29 Nov

Orbis Pictus and “Best of 2017” honors for Dazzle Ships

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks for all of us who had a hand in Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion, written by me, illustrated by Victo Ngai, and published earlier this year by Millbrook Press.

At the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of English in St. Louis, Dazzle Ships was named one of five Honor Books for the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children.

(The top prize went to Grand Canyon, created by author-illustrator Jason Chin. Jason and I were two seats away from each other when we heard the news. At the time, he and I were participating on a panel — briefly interrupted — with fellow authors Tonya Bolden and Gail Jarrow about the creation of back matter in nonfiction books. Back matter, it turns out, is a key consideration in the awarding of the Orbis Pictus.)

There been other good news for Dazzle Ships: It’s been included in a few year-end “Best of” lists. Among them:

The creation of such lists of honored and recommended new books is a serious undertaking, and the results can be a goldmine for families and educators. I appreciate the efforts that have gone into these, and I’m especially grateful for the inclusion of Dazzle Ships.

28 Sep

Big news for the illustrations (and illustrator) of Dazzle Ships

I’ve seen speculation here and there about Victo Ngai’s art for our book Dazzle Ships being in the running for a certain award, but there’s one prize that her illustrations have already won:

The Dilys Evans Founder’s Award, named after The Original Art founder, celebrates the most promising new talent in children’s book illustration. The jury has selected Victo Ngai’s Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion (Lerner Publishing Group/ Millbrook Press).

The award comes from the Society of Illustrators, whose Museum of Illustration in New York City will feature Victo’s art in for Dazzle Ships its annual Original Art exhibit from November 1 through December 23.

Congratulations, Victo!

03 Jul

Central Texas educators: Win this Day-Glo Brothers teaching aid

Day-Glo visual

The Day-Glo Brothers, my first book, was published five years ago this week, and when I began doing school visits, I brought along this 32″ x 10″ visual aid. It consists of seven sturdy posterboard panels, joined by three metal rings, that help explain how ordinary light and color, ultraviolet light and fluorescence, and daylight fluorescence work.

Once Shark Vs. Train came along, the focus of my presentations shifted, and this teaching aid no longer got much use. But I’ve taken good care of it, and it’s in great shape, and I’d like someone out there to have it.

But not too far out there, because I don’t want to risk it getting damaged during shipping. So if you’re an educator in the Austin area — which I’m defining as “within 20 miles of my house” — you’re eligible to win this Day-Glo Brothers artifact.

Two weeks from today, I will select one person who has subscribed to my Bartography Express newsletter with an Central Texas educational email address (one ending with @austinisd.org, @pfisd.net, @roundrockisd.org, etc.), and this teaching aid will be theirs to keep. I’ll even deliver it myself and explain how to use it.

How do you subscribe, if you aren’t already receiving Bartography Express? It’s easy: Just click here and fill out the form.

Good luck! And here’s to a happy new home for something I made all by myself.

09 Feb

“Going for the Gold: Using Award-Winning Books to Make Readers Winners”

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Authors and illustrators of state-award-winning books, I’d like to hear from you.

At the Texas Library Association conference in San Antonio this April, I’ll be part of a panel entitled “Going for the Gold: Using Award-Winning Books to Make Readers Winners.”

The ringleader for this panel discussion is Jane H. Claes of the University of Houston – Clear Lake. Fellow panelists Janet Hilbun (University of North Texas) and Roger Leslie (North Shore Senior High School) and I will “explore book awards chosen by children and young adult readers, tell why they are important, and show how they can help build popular collections.”

I’m included because I’ve been fortunate enough to have The Day-Glo Brothers and Shark Vs. Train both recognized by the young readers in many states.

I saw for myself in schools in Norman, Oklahoma, last month the effect of having a book included on the master list for the state’s Sequoyah Book Award. It’s easy for authors to mistakenly think that the window for connecting a book with its audience is very short, but even though The Day-Glo Brothers was published nearly five years ago — when some of the kids I spoke to in Norman weren’t even toddling — I’ve never seen groups of students more interested in the book.

I credit their teachers and librarians for making that preparation a priority, but I believe such preparation wouldn’t have happened at all without the Sequoyah. From my own perspective, I can see how students’ giving more consideration to the books on a list can make for a richer reading and learning experience, regardless of whether the author ever shows up in person. And that makes for a more enjoyable experience for me as an author, as well as more sales of my books.

But I’m just one author, and that’s just one anecdote. Other authors who have been on state lists, what difference has your books’ inclusion made for you and for the readers you’ve encountered during visits to those states? I’d love to add your perspective to my part of the conversation in San Antonio this April so that we send librarians home more enthusiastic than ever about the Bluebonnet and Lone Star and other state award lists.

19 Mar

They both won

Colorado Children's Book Award for SVT

I was in Denver last month to attend the annual conference of the Colorado Council International Reading Association and pick up the Colorado Children’s Book Award won by Shark Vs. Train. The award itself turned out to be this magnificent, hefty thing, which I opted to have shipped to me instead of trying to slip into my carry-on bag for the flight home.

I wish I’d thought to snap a photo of the award before the CCIRA folks kindly packed it away, but here’s how the pewter versions of Train and Shark look now that they’ve arrived in their natural habitat.

