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1. 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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2. “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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3. 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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4. Win a limited-edition poster for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch…

…and a copy of the book! But you’ve got only a few days to enter. Get the details here.


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5. See You In L.A.!

And as we say in Los Angeles, "That's a wrap!"

Thank you for joining us here on the Official SCBWI Conference blog!

Lee Wind (top), and left to right: Jolie Stekly, Jaime Temairik, Martha Brockenbrough and Don Tate!

We hope you'll join Team Blog from July 31-Aug 3, 2015 in Los Angeles for all the craft, business, inspiration, opportunity and community the SCBWI Summer Conference offers!

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6. John Roy Lynch, and the 100th anniversary of The Birth of a Nation

Rather than share the Klan-glorifying poster for The Birth of a Nation, here's a depiction from The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

Rather than share the Klan-glorifying poster for The Birth of a Nation, I thought I’d offer this depiction from The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

There’s been lots published this weekend about the 100th anniversary of D. W. Griffith’s film The Birth of a Nation — about how its technical greatness and unprecedented box-office success were at least matched and arguably surpassed by the vileness of its racist depictions of African Americans.

From Vulture:

By one way of reckoning, this week — February 8, to be exact — can be called the 100th birthday of the medium that many of us have spent our lives enthralled with: the feature film. But don’t expect any parades, fireworks, grand speeches, or other shows of celebration. That’s because the film that premiered at Clune’s Auditorium in Los Angeles on February 8, 1915, was D. W. Griffith’s The Clansman, soon to be retitled The Birth of a Nation — the most virulently racist major movie ever released in the U.S.

From A.V. Club:

Birth Of A Nation is the movie where many of the values associated with American filmmaking—complex intercutting, massed crowds of extras contrasted with close-ups of actors, carefully edited suspense and chase scenes—get their first really clear, fully formed expression. It’s also unquestionably white supremacist and racist. It represents a key point in the history of American art, and is animated by some of the ugliest rhetoric America ever produced.

From the BBC:

The film is credited with reviving the racist KKK, who adopted it as a recruitment tool. “The Ku Klux Klan had been kind of a dead organisation by 1915, but when the film [came out and became a hit] the KKK was refounded, capitalised on [the film’s success] and in the 1920s became a massive organisation at the peak of nativist fervour in the United States,” says Paul McEwan.

From The Record:

“The Birth of a Nation” was the last straw for [William Monroe] Trotter. A proud intellectual (Harvard’s first black Phi Beta Kappa student) and a proud “race man,” Trotter was appalled, like many African-Americans, by Griffith’s film. And he was appalled that President Woodrow Wilson, whom he had rallied black voters to support, had screened “The Birth of a Nation” in the White House — the first film to be shown there.

And from The New York Post:

What makes “Birth’’ most offensive is its depiction of its black characters — all of the prominent ones performed by white actors in blackface — during Reconstruction. Griffith depicts defeated Southerners being terrorized (and even disenfranchised from voting) by illiterate, corrupt and uncouth former slaves (seeking interracial marriage) under the influence of white Northern carpetbaggers. (A view still held by many 1915 historians, but long ago discredited).

“Long ago discredited,” yes, but still at least indirectly influential. Modern historians have given Reconstruction a bit of the attention that it deserves, but there’s been exactly one hugely commercially successful depiction of that period in the American story, and it’s Griffith’s movie.

Whether audiences at the time of The Birth of a Nation‘s release accepted Griffith’s vision, or whether they were repulsed by it and just wanted to forget the whole thing, it’s not hard to see how those attitudes could get passed along — through families, and through our schools, and through our culture in general. And with no competing mainstream force to counter the impressions left by such a film, what’s to stop them from lingering among us?

John Roy Lynch final coverWhich brings me to The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch. More specifically, it brings me to a period in Lynch’s long life not covered by the main text in my upcoming book with Don Tate.

Our book focuses on his early years — his rise from slavery to the U.S. House of Representatives in just ten years. But after his stints in Congress, and after his service as a major in the Army during the Spanish-American War, Lynch became a historian. He had a central goal in mind: “placing before the public accurate and trustworthy information relative to Reconstruction” in the wake of much misinformation about that period.

From the timeline in The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch:

1913 — Writes The Facts of Reconstruction to correct racist distortions put forth by white historians.

