10 Oct

School Library Journal weighs in (twice!) on Book or Bell?

One favorable writeup from School Library Journal would be a welcome thing for a soon-to-be-published book such as Book or Bell?, my upcoming (as in “due one week from today”) collaboration with Ashley Spires. So you can imagine how happy I am to see two such notices in SLJ.

First, there’s SLJ’s official review:

Designed to appeal to any child dreaming of the perfect read and a bit of control over their surrounding environment, this offering features plenty of action with a satisfying ending. A suggested general purchase for all libraries.

And while I love seeing the review quote my phrasing “mega-giga-decibel monstrosity illegal in seventeen states,” I especially love the reviewer’s description of the pivotal moment in the story as being the one when a boy’s teacher “discovers the call to his heart — a personal interest that builds and then surpasses his favorite book about bicycles.”

Then there’s the magazine’s roundup, Smiles of Bibliophiles: Celebrating Books and Reading:

Ultimately, a “mega-giga-decibel monstrosity,” which is more deafening than “the Daytona 500, a squadron of Blue Angels, and an army of door-to-door jackhammer sellers,” has a vibration strong enough to “jitter” and “jutter” clothing off individuals and fling backpacks “willy-nilly,” but leaves Henry unscathed and still reading. … Told with uproarious humor and illustrated with energetic, detail packed illustrations featuring a multicultural cast, Chris Barton and Ashley Spires’s Book or Bell? (Bloomsbury, Oct. 2017; K-Gr 4) will entertain youngsters while celebrating the intoxicating contentment of connecting with that perfect book.

If Henry’s love of his bike book is anything compared to my appreciation of SLJ right about now, then no wonder he doesn’t want to stop reading.

21 Sep

Get up, get out, get writing

On the occasion of the upcoming publication of Book or Bell? (illustrated by Ashley Spires and published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books), I’ve got a new guest post over at Mackin Books in Bloom about the intersection of physical activity and creative work.

Go have a look, will you? Here’s some of what I have to say:

The ending of Book or Bell? is a bit of a nod to one of my favorite pieces of writing advice: get outside and get active. Many story ideas have come to me while I’m walking or jogging through my neighborhood. They come from things I observe with my eyes, things I overhear (a good argument for leaving the earbuds at home), interactions with people I encounter, and random thoughts that occur to me while I’m on the move. Educators, if you ever need to point to someone to illustrate the benefits of recess, I’m your guy.

16 Jun

Good news from Kirkus — and from Kirkus!

Yesterday I went looking for the just-published Kirkus review of my next book, Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion, and to my surprise I also found a review of Book or Bell?, my other upcoming 2017 title.

To my delight, too, as both reviews have favorable things to say. Whew!

From the review of Book or Bell?:

[T]he text and artwork become silly to the point of laughter, as Henry’s refusal to leave his book causes a messy chain reaction… One elected official after another each demands louder bells, which cause increasingly more mayhem. … Finally, Ms. Sabio, who was rudely interrupted by the mayor when she tried to explain why Henry stayed put, saves the day with a simple solution. A zany, rollicking story with hilarious illustrations.

I’m glad to see that the reviewer loves Ashley Spires‘ art in Book or Bell? as much as I do, and the same goes for Victo Ngai‘s illustrations in Dazzle Ships.

From the Kirkus review of Dazzle Ships:

Ngai uses analog and digital media to great effect, from the dazzling cover (which will attract many readers all by itself) to the range of designs employed, applying an appropriate period aesthetic throughout. [I]t’s a fascinating volume about a little-known side of the war. An eye-catching title sure to dazzle.

Dazzle Ships will be published by Lerner Publishing/Millbrook Press September 1, and Book or Bell? is due out from Bloomsbury on October 17.

14 Jun

Coming from me & Ashley Spires in 2017: Book or Bell

This past Thursday’s PW Children’s Bookshelf included the news that I’ve got another new picture book on the way: Book or Bell, to be illustrated by Ashley Spires and scheduled to be published by Bloomsbury in spring 2017.

I bet whoever assembled that issue of the PW newsletter got a little chuckle out of how my author photo and Ashley’s illustrator photo fit together:

Barton Spires

It looks like I was mooning on one side of a wall and Ashley on the other, each of us thinking, “If only there were someone nearby that I could collaborate with on a picture book.”

That origin story for this project would have been a lot simpler than how things actually came about, which involves a YA nonfiction project that fell apart after the contract was signed and an entirely unrelated (or so I thought) picture book manuscript with a first draft that I saved on leap day in 2008.

It’s bonkers, really, but also sweet — sort of like the tale we tell in Book or Bell, about a schoolboy’s disruptive refusal to put down a captivating book, the outlandish means that the authorities resort to as they try to restore order, and the teacher who understands what’s really going on.

I can’t wait for you to be able to pick this book up. Maybe you’ll even refuse to put it down.