Count me a fan of Alice Roosevelt. I hadn’t known much about her beyond bits in biographies I’d read about her famous father, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.
She was just as adventurous, fun loving and politically savvy as her dad, I recently learned from the picture book “What To Do About Alice?” by Barbara Kerley.
This book might get extra attention in the children’s section in March for Women’s History Month. But when Jennifer Mazi turned me on to it in a column in The Kansas City Star, I saw that adults in this age of content marketing can borrow a page or two from it year round.
Focus on one thing, preferably a person. I think I’ve read 1,001 “listicles” with titles like “The 5 Worst Misconceptions About Job-Hunting,” “3 Psychological Strategies Every Leader Should Use” and “14 Situations at Work That Are As Awkward As Hell.” Yes, they’re highly readable – they’re lists! – but they’re also utterly forgettable. And I can’t name one of the 1,001 authors of these pieces or their places of employment that they’re trying to promote with their posts.
But tell a story about a person – yourself, an employee, a client, a family member – and I’ll remember something. Why? People connect with other people.
I connect with Alice. She reads volumes of books, seeks out entertainment, serves her country, helps her family, yet is flawed like everyone else.
Write memorable phrases. Use simple language coupled with active verbs.
Listen to this: “Alice Lee Roosevelt was hungry to go places, meet people, do things. Father called it ‘running riot.’ Alice called it ‘eating up the world.’”
Pack a one-two punch with awesome visuals. Images are the bait for your story, your message. The brain comprehends pictures 67 percent faster than words. Less-than-mediocre phone pics typically don’t cut it. Professional photos and graphics are a better bet for high-quality results. When you combine science with art, that’s when magic happens.
The book’s vintage-style illustrations by Edwin Fotheringham in delicious claret reds, jade greens and powder blues nearly leap from their pages. There’s Alice running across a globe reminiscent of a half-nibbled cookie. There’s Alice bicycling down a grassy hill, hands in the air, flinging her leg braces behind her. There’s Alice loose in her father’s library reading Twain, Dickens, Darwin and the Bible, cover to cover.
Meet people where they’re at. Knowing your audience is key for strategic storytelling. Barbara Kerley knows her primary readers are children, so her book focuses mostly on Alice as a child. But her readers also include parents who probably grew up without many women in their history books outside of a few Women’s Studies courses in college. So Kerley’s book informs and entertains on an adult level, too.
Because “What To Do About Alice?” is tightly focused, packed with clever writing and illustrations and knows its audiences, my two sons and I have picked it up again and again. The boys don’t think it’s special that Alice is getting her due in American history because, of course, women make up at least half the world. I consider it special because it’s just good storytelling.