23 Nov

Modern First Library on KidLit TV

Modern First Library — the program that BookPeople and I began last year to encourage the purchase of diverse new titles along with classic picture books — was featured this past Friday on KidLit TV, with children’s buyer Meghan Goel and me interviewed about the program by author, pal, and all-around dynamo Phil Bildner.

I’m super-proud of Modern First Library, and I truly hope that other authors/illustrators and booksellers will get inspired and try this approach in their own communities. If you’d help spread the word about this program, I’d be mighty grateful — thankful, you might say. And could there be a better week for that?

20 Nov

Giving Back for the Holidays, Part 3: BookSpring

When Jennifer and I celebrate our new holiday-themed books with an event at Austin’s BookPeople on December 5, we’re going to spotlight the store’s annual Giving Tree charity program.

Guests buying any hardcover children’s book to donate to Giving Tree will be in the running for the giveaway of signed sets of Jennifer’s Revenge of the Angels and my own ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America.

Giving Tree is benefiting three local nonprofit organizations this year, and this week I’m telling you a little bit about each of them.

BookSpring

As stated in its mission, “BookSpring provides reading experiences, tools, and books to children and their families so they can develop a desire to read and succeed in school and life.”

BookSpring executive director Emily Cicchini elaborates:

BookSpring aims to reach 300,000 infants, toddlers, and young children in Central Texas. We want to influence the reading habits, not only of children, but also of whole families. Parents who have books get to read to their kids, creating a love for reading and a critical skill for future success. Those kids will read more and want more books—a perpetual circle of literacy.

We primarily serve children in low-income families, so we hope our influence will provide the advantage they may lack without sufficient reading resources at home. We want to reduce the number of high school drop-outs, welfare dependents, and even the number of prisoners. Our endeavors will help the children of today earn higher paying jobs and be contributing members of society in the future.

BookSpring is equipping children, families, and communities with the tools and skills required for long-term life success.

I truly appreciate Emily and all the BookSpring staff and volunteers for the vital work they do. And thank you, Bartography readers, for anything you can do to spread the word about BookSpring, the Giving Tree, or the BookPeople event on December 5.

18 Nov

Giving Back for the Holidays, Part 2: Saint Louise House

When Jennifer and I celebrate our new holiday-themed books with an event at Austin’s BookPeople on December 5, we’re going to spotlight the store’s annual Giving Tree charity program.

Guests buying any hardcover children’s book to donate to Giving Tree will be in the running for the giveaway of signed sets of Jennifer’s Revenge of the Angels and my own ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America.

Giving Tree is benefiting three local nonprofit organizations this year, and this week I’m telling you a little bit about each of them.

SLH_Logo_Landscape

The mission of Saint Louise House is “Empowering women with children to overcome homelessness in Central Texas.” But, says executive director Laura Ward, “it may be the children who live at Saint Louise House who gain the most.”

Here’s more of what Laura has to say about the organization she leads.

Children talk about their home at Saint Louise House with wonder of the most basic things: “I have a bed,” “I feel safe,” and “I get to go to school”.

Homelessness has a profound impact on children’s health and education, as well as mothers’ abilities to find a job and stay employed. Homeless children are hungry and sick more often. They are highly anxious. They wonder if they will have a roof over their heads at night and what will happen to their families. Many homeless children struggle in school, missing days, repeating grades, and some drop out entirely. The stress of being homeless leads to chronic and acute health problems, and has a profound negative effect on a child’s development and ability to learn. This uncertainty affects more children in our city than you might think.

The women living at Saint Louise House are determined to build better futures, especially for their children. Each of their journeys is unique, each goal and milestone exclusive, and it begins with the goodness that comes from having a place to call home.

Saint Louise House is a home where families can set goals, work together to achieve them, and kids can be kids. As we help moms with access to nutritious food, needed transportation and healthcare, we also help their children. This year, 85 children called Saint Louise House home. No longer feeling scared about the uncertainty of where they might sleep, these kids are busy doing all the things every mother wants for her children as they grow. They are attending school, learning, eating healthy, regular meals, getting good sleep, and following their interests. Children at Saint Louise House are playing outside on scooters and trikes; they are playing music – the bassoon, clarinet, oboe, flute, guitar and even saxophone; they are playing sports – football, basketball and tennis, they are dancing and cheerleading; they are creating art and even participating in chess club.

Perhaps most importantly, children at Saint Louise House are developing the confidence to overcome the adversity of their past, the resiliency to find joy in the present, and the courage to believe in a better future.

Thank you for sharing that, Laura, and for all the work that Saint Louise House does. And thank you, Bartography readers, for anything you can do to spread the word about Saint Louise House, the Giving Tree, or the BookPeople event on December 5.