1915 — The Birth of a Nation, a Hollywood film misrepresenting Reconstruction and glorifying the Klan, becomes wildly popular and warps Americans’ views of history for generations to come.

His timing, you can see, wasn’t great. And, more crucially, and his medium was no match for Griffith’s.

But John Roy Lynch had — and has — history on his side. And I remain optimistic that his vision can ultimately win out.

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7. How this nonfiction PB “Jes’ Happened”

Children’s book illustrator Don Tate never thought of himself as a writer, despite his many children’s author, publishing and librarian friends — a small army’s worth — and being surrounded by journalists all day in his work as a graphics reporter for the Austin American Statesman.  He’s illustrated more than 40 educational books and 11 children’s [...]

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8. Black History Month: Why Remember Bill Traylor?

Everyone knows Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr., but there are many other African Americans who have contributed to the rich fabric of our country but whose names have fallen through the cracks of history.

We’ve asked some of our authors who chose to write biographies of these talented leaders why we should remember them. We’ll feature their answers throughout Black History Month.

Today, Don Tate shares why he wrote about Bill Traylor in It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw:


Bill Traylor was an “outsider artist.” He learned to draw in much the same way that I learned to paint: by trial and error. He taught himself to draw. Somehow I felt an immediate kinship to Bill. In his day, Bill’s art sold for about 10- to 25-cents and was panned by art critics as “primitive.” Today Bill’s art is collected by top art connoisseurs, and is on display in museums all over the world, selling for thousands of dollars. I love these kinds of stories where the “outsider” gets the glory.

Bill had an inborn – I believe God-given – talent that came forth in time of great need. That spoke to me, too. It supported my belief that all people are born equipped with everything needed to overcome great obstacles in life and do great things.


I think it’s important for children to be exposed to a variety of historical figures. Black history is not limited to the one or two people that are so often written and published about. In addition to civil rights, African Americans have made great contributions to science and technology, arts and literature, sports and entertainment, education and business. Bill Traylor was an artist, but he was also a journalist, though he may not have realized it. And a historian, too.Through his art, he documented an important part of American history that will be appreciated for many hundreds of years to come.

Further reading:

Black History Month: Why Remember Florence “Baby Flo” Mills?

Black History Month: Why Remember Robert Smalls?

Black History Month: Why Remember Toni Stone?

Black History Month: Why Remember Arthur Ashe?

Black History Month Book Giveaway

Filed under: Musings & Ponderings Tagged: African American interest, bill traylor, biography, black history month, don tate, dreams and aspirations, It Jes' Happened, nonfiction, overcoming obstacles, painting, slavery, united states history

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9. When you write, and someone else draws…

It’s a unique opportunity when an illustrator can also write stories that other artists can render. This happened to Don Tate when he wrote It Jes’ Happened, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

Check out this excellent discussion between Anne Rockwell and Don Tate, at Anne’s site.

“…While I could have illustrated the story, my illustration styles weren’t the perfect match for the text. My editor wanted the art to be edgy, gritty. I wanted to go with an illustrator who had broader name recognition than myself. Greg Christie became one of our top choices.”—Don Tate

Original art by Bill Traylor

Remember this if you encounter a book editor who loves your story, but suggests that another illustrator provide the art. Don’t insist on all (doing both story and pictures) or nothing.

If a publisher is seriously interested in acquiring one component, make sure to ask why. Decisions like these are made for the good of the project.

Art from

Art from “It Jes’ Happened” by Greg Christie click to enlarge

Editors want your book to sell as many copies as possible. One practical consideration is name recognition. Newcomers tend to forget that buyers invariably prefer to request a familiar name or brand, when they shop, even in bookstores or libraries. Publishers also need to see how your name fares out there initially, in the mutual interest of nurturing a new career for the long term.

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Summer is ending and the garden is winding down. I’m harvesting fewer veggies and making plans to prepare amend my soil over the winter. Next

Fall Crop: Rutabaga

Fall Crop: Rutabaga

year, I simply want a wider variety of vegetables. I need to move to a plot that gets full sun in the early morning, but I’m not sure how well that will work out.

And, as the garden winds down the library is gearing up for the school year. This week I’ve got classes to teach and a graduate student open house to staff. I’m meeting at CANDLES Holocaust Museum to develop a docent program, finishing up a project with National Geographic to align some of their books to the Core Curriculum and I have this idea for an article that I want to develop. And, my BFYA pile is growing again! I admit it’s still out of control, but I’m planning strategic days at home over the next few months to do nothing but read. And, my weekends are completely and boringly void of everything except books.

