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Chris Barton writes about Chris Barton's writing ... and other, more fascinating elements of the world of children's book publishing.
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1. My Twitter chat with an 8th grade class

I’ve done in-person school visits and Skype presentations, but this past Friday School Librarian of the Year finalist Colleen Graves and I tried something new: a Twitter chat between me and a roomful of eighth graders needing some help transforming their research into a story:

How did it go? I thought it was terrific, but you can see for yourself in this handy Storify recap of our conversation. I’ll be back soon with some additional thoughts on the experience.

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2. A is for Awwww…


Thanks for sharing this, Crystal!

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3. Good company for John Roy Lynch

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is featured on the Children’s Book Council’s April 2015 “Hot off the Press” list.

“This unique online bibliography features anticipated bestsellers, either recently released or forthcoming, published by CBC members.”

I do like the sound of that, and I love the looks of this excerpt from the full list:

Hot off the Press  Children's Book Council

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4. Bartography Express for April 2015, featuring Anne Bustard’s Anywhere but Paradise

This month, one subscriber to my Bartography Express newsletter will win a copy of Anywhere but Paradise (Egmont USA) by Anne Bustard.

If you’re not already receiving Bartography Express, click the image below for a look. If you like what you see, click “Join” in the bottom right corner, and you’ll be in the running for the giveaway at the end of this week.

20150420 Bartography Express

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5. Encouraging words and recommended reading

I’m pausing just a moment to catch my breath between last week’s whirlwind (my first school visit for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

Reilly visit cropped

— the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, and the San Antonio Book Festival) and this week’s excitement of the Texas Library Association annual conference here in Austin.

While I’m pausing, I’m happy to share a few things published elsewhere recently either about my new book or written by me, starting with this generous review by Margie Myers-Culver at Librarian’s Quest:

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch written by Chris Barton with illustrations by Don Tate is a remarkable biography. This is a man with whom we should all be familiar. The blend of narrative and pictures is compelling from beginning to end. After the two pages of his speech a single page shows an older John Roy Lynch with a continuation of his beliefs about this country. There is a single page Historical Note about Reconstruction, a Timeline of important dates in John Roy Lynch’s life alongside historical dates, an Author’s Note, an Illustrator’s Note, sources For Further Reading and two maps. This is a back matter goldmine.

School Library Journal also has good things to say about The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch:

Tate’s illustrations, rendered in mixed media, ink, and gouache on watercolor paper, are extraordinary and carry the lengthy story well. The excellent cartoon-style paintings soften potentially disturbing details, such as the Ku Klux Klan burning a church. The book concludes with a thorough historical note. Teachers will find this remarkable story of hope and perseverance a valuable supplement to social studies lessons on the Civil War and Black History Month.

Meanwhile, I’ve been busy with a couple of guest posts. At The Little Crooked Cottage, I was asked to write about my favorite picture book biographies:

There are too many excellent picture book biographies — and too many excellent authors and illustrators working in this field — for me to narrow them down to my all-time favorite five. But there are a handful that have been especially meaningful to me at one time or another, so I’m going to limit my list to those.

And Austin Reading Mama asked for my reading recommendations for grown folks. I was happy to offer up a handful — all of them nonfiction, as it turned out. And the list doesn’t event include the book I’m in the midst of loving right now, Tomlinson Hill, Chris Tomlinson’s fascinating exploration of the histories of his white Texas family and of the African-American Tomlinsons whose ancestors had once been owned by the author’s forebears. It’s eye-opening and well worth your while.

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6. Austin authors’ efforts on behalf of diverse books

My local kidlit community — including not only authors and illustrators, but librarians and booksellers as well — shines quite nicely in this weekend’s article in the Austin American-Statesman:

As librarians across the state are set to gather in Austin next week for the annual Texas Library Association conference, it’s worth noting what a difference a year makes: There’s a national festival devoted to children’s diverse books planned for next year in Washington, D.C., and a writing award with corresponding grant supported by celebrated author Walter Dean Myers’ estate. The Texas Book Festival featured a We Need Diverse Books panel in October, as did the midwinter meeting of the American Library Association earlier this year. Next week’s Texas library conference will include a diversity summit as part of its program as well as a “Colorful Canon” panel exploring how to build diversity in children’s literature.

The Austin-area creators of children’s books mentioned in the article include Cynthia Leitich Smith, Don Tate, Shana Burg, Varian Johnson, Bethany Hegedus, Jo Whittemore, and me, but I assure you that many more are actively involved in this movement in one way or another. Here’s to keeping things going.

