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 Nov

Four new books from me in 2016

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!

That’s Not Bunny! (illustrated by Colin Jack; Disney-Hyperion; February 2016)

Mighty Truck

Mighty Truck (illustrated by Troy Cummings; HarperCollins; April 2016)

Whoosh!

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions (illustrated by Don Tate; Charlesbridge; May 2016)

88 Instruments

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…

13 Nov

Mr. Schu goes Whoosh!

Whoosh tease

Over at Watch. Connect. Read., Mr. Schu is unveiling the cover of Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions.

That’s my upcoming picture book with Don Tate, the follow up to our first collaboration, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

Whoosh!, a biography of the inventor of the Super Soaker water gun, comes out next May from Charlesbridge Publishing.

07 Nov

Hear me on the Picturebooking podcast

image

Nick Patton hosted me this week for an interview on the newest edition of his Picturebooking podcast.

I loved talking with Nick about ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America and The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch and about being married to my favorite author in the whole world, as well as answering his curveballier questions. Such as:

What was my life like right before the moment I got inspired to write children’s books?

And if neither time nor money was a limitation, what would my ultimate project be?

I had to really think about those, and I’m so glad to have had the opportunity. Thank you, Nick!

01 Nov

“Chris Barton pulls no punches when writing about the White resistance to change.”

"Back home, white terrorists burned black schools and black churches. They armed themselves on Election Day to keep blacks away. They even committed murder."

“Back home, white terrorists burned black schools and black churches. They armed themselves on Election Day to keep blacks away. They even committed murder.”

As a friend pointed out to me, K.T. Horning literally wrote the book on reviewing children’s literature. So her review of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch for the Reading While White blog would have meant a lot to me no matter what.

But I especially appreciate Horning’s recognition of the honesty and authenticity that Don Tate and I — and our publisher, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers — strove for with this book:

I can’t recall when I’ve seen a book for children that is so deliberate about calling out racism for what it is. And he does it with such clear, simple language, making this complex period in history accessible to young readers, just as Don Tate’s clear stylized illustrations do. Even though the illustrations use a cartoon style, there are no happy, smiling slaves here. What we see instead is the pain and suffering they endured and later, the look of pride and determination on the face of John Roy Lynch, a free man.

I do hope you’ll read the whole thing, and spread the word about this review and about The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch to those you think would appreciate our efforts or benefit from them. And in case you’re wondering what Reading While White is all about, please check out the site’s mission statement.

25 Oct

All the college kidlit conferences (as of October 2015)

College

Or, more formally, “A Comprehensive List of U.S. College- and University-Sponsored or -Hosted Children’s and Young Adult Literature Conferences, Festivals, and Symposia.” (All of them that I could find, anyway).

A few years ago, I was looking for such a list, wondered why I couldn’t find one, and decided to just go ahead and make one myself.

Since then, I’ve periodically updated and reposted it, and I plan to continue doing so. If I’ve missed any, or included some that no longer exist, won’t you please let me know in the comments section?

Arizona
University of Arizona Tucson Festival of Books

California
University of Redlands Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Literature Festival

Connecticut
University of Connecticut Connecticut Children’s Book Fair

Florida
University of South Florida 2017 Children’s Literature Association Conference (ChLA 2017)

Georgia
Kennesaw State University Conference on Literature for Children and Young Adults
The University of Georgia Conference on Children’s Literature

Illinois
Northern Illinois University Children’s Literature Conference

Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio
Northern Kentucky University, Thomas More College, University of Cincinnati, and Xavier University Ohio Kentucky Indiana Children’s Literature Conference

Maryland
Frostburg State University Spring Festival of Children’s Literature
Salisbury University Children’s and Young Adult Literature Festival

Massachusetts
Framingham State University Swiacki Children’s Literature Festival
Lesley University What’s New in Children’s Books Annual Conference (I’ve updated the post to include this one. Thank you for the suggestion, Andrea Wang!)
Simmons College Children’s Literature Summer Institute

Minnesota
University of Minnesota Kerlan Award Ceremony and Chase Lecture
University of St. Thomas Hubbs Children’s Literature Conference

Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival

Missouri
University of Central Missouri Children’s Literature Festival

Nebraska
Concordia University Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival

New Hampshire
Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival

New Jersey
Montclair State University New Jersey Council of Teachers of English Spring Conference
Rutgers University One-on-One Plus Conference

New York
Stony Brook University – Southampton Southampton Children’s Literature Conference

Ohio
Bowling Green State University Literacy in the Park
Kent State University Virginia Hamilton Conference
Ohio State University 2016 Children’s Literature Association Conference (ChLA 2016)
The University of Findlay Mazza Museum Summer Conference and Weekend Conference
Youngstown State University English Festival

Pennsylvania
Kutztown University Children’s Literature Conference

Tennessee
Middle Tennessee State University Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival (I’ve updated the post to include this one. Thank you for the suggestion, Susan Groenke!)

