08 Dec

Your 2016 Carter G. Woodson Award panelists

I’ve been running in bunches of directions of late — 65 campuses visited since Labor Day will do that to a guy — and can’t do justice to them all. But one of those directions, briefly, was Washington, DC-ward last weekend for the National Council of the Social Studies conference.

I was there to receive the Carter G. Woodson Award for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, an occasion that included a panel discussion with other honored authors S.D. Nelson, Winifred Conkling, and Don Tate. Here’s proof that I touched down at least briefly enough for a group photo:

carter-g-woodson-award-panel

14 Aug

Key steps on my journey with Don Tate (so far!)

Yesterday morning marked the debut of a new presentation with a longtime friend.

As you may know, Don Tate and I have created two picture books together: The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch and Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions.

John Roy Lynch and George Moses Horton and Lonnie Johnson

Yesterday, we got to present about our journey “From Critique Partners to Collaborators” at the monthly meeting of the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, after which Don received the SCBWI Crystal Kite award for his book Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton. (Congratulations, Don!)

Preparing for this presentation meant plunging into our electronic archives as well as the memories stored up in our heads, and the process was a lot of fun for us both.

The big takeaway of our presentation was a set of ten tips equally applicable to critique partners and collaborators alike, based on our own experiences with each other over these past 11 years. But we opened with this timeline, which we thought might be of interest to folks who weren’t able to attend yesterday’s meeting.

2005
First (documented) contact!
First manuscript critique
First lunch together

2006
First road trip together
Chris suggests Don write about George Moses Horton.

2007
Don critiques unfinished first draft of Chris’ manuscript, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

2009
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers acquires The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

2010
Chris recommends Don to Eerdmans as candidate to illustrate The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

2011
Charlesbridge Publishing agrees to publish biography of Lonnie Johnson written by Chris.

2012
Don is announced as illustrator of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.
Chris recommends Don to Charlesbridge as illustrator of Lonnie Johnson book.

2013
Peachtree Publishers acquires Don’s biography of George Moses Horton.
Don is announced as illustrator of Whoosh!

2015
Chris and Don make first in-person appearances as author-illustrator team.
The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is published.
Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton is published.

2016
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions is published.

And that’s just the high-level version — the nitty-gritty could take up a month of blog posts. But if you’re involved with a conference or organization that would be interested in hearing more of the story, well, maybe we’ll just have to update our timeline to include you.

04 Feb

John Roy and George and Don and me

POET

To commemorate Black History Month, the Texas Book Festival has posted an interview with Don Tate and me about his book Poet: The Remarkable True Story of George Moses Horton and our book The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

Here’s a bit of what Don has to say about the stories he wants to tell:

As a reader, I was a late bloomer. I didn’t become an avid reader until I was in my early 20s. I started reading more as a result of being inspired by authors like Richard Wright, Claude Brown, Gordon Parks, even Malcolm X and Nathan McCall. They wrote stories about black males who overcame obstacles to make great contributions to society. I’d never been introduced to these stories in grade school If I had, I might have become a reader earlier. I want to tell stories that inspire all young readers, but especially young black males who don’t have as many books where they can see themselves.

And here’s me on my inspiration for telling the story of John Roy Lynch:

I wanted kids today to grow up with a better understanding than I ever had of why there was even a need for a Civil Rights Movement a century after the Emancipation Proclamation, and a need for a Voting Rights Act 100 years after Appomattox. It all goes back to the racist determination to undo Reconstruction, and the recent wave of voter-suppression laws in this country shows that’s an impulse that still exists today.

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On the subject of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch and Poet, it’s been a good week for the former and an exceptional week for the latter. Both books have been honored by the Children’s Book Council and the National Council for the Social Studies:

Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People is an annual reading list of exceptional books for use in social studies classrooms, selected by social studies educators. This is an annual project of the [NCSS] and the CBC. This bibliography features K-12 annotated titles published in the previous calendar year, selected by a book review committee appointed by the NCSS.

