04 May

My Twitter chat with an 8th grade class

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I’ve done in-person school visits and Skype presentations, but this past Friday School Librarian of the Year finalist Colleen Graves and I tried something new: a Twitter chat between me and a roomful of eighth graders needing some help transforming their research into a story:

How did it go? I thought it was terrific, but you can see for yourself in this handy Storify recap of our conversation. I’ll be back soon with some additional thoughts on the experience.

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30 Apr

A is for Awwww…

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Thanks for sharing this, Crystal!

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24 Apr

Good company for John Roy Lynch

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The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is featured on the Children’s Book Council’s April 2015 “Hot off the Press” list.

“This unique online bibliography features anticipated bestsellers, either recently released or forthcoming, published by CBC members.”

I do like the sound of that, and I love the looks of this excerpt from the full list:

Hot off the Press  Children's Book Council

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22 Apr

Bartography Express for April 2015, featuring Anne Bustard’s Anywhere but Paradise

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This month, one subscriber to my Bartography Express newsletter will win a copy of Anywhere but Paradise (Egmont USA) by Anne Bustard.

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.

20150420 Bartography Express

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14 Apr

Encouraging words and recommended reading

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I’m pausing just a moment to catch my breath between last week’s whirlwind (my first school visit for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

Reilly visit cropped

— the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, and the San Antonio Book Festival) and this week’s excitement of the Texas Library Association annual conference here in Austin.

While I’m pausing, I’m happy to share a few things published elsewhere recently either about my new book or written by me, starting with this generous review by Margie Myers-Culver at Librarian’s Quest:

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch written by Chris Barton with illustrations by Don Tate is a remarkable biography. This is a man with whom we should all be familiar. The blend of narrative and pictures is compelling from beginning to end. After the two pages of his speech a single page shows an older John Roy Lynch with a continuation of his beliefs about this country. There is a single page Historical Note about Reconstruction, a Timeline of important dates in John Roy Lynch’s life alongside historical dates, an Author’s Note, an Illustrator’s Note, sources For Further Reading and two maps. This is a back matter goldmine.

School Library Journal also has good things to say about The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch:

Tate’s illustrations, rendered in mixed media, ink, and gouache on watercolor paper, are extraordinary and carry the lengthy story well. The excellent cartoon-style paintings soften potentially disturbing details, such as the Ku Klux Klan burning a church. The book concludes with a thorough historical note. Teachers will find this remarkable story of hope and perseverance a valuable supplement to social studies lessons on the Civil War and Black History Month.

Meanwhile, I’ve been busy with a couple of guest posts. At The Little Crooked Cottage, I was asked to write about my favorite picture book biographies:

There are too many excellent picture book biographies — and too many excellent authors and illustrators working in this field — for me to narrow them down to my all-time favorite five. But there are a handful that have been especially meaningful to me at one time or another, so I’m going to limit my list to those.

And Austin Reading Mama asked for my reading recommendations for grown folks. I was happy to offer up a handful — all of them nonfiction, as it turned out. And the list doesn’t event include the book I’m in the midst of loving right now, Tomlinson Hill, Chris Tomlinson’s fascinating exploration of the histories of his white Texas family and of the African-American Tomlinsons whose ancestors had once been owned by the author’s forebears. It’s eye-opening and well worth your while.

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12 Apr

Austin authors’ efforts on behalf of diverse books

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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.

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08 Apr

See you in San Antonio this Saturday?

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SABF2015
The San Antonio Book Festival is this Saturday, and Don Tate and I will be there to share The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

From her perspective as a parent, San Antonio blogger Inga Cotton has written a thoughtful post about our book, the festival, and the Reconstruction era in general:

How do I talk to my kids about that era of history? By focusing on the amazing story of John Roy Lynch—in ten years, transformed from teenage slave to U.S. Congressman—illustrator Tate and author Chris Barton have created a wonderful resource for families to have that conversation.

You can find Don and me this Saturday from 1:45 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. in the Children’s Reading Tent outside San Antonio’s Central Library. Get to the festival a little earlier, though, and you can also catch my all-time favorite author at 12 noon.

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07 Apr

Speaking of things that are amazing…

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…you have got to take a look at the outstanding site Mapping Occupation: Force, Freedom and the Army in Reconstruction, especially if you’re an educator, history buff, or lover of great design.

Mapping Occupation

For me, it’s fascinating to see how the presence of the U.S. Army grew and dwindled in the South — especially in John Roy Lynch’s Mississippi — during the era that Don Tate and I cover in The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch. And it’s a reminder of how much more there will always be for us to learn about our past.

Gregory P. Downs and Scott Nesbit headed up the project, but the whole team deserves heaps of praise for this illuminating and highly interactive look at Reconstruction.

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06 Apr

See me, Don Tate, and John Roy Lynch in Hattiesburg, MS, this Wednesday

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Fay Kaigler logo
I’m excited to be returning this week to the fantastic Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival this week at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

Much of the festival requires registration, but the Hattiesburg American reports that there are exceptions, and my session is one of them:

First panel open to the public: Chris Barton, Don Tate and Kathleen Merz discuss “The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch,” a picture book biography of the Mississippi slave-turned-congressman, 11:30 a.m. April 8, Thad Cochran Center ballrooms.

(Kathleen is the editor of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, and I’m delighted that she’ll be joining Don and me. On only one other occasion in my career have I gotten together in person at the same time with both the editor and the illustrator of one of my books, so this will be special.)

Another open-to-the-public panel ends the festival on Friday, with David Levithan and Deborah Wiles discussing their relationship as editor an author.

Whether you’re able to make it to the beginning of the festival, the end, or the whole thing, you’re in for a treat. If you see me, won’t you please say hello?

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05 Apr

Booklist gives a star to The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

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You spend eight-plus years working on a book, and it’s easy to lose perspective — to no longer have any sense of how your work is going to be received by someone who hasn’t, you know, spent eight-plus years working on that book.

This starred review from Booklist
dispelled any worries in its very first sentence:

The fascinating story of John Roy Lynch’s life from slavery to his election to the U.S. House of Representatives at age 25, gets a stirring treatment here.

That makes two stars for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, and one very happy writer.

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