art teachers and Spanish language teachers would value this resource too. Direct instruction (such as through Guided Reading) in the navigation of such texts, however, warrants significant teaching focus.