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7. See you in San Antonio this Saturday?

SABF2015
The San Antonio Book Festival is this Saturday, and Don Tate and I will be there to share The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

From her perspective as a parent, San Antonio blogger Inga Cotton has written a thoughtful post about our book, the festival, and the Reconstruction era in general:

How do I talk to my kids about that era of history? By focusing on the amazing story of John Roy Lynch—in ten years, transformed from teenage slave to U.S. Congressman—illustrator Tate and author Chris Barton have created a wonderful resource for families to have that conversation.

You can find Don and me this Saturday from 1:45 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. in the Children’s Reading Tent outside San Antonio’s Central Library. Get to the festival a little earlier, though, and you can also catch my all-time favorite author at 12 noon.

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8. Speaking of things that are amazing…

…you have got to take a look at the outstanding site Mapping Occupation: Force, Freedom and the Army in Reconstruction, especially if you’re an educator, history buff, or lover of great design.

Mapping Occupation

For me, it’s fascinating to see how the presence of the U.S. Army grew and dwindled in the South — especially in John Roy Lynch’s Mississippi — during the era that Don Tate and I cover in The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch. And it’s a reminder of how much more there will always be for us to learn about our past.

Gregory P. Downs and Scott Nesbit headed up the project, but the whole team deserves heaps of praise for this illuminating and highly interactive look at Reconstruction.

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9. See me, Don Tate, and John Roy Lynch in Hattiesburg, MS, this Wednesday

Fay Kaigler logo
I’m excited to be returning this week to the fantastic Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival this week at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

Much of the festival requires registration, but the Hattiesburg American reports that there are exceptions, and my session is one of them:

First panel open to the public: Chris Barton, Don Tate and Kathleen Merz discuss “The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch,” a picture book biography of the Mississippi slave-turned-congressman, 11:30 a.m. April 8, Thad Cochran Center ballrooms.

(Kathleen is the editor of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, and I’m delighted that she’ll be joining Don and me. On only one other occasion in my career have I gotten together in person at the same time with both the editor and the illustrator of one of my books, so this will be special.)

Another open-to-the-public panel ends the festival on Friday, with David Levithan and Deborah Wiles discussing their relationship as editor an author.

Whether you’re able to make it to the beginning of the festival, the end, or the whole thing, you’re in for a treat. If you see me, won’t you please say hello?

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10. Comment on Q&A with Trent Reedy, author of Burning Nation by Chris Barton

Last I heard, it’s going to be called The Last Full Measure. Intriguing, right?

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11. Booklist gives a star to The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

You spend eight-plus years working on a book, and it’s easy to lose perspective — to no longer have any sense of how your work is going to be received by someone who hasn’t, you know, spent eight-plus years working on that book.

This starred review from Booklist
dispelled any worries in its very first sentence:

The fascinating story of John Roy Lynch’s life from slavery to his election to the U.S. House of Representatives at age 25, gets a stirring treatment here.

That makes two stars for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, and one very happy writer.

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12. Book trailer for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

(Narrated by yours truly.)

Many thanks to Don Tate and Eerdmans Books for Young Readers for their work in putting this together, and to John Roy Lynch himself for the inspiring quote at the end.

You’ll find lots more about the book here.

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13. Don, Tom, and me

Don Tate, Tom Lichtenheld, Chris Barton

I had the great pleasure of serving on a panel at last month’s Austin SCBWI conference with illustrators Don Tate (shown on the left) and Tom Lichtenheld (the guy in the middle). If those names sound familiar, it’s because I’ve created a book with each of them.

In fact…

Today (no fooling) is the publication date not only of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, which Don illustrated, but also of the board book version of the Tom-illustrated Shark Vs. Train. Both books give readers something to chew on — one figuratively, one literally — so if you know someone with a big appetite for something new to read, won’t you please keep these in mind?

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14. Living symbols of the spread of freedom — and its opposite

Black Congressional representation from South

This graphic is from an upcoming presentation that I’ll be giving about The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, and I thought a wider audience might appreciate it.

For context, here’s an excerpt from my Historical Note in the book:

During Reconstruction, approximately two thousand African American men served as local, state, or national officials. Some of them were freemen before the war, and others – including John Roy Lynch – were freed only as a result of the conflict. Those who held office in the South were living symbols of the spread of freedom. Most notably, between 1870 and 1877, there were 16 African Americans who served in the US Congress from former Confederate states.

