At one point in his interview with John Scieskza in the September/October Horn Book, Roger Sutton says, “I think boys — well, nonreaders in general — are more inclined to try a book if they don’t feel like they have to start on the first page with the first word and read everything in one direction.”
Amen to that. I approach books this way all the time, especially nonfiction. And if there’s something in particular I’m looking for — but sometimes even when there’s not — I start with the index.
So I wonder, why don’t nonfiction books for young readers make better use of the index? Indexes are low-key, objective, unobtrusive — “Here are the topics I mention, and the pages where I mention them” — but a little color and subjectivity could make for quite a hook:
“Even if you don’t recognize the name of this guy on page 78, there’s a great anecdote about him, an outhouse and a flatbed trailer.”
“Gratuitous mention of famous jerk, 44”
“Explosions, wrecks, that sort of thing, 2, 6-7, 14, 98”
Shoot, give me this sort of guide, and I’d never see the table of contents — or miss it.