I think most people want others to be aware of the work they do and the

Weekly Harvest of Books!

Weekly Harvest of Books!

Internet is the perfect venue for sharing our successes. Have you ever done a search for someone and found nothing on them?

Do you ever search your own name? This morning, I used Google, Bing and Yahoo to search for myself. Using my full name, I got a lot of hits for obituaries of dead white women. I used to find curriculum units I prepared or programs I participated in but now, I suppose those things are just too old.

When I shortened my first name to “Edi” and eliminated “Edie” from my search, I got a few things related to my blog, a video that I think is about a singer in Latin h America and advice on how to dress like Edi Campbell, most probably the other Edi Campbell.

Now, I’m not trying to use the ‘net to claim my 3 minutes of fame but I do know that there is a very good chance I’ll be looking for another job or two. Face it, employers search to see what they can find out about us. About.me is a nice, new tool that allows users to create their own home page and establish their professional image. It would be good for students entering the job market as well as for the seasoned professional who has little else online.

Fall crop: cabbage sprouts

Fall crop: cabbage sprouts

Get your name out there and make a difference in YA: apply to be a CYBILS judge.  Self nominations are due by 30 August.

The winners of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize were recently announced and make wonderful reading choices for young readers.

Don’t leave the young people out of the celebrations of the anniversary of the March on Washington. My favorite post to help bring them into the conversation is Don Tate’s listing of picture and nonfiction books. Throughout the year, educator’s can turn to ALA’s newly released Multi-ethnic books for the middle school curriculum.

We just can’t get around the fact that life is diverse, can we? So many different things to keep us busy!

Filed under: Sunday Reads Tagged: ask, BFYA, Common Core, Don Tate, gardening, me, National Geographic, online image

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11. Those other robots have WHAT?

There’s a lot that I love about this recent presentation by Lonnie Johnson — rocket scientist, Super Soaker inventor, and pursuer of solutions to the world’s energy problems.

But my favorite part starts at the 5:22 mark with “When I was a kid…” He goes on to discuss how Lost in Space and Robbie the Robot inspired him as a teenager in the 1960s to build his own robot. Except that…

“Nobody told me that the other robots that I was watching [on TV] had people inside.”

Even if he had known, I doubt he would have let it stop him.

And if you’re thinking that Lonnie Johnson would make a great subject for a picture book biography, Don Tate and I agree. Our book, Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super Stream of Ideas, will be published by Charlesbridge in 2016.

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12. Introducing BookPeople’s Modern First Library

Modern First LibraryI wrote in my newsletter last week about my new project with BookPeople. “Our hope,” I wrote, “is that by leveraging the longstanding popularity of Margaret Wise Brown, for instance, Modern First Library will get more great new books representing an increasingly broad swath of our society into more homes and into more readers’ hands. If this grassroots approach works, we hope that other booksellers will emulate it in their own communities and that it will encourage publishers to create and support more books reflecting the diversity in our world.”

Today, I’m pleased to share the Austin indie bookseller’s blog post officially launching the initiative:

Under the banner of this program, we will be featuring a broad range of books, new and old, that we think belong on the shelves of the very youngest readers.

BookPeople is committed to helping all kids find books that broaden their idea of what’s possible, provide fresh perspectives, and open windows to new experiences: all the things that great children’s books always do. And because we live in the vibrant, global society of the 21st century, our book suggestions have been purposefully designed to reflect the diversity of that experience. After all, a child’s first library offers his or her first glimpses of the world outside the family’s immediate sphere, and we think that view needs to reflect a reality that’s broad, inclusive, and complex, just like the world we all live in.

Please have a look at what BookPeople’s children’s book buyer has to say about Modern First Library, and stay tuned for guest posts on the subject by Austin authors Cynthia Leitich Smith, Don Tate, Liz Scanlon, Varian Johnson, and me. In the meantime, check out the Modern First Library starter sets — the folks at BookPeople have worked hard to put those together, and it shows.