But there were only six more who served between 1878 and 1901. And between 1902 and 1972, there were zero.

What happened?

In The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, illustrator Don Tate and I have done our best to explain while telling the inspiring story of this one young man.

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15. Eric Foner on Reconstruction and The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

“Citizenship, rights, democracy — as long as these remain contested, so will the necessity of an accurate understanding of Reconstruction.”

That quote comes from “Why Reconstruction Matters,” a new, short essay by Eric Foner, author of Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877 and the Pulitzer-prize-winning DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University. I can’t recommend enough taking a few minutes to read it.

While Don Tate was working on the illustrations for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, our publisher asked Professor Foner to have a look at the text. Here’s what he had to say about our picture book biography of this young man who went from teenage slave to U.S. congressman in ten years:

Like adults, young readers should know about the era of Reconstruction and the remarkable individuals who struggled to give real meaning to the freedoms blacks achieved during the Civil War. John Roy Lynch was one of them and he is brought vividly to life in this book.

I’m thankful to Foner not only for those kind words about our book, but especially for all the work he’s done to shape our modern understanding of the Reconstruction era.

“Preoccupied with the challenges of our own time,” he writes in this New York Times essay, “Americans will probably devote little attention to the sesquicentennial of Reconstruction, the turbulent era that followed the conflict.”

Not if I can help it.

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16. Bartography Express for March 2015, featuring The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

This month, at least one subscriber to my Bartography Express newsletter — maybe more! — will win a copy of my new brand-new book.

To celebrate next week’s publication of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (illustrated by Don Tate, and published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers), the children’s department staffers at Austin’s BookPeople came up with several questions for me to answer. I hope you enjoy my answers as much as I appreciate their questions.

If you’re not already receiving Bartography Express, click the image below for a look. If you like what you see, click “Join” in the bottom right corner, and you’ll be in the running for the giveaway next week. Good luck!

20150326 Bartography Express

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17. What we do for fun around here

Three of us, anyway — my 11-year-old human boy, our terrier-dachshund mix, Ernie, and yours truly.

We’ve been attending agility classes every week or two for the past year. Some days are more agile than others, though. The above video was from two weeks ago. The photo below is from this morning, when Ernie misjudged the dimensions of the pottery he was gratuitously leaping over.

Not so agile after all

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18. All the college kidlit conferences (as of March 2015)

Or, more formally, “A Comprehensive List of U.S. College- and University-Sponsored or -Hosted Children’s and Young Adult Literature Conferences, Festivals, and Symposia.” (All of them that I could find, anyway).

A few years ago, I was looking for such a list, wondered why I couldn’t find one, and decided to just go ahead and make one myself.

Since then, I’ve periodically updated and reposted it, and I plan to continue doing so. If I’ve missed any, or included some that no longer exist, won’t you please let me know in the comments section?

Arizona
University of Arizona Tucson Festival of Books

California
University of Redlands Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Literature Festival

Connecticut
University of Connecticut Connecticut Children’s Book Fair

Georgia
Kennesaw State University Conference on Literature for Children and Young Adults
The University of Georgia Children’s Literature Conference

Illinois
Northern Illinois University Children’s Literature Conference

Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio
Northern Kentucky University, Thomas More College, University of Cincinnati, and Xavier University Ohio Kentucky Indiana Children’s Literature Conference

Kentucky
University of Kentucky McConnell Conference

Maryland
Frostburg State University Spring Festival of Children’s Literature
Salisbury University Read Green Festival

Massachusetts
Framingham State University Children’s Literature Festival
Simmons College Children’s Literature Summer Institute

Minnesota
St. Cloud State University Children’s Literature Workshop
University of Minnesota Kerlan Award Ceremony
University of St. Thomas Hubbs Children’s Literature Conference

Missouri
University of Central Missouri Children’s Literature Festival

Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival

Nebraska
Concordia University Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival

New Hampshire
Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival

New Jersey
Montclair State University New Jersey Council of Teachers of English Spring Conference
Rutgers University One-on-One Plus Conference

New York
Manhattan College 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference
Stony Brook University – Southampton Southampton Children’s Literature Conference

Ohio
Bowling Green State University Literacy in the Park
Kent State University Virginia Hamilton Conference
Ohio State University 2016 Children’s Literature Association Conference (ChLA 2016)
The University of Findlay Mazza Museum Summer Conference and Weekend Conference
Youngstown State University English Festival