Texas
Sam Houston State University Jan Paris Bookfest: Children’s & YA Conference
Texas A&M University – Commerce Bill Martin Jr Memorial Symposium

Utah
Brigham Young University Symposium on Books for Young Readers
Utah Valley University Forum on Engaged Reading

Virginia
The College of William and Mary Joy of Literacy and Literature Conference
Longwood University Summer Literacy Institute and Virginia Children’s Book Festival
Shenandoah University Children’s Literature Conference

Washington
Western Washington University Children’s Literature Conference

21 Oct

Amazing Age on the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List

Bluebonnet

A few weeks ago I received some news that it’s been just killing me not to share with you.

It was finally made public this past weekend at the Texas Book Festival, and I’m exhilarated to at last be able to tell you that…

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch has been named to the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List for 2016-17!

This means that readers in grades 3-6 at schools and libraries all over the state of Texas will be considering my collaboration with Don Tate along with 19 other titles as they prepare to pick their favorite in January 2017.

A lot of work goes into creating state lists such as the Bluebonnet and into coordinating the voting by students. The librarians responsible for this and similar programs provide a vital service in connecting young readers with a host of great books that they might not otherwise encounter. I’m always thankful for the work that these folks do — but, admittedly, this year I appreciate it even more than usual!

Our publisher, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, asked me to share my thoughts about this particular book getting this particular honor. I hope you’ll read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt:

I’m especially happy to know that because of the inclusion of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch on the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List, elementary school students throughout this state will receive a basic, honest introduction to Reconstruction. Texas children have not been consistently well-served by their textbooks — witness the recent title that referred to slavery as “immigration” and to enslaved human beings as “workers” — and there is a role for books such as ours in furthering their education.

There has long been a big hole in our country’s collective understanding of why a March on Washington was necessary 100 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and why a Voting Rights Act was necessary a century after the end of the Civil War. The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch helps fill that hole with a true account of the progress in civil rights and social justice that occurred during Reconstruction, as well as the violence and terrorism and indifference than turned back that progress.

18 Oct

Q&A with R. Gregory Christie, author and illustrator of Mousetropolis

I’ve been an admirer of R. Gregory Christie for years, and that appreciation only grew when he provided the art for Don Tate’s debut as an author, It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw. With that book about one artist written by yet another artist, Gregory was literally an illustrator’s illustrator. But he’s got lots else going on as well.

In addition to his work as an author and illustrator (including two appearances on the New York Times’ list of the 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of the Year, and for which he’s won three Coretta Scott King Honor awards), Gregory operates a Decatur, Georgia, children’s bookstore named GAS-ART GIFTS. The store specializes in artwork and autographed books, and through the store Gregory also offers art classes to both children and adults.

His newest book is Mousetropolis (Holiday House), a retelling of Aesop’s fable “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse” that received a starred review from School Library Journal. Gregory was kind enough to answer a couple of questions I had about the book, and you can find that exchange below.

Mousetropolis

One of the subscribers to my Bartography Express newsletter (you can sign up here) will win a copy of Mousetropolis. But in the meantime, here’s my chat with Gregory.

Me: What drew you toward the story you tell in Mousetropolis?

Gregory: I knew that this story is loved by so many generations. It’s my hope that it can bring back memories for adults, spark wonderment in young children and become a future classic for the generations that are not even born yet.In short I want the book to bring people together with nostalgic conversations. I guess the previous statement was my ambition on a more altruistic level. In general my motivation is to bring ethnic groups together and in some ways to bring balance to historical lesson plans. This however , goes beyond ethnicity and is my attempt to capture endearment, to bring my readers in to a an imagined world that takes from my own real life aesthetics and sensible fables from the ancient world.

Me: What kind of kid do you see Mousetropolis appealing to the most?

Gregory: The one with imagination, the child who thinks it’d be cool to go on a journey, to fly or that animals can really talk but only to the special few who truly believe that.