By the way, here’s what I said at the luncheon where I received the award:

The thing in life that we’re going to be our best at may be something we haven’t started doing yet. That’s something I realized for myself about 15 years ago — a few years before I started writing books for children — and it’s something that’s almost entirely undermined by the ineptitude displayed by Shark and Train as they try their hands… fins… driving rods at playing piano, traveling through outer space, and attempting to jump a row of parked vehicles while riding motorcycles. All the same, I think it’s true — for me, and for you, and for the young people whose lives you help shape. When you go back to your libraries and classrooms, please make sure they understand that creating picture books was, at one point, something I hadn’t started doing yet, and the same goes for illustrator Tom Lichtenheld. But we didn’t let that stop us, and now I think we’re each getting pretty good at it. Having our book honored with the Colorado Children’s Book Award will only encourage us to keep at it, so we hope that’s what the children of Colorado had in mind. We thank them, and we thank you.

12 Feb

Day-Glo gets a Bluestem!

Mr. Schu delivered the good news this week that The Day-Glo Brothers had made the 2013 masterlist for the Bluestem Award, the Illinois School Library Media Association’s readers’ choice list for older elementary school readers:

The award is designed for students in grades 3-5 who are ready for longer titles than found on the Monarch list, but not quite ready for the sophistication of some of the Rebecca Caudill titles. Named in honor of Big Bluestem which is the state prairie grass, the award may include both timeless classics and current titles, as well as books that have appeared on Monarch and Rebecca Caudill lists.

It really is an interesting array of books, spanning from War Horse — published in 1982 — to several titles that came out in the past couple of years. I’m honored to have my book included in such great company. Thanks, Illinois — and thanks for the news, Mr. Schu!

29 Jan

Coming down from a conference is easier with good news like this

I spent last Sunday with authors and editors and agents and illustrators and — oh, yeah! — librarians at ALA Midwinter in Dallas. After an extraordinary day among some of my favorite people on the planet, readjusting to everyday life can be tough.

Two things have made it easier.

First, Can I See Your I.D.? has been named to the Young Adult Library Services Association’s 2012 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers. What’s that about? Well…

The Quick Picks list, presented annually at the ALA Midwinter Meeting suggests books that teens, ages 12-18, will pick up on their own and read for pleasure; it is geared to the teenager who, for whatever reason, does not like to read. The 2012 list features 117 titles; the committee also selected a top ten list, denoted here by an asterisk.

“There is something here for everyone, from our struggling readers in middle school to the overscheduled young adult looking for a really good read,” said Chair Heather Gruenthal. “I am really proud of this year’s committee for their work with teen groups from across the country and coming up with such a diverse list. Only on Quick Picks can you find zombies, superheroes, gangs, ghost hunters, murderers, monsters, goth girls, baby animals, gross facts, and sports heroes all in the same place.”

And then there’s this review of my book (combined with praise for Badass: The Birth of a Legend and The Oxford Companion to Beer):

In Can I See Your ID?, Barton cleverly places readers in the centre of the action by addressing them with the word “you,” as if they are the impostors. Whether writing about a slave posing as a slave owner to escape the Deep South or a penniless woman finding food and lodging by pretending to be an exotic foreigner, Barton captivates, in part because the stories allow him to explore the fascinating psychology of deceit. Each story ends with a sidebar explaining the fate of the impersonator or con artist. At about 120 pages, Can I See Your ID? is a slim but entertaining volume appropriate for middle schoolers and up.

***

A technical glitch kept this post from appearing for several days after it was written. In the meantime, another kind review of Can I See Your I.D.? popped up, so I’ll quote from that one, too. Many thanks to Kiss the Book!

Engaging and easy to read, Can I see Your ID? would be an excellent way to interest young readers in nonfiction or biographies.

20 Nov

It pays to say “Thanks!”

Yesterday morning, I learned that Shark Vs. Train is among the 2012-13 nominees for the Association of Indiana School Library Educators’ Young Hoosier Book Award. Yes, I posted the happy news in the usual social media spots. But I also took the time to email the YHBA committee chairs to thank them directly.

It took a little doing to find out who the chairs are and track down their email addresses, but nothing compared to the work that the committee did in narrowing the candidate titles down to the 55 or 60 that made the final middle grade, intermediate, and picture book lists. (It’s a good-looking bunch of books. Seriously, you should check it out.) I truly am appreciative of the committee’s efforts, and I’m honored to have now had both The Day-Glo Brothers and Shark Vs. Train on YHBA lists, and I want them to know that.

Besides, I learned earlier this year just what a big payoff there can be for my spending a few minutes chasing down that contact information and sending an email. When Shark Vs. Train was named to the Texas Library Association’s 2×2 Reading List, I emailed my thanks to the committee members. From that one act of basic good manners came an invitation for a solid week of presentations at the nine elementary schools in the district of one of those committee members.

If I had been inclined to see such a thank-you email as purely optional, that turn of events surely cured me of it. Saying thanks for that sort of recognition isn’t optional; it’s a must-do. And I don’t think it’s enough to simply exude an appreciative vibe via tweet or status update — I really believe that the thank-you is more genuine and sincere when it goes directly to the people being thanked.

The bottom line: Authors and illustrators and any other professionals using the one-to-multitudes reach of social media, don’t forget the power of the one-to-one thank-you note.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get this blog post up on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…