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13. Picture book biographies coming in 2015

Illustration by Adam Gustavson from Fab Four Friends

Illustration by Adam Gustavson
from Fab Four Friends

Inspired by Greg Leitich Smith’s annual list of books from our Austin writing community, I thought I’d start compiling the picture book biographies scheduled for publication in 2015 (including a pair of mine).

I know there are lots more picture book biographies on their way from publishers recognized by SCBWI, so if you’re interested in helping keep this list reasonably complete and up to date, please let me know in the comments which ones ought to be added. I’ll update and republish this post on a regular basis.

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Eerdmans), written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Don Tate

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael Lopez

Earmuffs for Everyone!: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books), written and illustrated by Meghan McCarthy

Elvis: The Story of the Rock and Roll King (Henry Holt), written and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen

Emmanuel’s Dream (Schwartz & Wade), written by Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Qualls

Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt), written by Susanna Reich and illustrated by Adam Gustavson

The Founding Fathers! Those Horse-Ridin’, Fiddle-Playin’, Book-Readin’, Gun-Totin’ Gentlemen Who Started America (Atheneum), written by Jonah Winter and illustrated by: Barry Blitt

The Hole Story of the Doughnut (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), written by Pat Miller

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams (Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano Books), written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Kathryn Brown

In Mary’s Garden (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), written and illustrated by Tina and Carson Kugler

One Plastic Bag (Millbrook), written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Pioneers & Pirouettes: The Story of the First American Nutcracker

(Millbrook), written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Cathy Gendron

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton (Peachtree), written and illustrated by Don Tate

Step Right Up: The Story of Beautiful Jim Key (Lee & Low), written by Donna Bowman Bratton and illustrated by Daniel Minter

Trombone Shorty (Abrams), written by Troy Andrews and illustrated by Bryan Collier

Vivien Thomas – The Man Who Saved the Blue Babies (Lee & Low), written by Gwendolyn Hooks

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14. Mr. Schu reveals the cover of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

John Roy Lynch cover tease

Over at his blog Watch. Connect. Read., librarian John Schumacher has unveiled the cover of my spring 2015 picture book biography, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers).

So please go, feast your eyes on Don Tate’s artwork, and enjoy a few words from me about the unusual journeys of our subject and our book alike.

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15. In which I talk with Katie Davis about gaming, writing, marketing, and 85 or so other things

Podcast Archives - Author Katie Davis  Video Marketing for Writers

I’m a few days late to the party, thanks to my participation in the YALSA and ILF events, but I’m happy this morning to share with you this recently recorded interview I did for Katie Davis’ kidlit podcast, Brain Burps About Books.

In addition to discussing Shark Vs. Train and Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!, Katie and I talked quite a bit about my email newsletter, Bartography Express, which I wrote about earlier this year for Cynsations. And in fact, while I was listening to our interview, I was actually putting the finishing touches on this month’s edition.

The November edition includes, among other things, a Q&A with K.A. Holt and a giveaway of her new book, Rhyme Schemer. If you want to receive this issue in your very own inbox and get in the running for the giveaway, you can sign up on my home page.

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16. What a way to end one year and start another

John Roy Lynch for Christmas

I don’t remember how I spent Christmas of 2006, but according to the files on my computer I spent at least part of the day doing my very first bit of documented work on what would become The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

Eight years later, look what arrived as a late Christmas/early New Year’s gift! It’s my very first finished copy of that book, and it’s gorgeous. Illustrator Don Tate and the folks at Eerdmans Books for Young Readers have done a marvelous job, and I’ve so enjoyed getting to show the book off to friends and family over the holidays.

The publication date is April 2, so there’s not much longer to wait for this book. And, really, having already waited more than eight years for it, three more months isn’t long at all.

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17. Welcoming Don Tate to Team Blog for #NY15SCBWI

Lee Wind: We’re so excited you'll be joining us as part of SCBWI team blog for the upcoming winter conference!

Don Tate: If you all are excited then I am ecstatic! I attended a national conference in LA a few years back. It was a blast. I can’t wait to attend the New York conference, covering it as a blogger. I take this job to heart; I may even wear the hat.

Lee: You’re an author/illustrator or should I say, an illustrator/author. Which came first, and how did the second evolve?

Don: I’ve been an illustrator of children’s books and educational products for more than 30 years. But it took writing a book before anyone began to notice me. I started writing about 10 years ago, when I wrote the first draft for It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw. I guess that makes me an illustrator-author. Thing is, I love writing as much as illustrating. As a matter of fact, I just finished writing a short story that will be included in a middle grade anthology. I. Loved. Writing. That. Story! Longterm, I’d like to focus more of my career on telling stories with words—a chapter book, novel, graphic novel.

