February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Interview: Lily Rothman on “Everything You Need To Ace American History”


Photo by Sarah Yin

Where did the idea for the “Big Fat Notebook” series come from?
This series was developed in-house at Workman. An editor attended a parent-teacher conference and was told that her child would benefit from taking better notes. The teacher went on to suggest the student borrow notes from a specific classmate (considered the “smartest kid in class”), and thus the idea was born. The goal is to answer the question asked by kids in classrooms everywhere: “Can I borrow your notes?”

Despite being a relatively young country, the United States has a rich and complex history. How did you manage to get it all down?
A lot of credit on this one goes to my editor, who could attest that my original draft was much, much longer. It was a challenge, for sure. But just as there’s no way to fit every detail of the story in one book, there’s no way a test is going to ask about every detail, either. I put myself in the shoes of someone 1606-Rothman-Everything-You-Need-to-Ace-Amer-Histstudying for an exam, having to prioritize what to memorize. And I think there’s value to seeing the whole arc of that [U.S.] history in one place, even if it’s necessarily a shorter version, because you get to see how one thing leads to another. My hope would be that even after the test is over, understanding the context of a given moment might spark enough interest for readers to go out and dive into the details later.

Were you the smartest kid in your class?
I’d bet there’s no such thing in most classes—different people can be good at a subject in different ways. But I did love history, in high school and college, so the character of the “smartest kid” in American history class was a blast for me to write.



This article was published in School Library Journal's June 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Della Farrell About Della Farrell

Della Farrell is an Assistant Editor at School Library Journal and Editor of Series Made Simple

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