Pennsylvania
Kutztown University Children’s Literature Conference

Texas
Sam Houston State University Jan Paris Bookfest: Children’s & YA Conference
Texas A&M University – Commerce Bill Martin Jr Memorial Symposium

Utah
Brigham Young University Symposium on Books for Young Readers
Utah Valley University Forum on Engaged Reading

Virginia
The College of William and Mary Joy of Children’s Literature Conference
Longwood University Summer Literacy Institute and Virginia Children’s Book Festival
Shenandoah University Children’s Literature Conference

Washington
Western Washington University Children’s Literature Conference

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19. The stunning cover of ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America

Sometimes my dog will be sitting in my lap, being hugged and petted on, and he will begin to whine and whimper as if there’s still not enough affection getting expressed, as if it’s impossible that there could ever be any demonstration that would measure up to the love he feels.

It has long seemed absurd to me, but I think I finally get it. I do.

Because, y’all, I just can’t love this enough:

Nutcracker_frontcover

This is what the front of my upcoming book with Millbrook Press, ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition, will look like. It’s illustrator Cathy Gendron‘s first picture book, and I think she’s done just an astounding job.

I love how Willam, Harold, and Lew Christensen pop right off the page even amid the terrific onstage action. I love the shade of blue that the scene is bathed in. I love the swords. I love everything about this cover.

The book will be out this coming fall, and I hope to be able to share with you some of the interior illustrations soon. (If you’re at the Texas Library Association conference in April, maybe you can even see an advance copy in person.)

But in the meantime, here’s what the entire jacket — front, back, and flaps — looks like:

Nutcracker_jacket

Whine. Whimper.

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20. A starred review from Publishers Weekly for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch!

John Roy Lynch final cover

You know, when you spend the better part of a decade working on a 50-page picture book, I suppose it’s OK to get a little excited when Publishers Weekly both gets and appreciates what you were going for all those years:

The whole thing is available here, but this is my favorite part:

Barton offers an immersive, engaging, and unflinching portrait of the difficulties of the Reconstruction era, while Tate’s cartoonlike artwork softens moments of cruelty and prejudice without diminishing them.

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21. Bartography Express for February 2015, featuring Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s Fish in a Tree

This month, one subscriber to my Bartography Express newsletter will win a copy of Fish in a Tree (Penguin) by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

If you’re not already receiving Bartography Express, click the image below for a look. If you like what you see, click “Join” in the bottom right corner, and you’ll be in the running for the giveaway at the end of this week.

20150224 Bartography Express

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22. A big giveaway by Two Writing Teachers

Two Writing Teachers giveaway

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is just one of ten titles (all shown above) that will be given away later this week at the Two Writing Teachers blog.

In addition to the giveaway, Stacey Shubitz provides a lot of thoughtful commentary on how each of these ten titles can be used to help young writers improve their skills. For example, here’s some of what Stacey says about The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch:

Like Seeds of Freedom, this book is also crafted with strong voice, which makes it worthy of studying. Sometimes the voice is created with variations in the print (e.g., italics). While many sentences tend to be longer, there are some places with short sentences which cause readers to pause. Often punctuation is used to create voice. For instance, Barton often uses dashes, instead of commas, emphasize, interrupt, or change thoughts in the middle of sentences. Barton also used dashes to create longer or more dramatic pauses in sentences. This picture book is 50 pages long, which means there are LOTS of things you can study alongside students in order to figure out what makes this text work well.

Thank you, Stacey — and good luck to all you Bartography readers who enter the giveaway!

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23. “5, 4, 3, 2, 1″ with Nerdy Book Club co-founder Colby Sharp

54321-InterviewMichigan teacher, Nerdy Book Club co-founder, and Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! enthusiast Colby Sharp has a nifty series on his sharpread blog called the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Interview. Last week, I had the opportunity to answer his five questions with ever-briefer answers — though, to be honest, I sort of gamed the system with lots of long, dash-enhanced sentences. Have a look!

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24. “Why Study Reconstruction?”

It’s still a month away from the publication date of my book with Don Tate​, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, the true story of a young man who rose from slavery to the U.S. Congress during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

About that latter, terribly overlooked period, I could not ask for a better summation of why it’s such an important era in U.S. history than this three-minute video published today by Facing History and Ourselves​. I hope you’ll watch it and be inspired to learn more.

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25. Comment on Q&A with Trent Reedy, author of Burning Nation by Jack

will there be a third book to the divided we fall series if so whats the name of the book

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