Lee: What do you want people to know about you?

Don: That I like hamburgers. And Twizzlers. I’m a newly converted chocolate lover, too. But really. I think most people who follow me on social networks think I’m an outgoing guy—the life of the party. I am not. I can’t emphasize that enough. I’m an introvert to the nth degree. But I love the children’s book business. It’s the one thing that seems to draw me out of my shell.

Lee: What don't you want us to know?wait! don't tell us!

Don: I’m a kidlit author and illustrator fanboy. Children’s book authors and illustrators and editors
Don Tate stealing a selfie with "Bad Kitty" Nick Bruel
are my heroes. When I attend conferences where I am a featured book creator, I spend a lot of time chasing down my favorite authors and illustrators. I once cornered a famous author hero in the men’s restroom at a big library conference and ask for a selfie. Don’t believe me, just ask Nick Bruel.

Lee: What are you most looking forward to about the conference and about being part of team blog?

Don: Well again, I’m a kidlit guy so I look forward to meeting and mingling with my tribe, as Lin Oliver would say. As far as the blog, I’m gonna be like one of those annoying red carpet reports (that everyone enjoys following). I plan to bring the Who, What, Where, When and Why. The conference will be fun, and so I hope to make it an enjoyable experience for those who won’t be in attendance, but who want to follow along.

Oh, and by the way, you can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Lee: Okay, That's it. quick and easy! See you there!

For more or information about Don, see his website!
Don Tate is an award-winning author, and the illustrator of numerous critically acclaimed books for children, including The Cart That Carried Martin, (Charlesbridge); Hope’s Gift, (Penguin); Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite (Charlesbridge); and Ron’s Big Mission, (Penguin). He is also the author of It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started To Draw (Lee & Low Books, 2102), an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor winner. His upcoming titles include The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Illustrator, Eerdmans, 2015), and Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton (Author and illustrator, Peachtree, 2015). Don is a founding host of the The Brown Bookshelf –a blog dedicated to books for African American young readers; and a member of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his family.

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18. Bartography Express for January 2015, featuring Trent Reedy’s Burning Nation

This month, one subscriber to my Bartography Express newsletter will win a copy of Burning Nation (Scholastic), the second book in Trent Reedy’s Divided We Fall YA trilogy

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.

20150122 Bartography Express

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Don Tate and Allosaurus

Don Tate is the illustrator of more than forty books for children.  His two most recent books are SHE LOVED BASEBALL: THE EFFA MANLEY STORY, written by Audrey Vernick (HarperCollins 2010), and RON'S BIG MISSION, written by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden (Penguin 2009).  Both were Junior Library Guild Selections, and SHE LOVED BASEBALL made the Bank Street College Best Children's Books of the Year List for 2011.

Don's next book is DUKE ELLINGTON'S NUTCRACKER SUITE, written by Anna Harwell Celenza (Charlesbridge, November 2011).  In addition, Don is the author of the forthcoming IT JES' HAPPENED: WHEN BILL TRAYLOR STARTED TO DRAW, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Lee & Low, Spring 2012).

Above, Don poses with the Allosaurus in the rotunda of the American Museum of Natural History, New York.

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20. Build your interactive children’s book – win an iPad2!

Illustrators can now jump with both feet into digital publishing with the help of some free software and a contest launched by InteractBooks.com

“What better way to showcase all that our InteractBuilder e-book software can do on the iPad and iPhone than holding a contest to find the very best interactive book it can make?” asks the Interact Books website .

“And who better than you to produce this book by using your developer talent and our app software for the Mac and PC?”

A Youtube video doesn’t do the reading experience justice, but an actual iPad encounter with The Tortoise and the Hairpiece by Don Winn, illustrated by Toby Heflin and distributed on the Apple iTunes store demonstrates how the touch screen interactions and subtle animations of an interactive book (let’s call it an i-book) make for a whole new storytelling language.

I-books or interactive e-books aren’t quite the same as the e-books now making headlines for trouncing paperbacks in sales at Amazon.com.

