23 Sep

Writing what I’d love to learn

A post I wrote for the Nerdy Book Club has gone online, and I think you’ll like it. It’s titled “Write What You Know? Try Writing What You’d Love to Learn,” and it expands on a theme I discuss a lot in my school visits.

Here’s a taste:

As I write, I also discover more holes in what I know. My progress so far, however, gives me confidence that I’ll be able to fill those gaps, too. Students can fill those gaps as well. What I do, they can do — or learn to do. And I believe they can love it just as much.

If that doesn’t interest you, how about if you just come check out the 80-year-old footage of a pirouetting gas station attendant?

16 Sep

A 2nd starred review (from Booklist) for the Christensen brothers!

Christensens at barre

Things are shaping up nicely for Willam, Harold, and Lew Christensen, the subjects of my new book with Cathy Gendron, ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition (Millbook Press).

Here’s some of what ALA Booklist had to say in the starred review that it published this week:

Barton offers a lively, colorful text and follows up with a very informative time line, illustrated with period photos, in the back matter. In her picture-book debut, Gendron turns in a virtuoso performance. Her handsome illustrations capture the distinctive posture and poise of ballet dancers, while portraying even minor characters as individuals. Suffused with light and warmth, the varied, imaginative paintings include dynamic textured effects as well as an inventively used ribbon to tie pages together. Even readers familiar with The Nutcracker will probably learn a good deal from this engaging picture book. Bravo! Brava!

01 Sep

‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America is out today!

A mere 12 years, 6 months, and 23 days after I saved my first file on the topic of Utah-born Willam, Harold, and Lew Christensen, today marks the launch of my newest book, ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition.

Nutcracker_frontcover

It’s published by Lerner Books/Millbrook Press and gorgeously illustrated by Cathy Gendron, making what I think is a stellar picture-book debut. I’ve already shared the Huffington Post’s enthusiastic review of the book, but not yet these glowing notes from Margie Myers-Culver:

As surely as this ballet is a part of the Christmas season, you are going to want The Nutcracker Comes To America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created A Holiday Tradition written by Chris Barton with illustrations by Cathy Gendron to become a favorite read aloud with your students, children, family and friends. The story of these three brothers continuing to follow their passion despite life’s trials is truly inspirational. … This is nonfiction at its finest for all ages. At the close of the book the Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, Timeline, The Whole Shebang, In A Nutshell: A Summary Of The Nutcracker and Suggestions For Further Reading are must reads.

(Thanks, Margie!)

And if you’re looking to pair ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America with another new holiday-themed book featuring three siblings — bonus points if it, too, features a stage curtain on the cover — might I suggest the latest effort from my favorite author in the whole wide world? (That would be my wife, Jennifer Ziegler, of course!)

Revenge of the Angels

25 Jul

Bartography Express for July 2015, featuring Lindsey Lane’s Evidence of Things Not Seen

This month, one subscriber to my Bartography Express newsletter will win a copy of Evidence of Things Not Seen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Lindsey Lane.

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 next week.

20150723 Bartography Express

19 Jul

Huffington Post review of ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America

Vaudeville

Those of us who write for kids don’t write only for kids. We want our books to be shared and enjoyed widely. That’s why it’s so gratifying to me when one of my books for young readers gets acknowledged and appreciated by folks outside of the children’s literature world.

It doesn’t happen all that often, but it does happen: Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet got some splashy coverage on Boing Boing last year, and The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch has recently been included in the Charleston Syllabus.

And now, this review from the Huffington Post of my upcoming book ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition:

This is much more than the story of the transplanting of a famous Russian ballet. And not just a book for little girls who dream of dancing in tutus and pink satin pointe shoes. This is a real-life adventure story about “a trio of small-town Utah boys” with grit and talent, who bucked stereotypes, endured failures and persevered, and who individually and together enriched the cultural life of America.

Thank you, Carla Escoda, for this review, for your insight as a dancer, and for seeing all that illustrator Cathy Gendron, publisher Millbrook Press, and I tried to put into our book.

15 Feb

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.

27 Oct

A new title for my next* next book

For a decade now, I’ve had a book in the works about Willam, Harold, and Lew Christensen, the Utah-born brothers who had a huge influence in the development of ballet in the United States. Among their many contributions are the first full-length production of The Nutcracker in the US, in 1944.

And for pretty much all that time, this project — which will be published by Millbrook in fall 2015, with illustrations by Cathy Gendron — has gone by the name Pioneers & Pirouettes.

But no more.

As of this week, my Christensen brothers book is called…

The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition

You would think that, after knowing the book by one title for so long, it would be hard to switch to a new moniker. But in this case, nope.

I love this new title — the book itself has changed over the years, the story it tells has shifted, and this new title fits perfectly what this book has become.

RIP, Pioneers & Pirouettes. And long live The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition!

*As opposed to my next book, which is still called The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, the picture book biography of a young man who in ten years transformed from teenage field slave to US congressman. The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch will be published this coming April by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, with illustrations by Don Tate.

03 Aug

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

The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition (formerly known as Pioneers & Pirouettes: The Story of the First American Nutcracker; Millbrook), written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Cathy Gendron

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

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

12 Mar

Meet the illustrator for my 2015 book Pioneers & Pirouettes!

The text is done for Pioneers & Pirouettes: The Story of the First American Nutcracker, my 2015 title being published by Millbrook, and now it’s time for the illustrator to do her thing.

But first, how about if I tell you who the illustrator is?

Cathy Gendron
will be providing the images for this true story of how small-town Utah brothers Willam, Harold, and Lew Christensen got into dancing and passed through vaudeville on the way to turning an old Russian ballet into an American holiday tradition.

I’m excited as can be about the talent that Cathy brings to this project. I’d say that I can’t wait to see how she brings the Christensens alive on the page, but the fact is that I do have to wait. And you do, too.

So, in the meantime, here are some of my favorite pieces from Cathy’s portfolio:

Izzy Makes Waffles

Izzy Makes Waffles

Cleaning House

Cleaning House

Night Owl

Night Owl

Waiting for a Kiss

Waiting for a Kiss

River Walk, San Antonio

River Walk, San Antonio

Bayou Boogie

Bayou Boogie

The Whatchamacallit

The Whatchamacallit

Spreading the Love of Food

Spreading the Love of Food

Welcome aboard, Cathy!