16 Nov

Giving Back for the Holidays, Part 1: Women’s Storybook Project of Texas

When Jennifer and I celebrate our new holiday-themed books with an event at Austin’s BookPeople on December 5, we’re going to spotlight the store’s annual Giving Tree charity program.

Guests buying any hardcover children’s book to donate to Giving Tree will be in the running for the giveaway of signed sets of Jennifer’s Revenge of the Angels and my own ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America.

Giving Tree is benefiting three local nonprofit organizations this year, and this week I’m going to tell you a little bit about each of them.

WSP

The mission of the Women’s Storybook Project (WSP) of Texas is “Connecting children with their incarcerated moms through the joy of literature.”

Volunteers travel to women’s prisons in Texas to record mothers as they read books for their children. Judith Dullnig, director of WSP, explained to me how it works.

“The moms give a short message, read the book or a chapter of a book, give another message, then we mail the recording and book to their child,” Judith says. “This way the children have a chance to hear their moms read a story while she is away.”

Judith emphasizes the importance of the child hearing his mother’s voice, and she has shared some comments from some of these mothers:

“My child takes the book and recording to bed with him.”

“My child talks back to the tape recorder.” [WSP recorded on tapes then.]

“My child took the tape and book to ‘Show and Tell.'”

Just last week, WSP received this note from a child:

Dear Storybook Project,

I love the books and I want to read MORE, I enjoy it very much.

Thank you for bring me and my mom close together. When are the next books coming?

Senserliy,

[Child’s signature]

P.S. -I read my books with the C.D. all the time!

Thank U! [a heart around “thank you”]

Partners of these incarcerated mothers benefit from the program as well. Judith passed along these remarks from a husband:

Hello and Thanks Women’s Storybook Project,

My name is Jack and my wife is serving sentence and away from our daughter. We received the CD and book package from you. Our daughter was so excited when we received the brown package with her name on it. And when she saw that it was the story from her mommy she was even more excited. It was she and mommy had come together.

The timing of the package was so perfect because it was at her birthday and this was such a special gift because it was from mommy whom she loves so much. She has shown it to everyone who has been at our home. She cherishes this special gift and even wants to sleep with it. Thanks so much and I hope that the Project touches every as it has touched our lives.

And thank you, Bartography readers, for anything you can do to spread the word about WSP, the Giving Tree, or the BookPeople event on December 5.

15 May

A first look at Jennifer Ziegler’s next book

Those of you who loved my wife Jennifer’s 2014 novel Revenge of the Flower Girls might just be interested in what’s coming this August:

Revenge of the Angels

And if you’re sensing a theme running through the books Jennifer and I have coming out later this year, you’re right:

Nutcracker_frontcover

Between her Revenge of the Angels — in which the Brewster triplets find themselves woefully miscast in their church’s Christmas pageant — and my ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America arriving in September, we’ll start celebrating the holidays around here when it’s still 102 degrees.

But if you’re inclined to put off getting into the spirit of the season until you reach a more reasonable page on the calendar, that’s quite all right. We’ll be celebrating both books — and encouraging donations to the Giving Tree program — at Austin’s BookPeople on Saturday, December 5 (only 204 shopping days away).

12 Apr

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.

26 Mar

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

11 Dec

Not a bad 24 hours for Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!

The past day has brought this review from game developer and enthusiast Eduardo Baraf:

And this appreciation (and giveaway!) of Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet from librarian Margie Myers-Culver:

Games, video games, can foster creativity, problem solving skills, desire to increase knowledge about a specific subject, healthy competition, and connections with like-minded people. Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet (POW!, October 14, 2014) written by Chris Barton with illustrations by Joey Spiotto is a guide every gamer will enjoy. It’s a starting point to promote understanding of the basics.

And this inclusion of A Gamer’s Alphabet in the “For Early Career Guidance” section of the Austin Chronicle‘s Video Game Gift Guide:

Local author Chris Barton guides your game-obsessed 8- to 12-year-old to the engrossing world of books. Each illustrated page features a term that may or may not be familiar to little joystick jockeys. It might even help adults understand what their kids mean when they talk about “griefers” and “sandboxes.”

In addition, if you act fast, you can get a signed, personalized copy of Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! sent directly to the gamer(s) on your holiday gift list.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who have shown your support for Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! You’re all top scorers in my book.

23 Nov

Bartography Express for November 2014, featuring K.A. Holt’s Rhyme Schemer

This month, one subscriber to my Bartography Express newsletter will win a copy of Rhyme Schemer (Chronicle), the new middle-grade novel in verse by Kari Anne Holt.

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.

20141120 Bartography Express