They’re a new animal — maybe a new art form, and it may be months or even years before anyone knows where this fusion of interactivity and literacy is going, aesthetically or commercially speaking. Developers and a few publishers are delving into the format, but no leader for an interactive book-building engine or platform has emerged — yet.


In the meantime Austin, Texas based-InteractBooks wants to push the innovation timeline up a little by launching the first ever contest for an interactive children’s book. Entries must be built with their free InteractBuilder software.

First place prize – 16gb white or black WIFI iPad2, or $500.  lnteractBooks will  also publish your title and give you a three year membership in the InteractBuilder community (a $300 value)

  • 2nd Place wins a 32gb iPodTouch or $200* and a two-year membership to the InteractBuilder community.
  • 3rd Place yields a $100 Best Buy Gift Card and a one-year membership to the InteractBuilder community.

All runners up and anyone entering the contest with an InteractBuilder-approved book will have a free year’s membership in the InteractBooks builders community. 

The deadline is September 18 and the winner will be announced  October 1, which doesn’t give you much time.

InteractBooks logo

That’s why the InteractBook folks are encouraging illustrators and authors to mull over the books they’ve already done, published or unpublished, with pictures and text ready to go — and see how they might adapt their story to this new media

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21. Let Kids Read Comic Books . . . D’uh!

Instead of “Let Kids Read Comic Books,” I almost titled this entry, “Don’t Be an Idiot.” Because I can’t believe this needs to be discussed anymore.

Over at Imagination Soup, they ran a good piece with a solid message: “8 Reasons to Let Your Kids Read Comics.“ Check it out, there’s a lot of worthwhile links attached to the article.

Here’s their list of “8 reasons” in brief.

1. Comics are fun to read.

2. Comics contain the same story elements and literary devices as narrative stories.

3. Comics provide built-in context clues.

4. Reading a comic is a different process of reading using a lot of inference.

5. Readers need variety in their reading diet.

6. We’re a visual culture and the visual sequence makes sense to kids.

7. Reading comics may lead to drawing and writing comics.

8. The selection of graphic novels is bigger, better, and reaches a wider age-range than before.

Yeah, feh, okay. I get that. We have to establish that comics are credible resources, that it’s valid in the classroom, and there’s a perceived need to throw in a lot of pedagogical goobledygook. But I don’t care. Because one thing I know in my bones is that many (many!) professional authors began their childhood love of reading with comic books. Those authors are almost always men (read: ex-boys).

They read what they wanted to. They read what they liked. They read, period.

One of the critically important aspect of this issue of “boys reading junk” is that well-meaning adults — and in particular, women — need to become sensitized to our bias against certain types of reading. We have to become aware of the messages we send to boy readers, the disapproving, dismissive way we view personal choices.

We must trust in the process.

When I was working on my belly-up blog, Fathers Read, I received written contributions from several children’s book authors, including Matthew Cordell, Lewis Buzbee, Michael Northrop, Eric Velasquez, and Jordan Sonnenblick. One recurring strain in their reflections on their lives as young readers was the love

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22. Thanksgiving Dinosaurs!

Turkey, from Wikipedia
Happy Day-After Thanksgiving, everyone!

This year, Cynthia and I hosted a bunch of writers and illustrators for Thanksgiving dinner.

What does that have to do with dinosaurs?  Well, birds are dinosaurs (check out this nifty page at the University of California Paleo Museum), which means that our main course (Meleagris gallopavo) is, as well.  In particular, it is a saurisichian, theropodan, tetanuran, maniraptoran dinosaur.  Check out this graphic for even more Thanksgiving turkey paleo-geekiness.

Chris Barton (THE DAY GLO BROTHERS, SHARK VS. TRAIN, and CAN I SEE YOUR ID?) and I joined Don Tate (dinosaur post)(DUKE ELLINGTON'S NUTCRACKER SUITE, IT JES HAPPENED: WHEN BILL TRAYLOR STARTED TO DRAW, and many more) for the annual Turkey Trot.  Now, I'd never done the Turkey Trot before, but I usually sneak in a three-mile run the morning of Thanksgiving, just because it makes me feel better :-).

All in all, it was an enormously fun event -- well organized and a picturesque route up and around downtown and near west Austin.  I discovered, however, that I am woefully out of shape :-).  

After the race, it was time to stuff the turkey! 

