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When I visited with the fourth graders at Graham Elementary here in Austin this past April, they followed up with many questions — and artwork. Such as this recreation of one of Don Tate’s illustrations in The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch:
That drawing of John Roy Lynch is just an example of the great stuff they sent. I believe I’m overdue in answering their questions. So…
Do you enjoy making children’s books?
Yes, I do. I think it’s the perfect job for me.
Do you like animals?
Not all of them, but I like a lot more animals than I dislike.
What inspired you to become an author?
My toddler son wanted me to tell him over and over the story of how I installed a smoke alarm in our house. I wrote that story down, and it was awful, but it got me going.
How long have you been writing?
Almost as long as I’ve been reading. The first story of mine that I know of is one that I wrote in second grade, “The Ozzie Bros. Meet the Monsters.”
Will you make chapter books?
I sure hope so. I’ve written a nonfiction book called Can I See Your I.D.? that had ten chapters, and I wrote a short story for a YA collection, and I hope that I will have more longer-than-a-picture-book fiction published.
How many books have you written?
88 Instruments, which was published just yesterday, is my tenth published book. I’ve written many more that have not been published.
Where do you get your ideas from?
All over. Things I see, things I read about, ideas that pop into my head while I’m running, suggestions from friends and editors — these are just some examples.
How old were you when you started to do books?
I was 29 when I realized I wanted to write books for kids, and almost 38 when my first book was published.
What inspired you to write the book “The Ozzie Bros. Meet the Monsters”?
Star Wars, the Muppets, and Abbott and Costello movies where they meet famous Hollywood monsters.
Do you have any books about your dog?
Not yet, but there are dogs in some of my manuscripts that sure remind me of Ernie.
Do you talk in a different language?
I’ve started relearning the Spanish that I began forgetting after my sophomore year in high school. Duolingo says I’m now 4% fluent.
Have you ever visited different countries?
I went to Mexico and Canada when I was growing up, and this past spring I traveled to Singapore to visit the Singapore American School. That trip included some time wandering around an airport in Qatar.
Have you been on tour?
Yes — to schools in Utah last December to celebrate my nonfiction book The Nutcracker Comes to America, and to cities in Texas and Oklahoma this past spring, in support of my book Mighty Truck.
Have you ever experienced difficult, frustrating times?
I sure have. I’ve been lucky to have family and friends to lean on during those times.
How many awards have you won?
I don’t know how many, but I can tell you the biggest: My first book, The Day-Glo Brothers, won a Sibert Honor from the American Library Association.
And that’s it! Thank you for the great questions, fourth graders — now FIFTH graders! — at Graham Elementary.
(Or rather, where I’m supposed to be during the American Library Association annual conference in Orlando. But I’ll try to be everywhere else, too.)
To get Bartography Express in your inbox each month — and to have a shot at the June giveaway of Mike Jung’s Unidentified Suburban Object — you can sign up on my home page.
Recently I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty nifty cards and letters and artwork from students — some at schools I’ve visited, some who have connected with my books without ever meeting me. I look at all of it, and I appreciate all of it, and I thought you might like to see some of it.
Here’s to the end of 2015, everybody. I hope you’ve had a satisfying year, and that no matter how well things have gone, it’s wrapping up for you on a positive note.
If you’re reading this, you’re one of the reasons I feel so fortunate to be doing what I do. Thank you for taking an interest in me and my books.
And if you’re someone who has taken the time to publicly recognize or celebrate or validate the work done by authors of books for kids, thank you especially for that. It makes a difference to us, and I know I’m not the only one who appreciates your efforts.
To close out the year here at Bartography, I want to recognize, celebrate, and validate those efforts by sharing with my readers a few of the kind gestures that folks have made toward my work recently.
If you follow these links, I hope you’ll look around a bit and see what other books have caught their eyes. Maybe you’ll discover your first favorite read of 2016…
- Holiday History in Chris Barton’s ‘Nutcracker Comes to America’
- Christmas Chaos in Jennifer Ziegler’s ‘Revenge of the Angels’
Michele Knott at Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook generously spotlighted all of my picture books and then named Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet to her list of My Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books from 2015
Public Libraries Online featured An Interview with Troy Cummings, illustrator of my text for our upcoming Mighty Truck series
The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch was…
- named to the New York Public Library’s annual selection of 100 notable titles for reading and sharing
- selected as one of the Top 10 Picture Book Picks for 2015 by University of Pennsylvania professor Ebony Elizabeth Thomas
- picked by the Chicago Public Library as one of the Best Informational Books for Younger Readers of 2015
- included on Reading Is Fundamental’s list of 2015 Books of the Year
- listed among the Denver Public Library’s Holiday Gift Guide: Books for Kids & Teens
- named a runner-up for Best Biography on the Huffington Post’s list of Best Picture Books of 2015
- included among Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich’s suggestions for Books to Help Kids Make Sense of Challenging Current Events and the International Literacy Association’s Biographies: People Who Make a Difference
- recommended on the This Week in Ladies podcast
- featured on Read It Real Good, Wonders in the Dark, Legal Legacy, Reading, Teaching, Learning, and Hearts & Minds
- included on this list of 500+ Read Aloud Books for the 2016 African American Read-In and among these resources for teaching about civil rights between 1865 and 1899
- used as an example in Eerdmans Books for Young Readers’ Four Tips for Writing Nonfiction Plots
- praised in this School Library Journal discussion, The Whole Truth: The Line Between Providing Age-Appropriate Content and Sugar-Coating
‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America was…
- the subject of my interview on Chicago public radio station WBEZ’s Worldview
- named by Alyson Beecher in her Last Minute Holiday Gifts: My Top 10 Picture Books of 2015
- included in Open Sesame’s 10 New Picture Books to Ring in Holiday Cheer
- featured in Orange Marmalade’s sugarplum fairies and seven-headed mice
- listed in Redeemed Reader’s roundup The Nutcracker: This is That Time of Year
- reviewed on True Tales & a Cherry on Top
Now that the cover of my next book with Don Tate has been revealed, I can show it off here, too. But why stop with just that one?
Through a combination of flukes, good fortune, and starting my work at 5 a.m. far more often than not, I’ve got four new picture books coming out in 2016. They are:
That’s Not Bunny! (illustrated by Colin Jack; Disney-Hyperion; February 2016)
Mighty Truck (illustrated by Troy Cummings; HarperCollins; April 2016)
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions (illustrated by Don Tate; Charlesbridge; May 2016)
88 Instruments (illustrated by Louis Thomas; Knopf; August 2016)
I’ve been lucky throughout my career to get paired with terrific illustrators, and I’m delighted that you’ll get to see so much evidence of that throughout 2016.
Now, back to work on 2017…
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?
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.