Let’s look at a couple of nonfiction picture books and see if the ending has any correlation to how the author starts the story. This is how Barbara Kerley ends What To Do About Alice? illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. The lines below are from the last page in the book not including the author’s note.
Even after he left the presidency,
He remained one of the country’s most popular politicians, leading
Americans in times of hardship and prosperity.
But there was one problem that Theodore Roosevelt never quite solved…
What to do about Alice?
It wasn’t’ herding thousands of cattle across the Dakota badlands. He’d done that.
It wasn’t leading the rough riders as they charged up Kettle Hill. He’d done that, too. (end of page 3-4)
He’d bagged a grizzly bear, captured outlaws, governed the state of New York, and served as vice president of the United States, and still he had a problem. Her name was Alice.
Alice Lee Roosevelt was hungry to go places, meet people, do things.
Father called it “Running Riot.”
Alice called it “eating up the world.” (end of page 5-6)
What is it that you want your reader to know or take away from your nonfiction book? What is the question you want answered in the telling of your tale? What do you want to leave readers with? The taste left in their mouth to savor? Satisfying and rewarding.
Let’s look at another example this time from The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors by Chris Barton, illustrations by Tony Persiani.
Ending prior to Author’s Notes and questions.
One brother wanted to save lives.
The other brother wanted to dazzle crowds.
With Day-Glo, they did both.
A glowing orange Statue of Liberty might have made coming to America even more memorable. But when Lady Liberty was assembled in 1886, that color wasn’t an option.
(end of page 2-3)
And in 1920, if young Bob and Joe Switzer had thought their family’s Montana cottage would look better with a yellow glow, they would have been out of luck, too. But not for long. After all, it was the Switzer brothers themselves who would soon bring those eye-popping yellows, oranges, and green into the world. It would just take a few bright ideas.
(end of page 4-5)
The Switzer brothers’ illuminating tale begins with Bob, born in 1914. From early on, Bob loved to work. He earned money shoveling snow, picking beets, and using a souped-up Model T Ford to round up wild horses. Bob wasn’t just a worker; he was a planner, too. One summer he saved his money to pay for a ride in the open cockpit of a stunt plane at the fair in Billings.
Joe, younger by fifteen months, exerted himself a lot less than his older brother—practicing magic tricks was more his speed. With his knack for sleight of hand, he made metal rings and playing cards seem to disappear and reappear.
(end of page 6-7)
There is more set-up in the beginning of this book to introduce us to the Day-Glo colors (on pages 2-5) and then the introduction of the brothers. Brilliant. One leads us into the next.
So what have we discovered about endings in these two examples?
- Endings answer a question.
- Endings deliver what they promise.
- Endings summarize beginnings.
- Endings tie-up loose ends.
Take-away: When you’re finished reading endings then beginnings, look at your work-in-progress. Does your ending leave your reader with the take-away that you wanted? If not, go re-write your ending. Does it change your beginning? Mine did.