On top of that, Don’s Poet has won the 2016 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award:

“We are proud to present the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award to the best new talents in children’s illustrated literature each year. These are writers and illustrators whose books reflect the spirit of Keats, and at the same time, are refreshingly original,” said Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. “This year is Ezra’s 100th birthday! So we are especially delighted to celebrate him by honoring those whose books, like his, are wonderful to read and look at and reflect our multicultural world.”

Congratulations, Don!

15 Oct

Another weekend, another event with Don Tate (and, soon, another book!)

This Sunday at 3 p.m., attendees of the Texas Book Festival here in Austin can find Don and me sharing The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch in the Read Me a Story tent.

It will be terrific seeing Don again, since we haven’t shared a stage since … well, last Saturday, when he and I participated in our home city stop of Don’s Freedom Tour at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center. We were joined by author Kelly Starling Lyons, visiting from North Carolina, for this celebration of Don’s book Poet; Kelly and Don’s book, Hope’s Gift; and my first collaboration with Don, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

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There was a fantastic cake, depicting a scene from Poet, made by Akiko White:

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We enjoyed readers’ theater for all three books, put on by students from St. Elmo Elementary; a panel discussion led by Michael Hurd of (among many other things) the Texas Black History Preservation Project; and a whole lot of good feeling among members of the reading and writing communities.

I also was glad to encounter tributes at the Carver to a couple of old acquaintances (and upcoming book subjects) of mine. As I mentioned recently, I’ve got a Barbara Jordan picture book on the way in 2018, and there was the great lady herself:

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Arriving even sooner will be my biography of Lonnie Johnson.

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Illustrated by, yes, Don Tate, Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super Stream of Ideas will be published next May by Charlesbridge — and followed soon after by more events with Don!

24 Aug

In which I give away Don Tate’s Poet — and a little behind-the-scenes info

One week from tomorrow, you can buy this beauty — the first book that my friend Don Tate has both written and illustrated:

POET

In the meantime, you can get in the running for a copy of Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton (Peachtree) that I’ll be giving away. More on that in a minute.

But first, Don and I thought you might like to know where he got the idea to write this true story about the enslaved North Carolinian who became the first African American to be published in the South.

At one meeting of the critique group that Don and I were in nearly a decade ago (the same crit group, by the way, where Don became one of the very first people to read The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch), I mentioned a story I’d heard on the radio.

I must have thought it sounded like a promising idea for a nonfiction book — one that might be right up Don’s alley — and I let him know that it was his for the taking.

“Well, give, give,” Don said. “I’m taking.”

So, a few days later, I sent him this email:

From: Chris Barton
To: Don Tate
Sent: Fri, 28 Apr 2006 12:14:20 (CDT)
Subject: “Well, give, give. I’m taking.”

OK, then — here’s that story I told you about last
weekend.

All Things Considered, March 30, 2006 · The University
of North Carolina is naming a building after a slave
who worked nearby and used to come to campus to recite
poetry. Decades before the Civil War, George Moses
Horton was known on campus as a talented speaker and
poet, and students often paid him to create poems for
them.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5313010

Barely an hour later, I got this reply:

From: Don Tate
To: Chris Barton
Sent: Friday, April 28, 2006 1:26 PM
Subject: Re: “Well, give, give. I’m taking.”

Ah very cool! Thanks. Just the lead I needed.

Don

Apparently, it was just the lead he needed. But that was only the beginning, because Don then proceeded to pour into this book all the love and effort and patience that it warranted. It shows on the cover, and it shows throughout. Congratulations, Don!

And congratulations in advance to one of you Bartography readers on this fine book you’re soon soon going to win. If you want to have a shot at it, all you have to do is say so in the comments.

On publication day next Tuesday, I’ll pick a winner at random. Good luck!

26 Jan

A little John Roy Lynch, and a lot of Poet

Don TateFor a generous glimpse of the art from Don Tate’s upcoming book Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton of Chapel Hill, as well as from our collaboration The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, head on over to Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Don’s been my friend for many years, but I learned a lot about him from his interview with Jules, and now I like him better than ever.