I do a traditional giblet and bread stuffing and cook the thing in the oven.  On occasion, I've been tempted to try frying it or even grilling it, but we're still under a burn ban.  And, besides, this way I get stuffing, which is almost my favorite part of the me

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23. Video Sunday: Needing, Getting, Happenings, and Girls

My general rule is that unless I find three good videos in a given week I am inclined to skip Video Sunday.  And the last week or two has been a difficult one.  Sometimes videos with a children’s literature connection sprout up like weeds.  Other times they’re rarities.  Today, I’m pleased to have found my minimum (plus the usual off-topic goodness).  First and foremost up there, a book I am incredibly excited about and looking forward to.  The trailer reminds me of Reading Rainbow, in the best possible way.

Then, naturally, we follow that up with the Battle of the (Kids’) Books trailer.  The Downton Abbey music did throw me for a second, though.

This one’s from a Scottish poet as a kind of ode to women who read.  Workplace friendly?  You’re call.  May as well play it safe, I suppose.

Thanks to Sue Banner for the link.

And finally, I’m only human. When a new OK GO video is out, I pay attention.  Even if it’s part car ad.  For the record this is real.  Not done in post or anything.

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24. Review of the Day: It Jes’ Happened by Don Tate

It Jes’ Happened
By Don Tate
Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Lee & Low Books
ISBN: 978-1-60060-260-3
Ages 5-9
On shelves April 1st

Teaching kids about outsider art feels like a no-brainer to me. Which is to say, why doesn’t it happen more often? Perhaps there’s a feeling that educating kids on the self-taught is ultimately self-defeating. Can’t say as I agree, of course. Seems to me that learning about the great outsider artists could give a kid a kind of hope. This is particularly true in the case of Bill Traylor. Here you have a guy who lived a whole life, discovered an artistic calling near the end, and remains remembered where before he might have been forgotten. It makes for an interesting lesson and, to my relief, and even more interesting book. In It Jes’ Happened Don Tate and R. Gregory Christie pair up for the first time ever to present the life and art of an ordinary man who lived through extraordinary times.

He was born a slave, Bill Traylor was. Around 1854 or so Bill was born on a cotton plantation in Alabama. After the Civil War his parents stayed on as sharecroppers. After he grew up Bill ran a farm of his own with his wife and kids, but when Bill turned eighty-one he was alone on the farm by himself. With cane in hand he headed for Montgomery. It was there that he started drawing, for no immediately apparent reason. He’d draw on cardboard or discarded paper. After a time, a young artist took an interest in Bill, ultimately showing off his work in a gallery show. Bill enjoyed it but for him the drawing was the most important thing. An Afterword discusses Bill’s life and shows a photograph of him and a piece of his art.

When you’re writing a picture book biography of any artist the first problem you need to address is how to portray that person’s art in the book. If you’re the illustrator do you try to replicate the original artist’s work? Do you draw or paint in your own style and include small images of the artist’s original work? Or do you show absolutely none of the original art, trusting your readership to do that homework on their own? There is a fourth option, but I don’t know that I was aware of it before I read this book. You can hire an illustrator whose style is similar enough to the original artist that when the time comes to reference the original art they make their own version and then show the artist’s work at the end.

Now I’ll go out on a limb here and admit that I’ve never really been a huge fan of R. Gregory Christie’s style before. It’s one of those things I can appreciate on an aesthetic level but never really personally enjoy. Yet in this book I felt that Christie was really the only person who could do Traylor’s tale justice. I had initially wondered why he had been chosen (before reading the book, I might add) since author Don Tate

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25. Book Goings On

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Austin SCBWI monthly meeting at BookPeople.  The title of my talk was "The Impossible and the Improbable and Willing Suspension of Disbelief in Science Fiction and Fantasy."  The talk generally covered, among other things, the fact that reality is not realistic, and the discussion ranged from survival cannibalism to the Titanic to time travel in CHRONAL ENGINE.  A version of the speech will appear in this fall's Hunger Mountain.  If you're not already reading it, you should :-).

After a brief interlude, we celebrated the launch of IT JES' HAPPENED: WHEN BILL TRAYLOR STARTED TO DRAW (Lee and Low, 2012) with author Don Tate.  He provided the background of the book and how he and illustrator R. Gregory Christie interpreted the events in the life of the folk artist.

All in all, a fun way to spend a Saturday!  Thanks, everyone for coming, and happy reading!   

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