Friday, September 3, 2010

Who said what and when, part 2 of 2

Part 1 of 2.

As I noted in an earlier post, I lobbied for the copyright page of Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman to include a line attributing the dialogue in the book. I’d compiled a list of reviews critical of nonfiction that had not done that and I didn’t want to find myself in a similar line-edit of fire.

Below are the excerpts on that list. I am not passing overall judgment on these books or their fine authors; you can see plenty positive about them in the full reviews on Amazon. I am sharing these comments here only to warn of a possible consequence when dialogue is not sourced.

One kind, established author not on this list told me he got “whacked” in a couple of reviews for “assuming” dialogue. Those reviews I couldn’t find online, but the message is already clear: don’t let yourself get whacked. Please quote me quoting him on that!

Reviews citing unsourced facts, including dialogue:

Booklist on Hammerin’ Hank: The Life of Hank Greenberg (Walker 2006): “Numerous quotes, which, unfortunately, are not sourced…”

School Library Journal on Edna (Scholastic 2000): “…no attribution for the few direct quotes used”

School Library Journal on Fly, Bessie, Fly (Simon & Schuster 1998): “Although some excerpts from letters are included, no source notes are given for them or for a recurring refrain that Bessie sings several times.”

School Library Journal on Stone Girl, Bone Girl: The Story of Mary Anning (Scholastic 1999): “No attributions of factual material are provided.”

Booklist on Julia Morgan Builds a Castle (Viking 2006): “A concluding photo of the finished structure would have been nice, as would notes about the provenance of material in quotations, but the unsung heroine and the handsome, engaging presentation counterbalance these missteps.”

Booklist on Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin (Henry Holt 2006): “…teachers wanting more details will need to look elsewhere as the book’s biographical context is scattershot and no end matter is provided.”

Booklist on Delivering Justice: W.W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights (Candlewick 2005): “Haskins doesn’t provide sources—not even for Law’s thoughts and feelings”

School Library Journal on Saint Francis of Assisi: A Life of Joy (Hyperion 2005): “…no source notes or bibliography”

Booklist on Daniel Boone’s Great Escape (Walker 2008): “…no source notes, or even a bibliography—a disservice to children—which will leave adult readers wondering about authenticity”

9/8/14 addendum: other dangers of writing dialogue (an article I wrote for The Horn Book).

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