08 Apr

See you in San Antonio this Saturday?

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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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02 Apr

Book trailer for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

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(Narrated by yours truly.)

Many thanks to Don Tate and Eerdmans Books for Young Readers for their work in putting this together, and to John Roy Lynch himself for the inspiring quote at the end.

You’ll find lots more about the book here.

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01 Apr

Don, Tom, and me

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Don Tate, Tom Lichtenheld, Chris Barton

I had the great pleasure of serving on a panel at last month’s Austin SCBWI conference with illustrators Don Tate (shown on the left) and Tom Lichtenheld (the guy in the middle). If those names sound familiar, it’s because I’ve created a book with each of them.

In fact…

Today (no fooling) is the publication date not only of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, which Don illustrated, but also of the board book version of the Tom-illustrated Shark Vs. Train. Both books give readers something to chew on — one figuratively, one literally — so if you know someone with a big appetite for something new to read, won’t you please keep these in mind?

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30 Mar

Living symbols of the spread of freedom — and its opposite

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Black Congressional representation from South

This graphic is from an upcoming presentation that I’ll be giving about The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, and I thought a wider audience might appreciate it.

For context, here’s an excerpt from my Historical Note in the book:

During Reconstruction, approximately two thousand African American men served as local, state, or national officials. Some of them were freemen before the war, and others – including John Roy Lynch – were freed only as a result of the conflict. Those who held office in the South were living symbols of the spread of freedom. Most notably, between 1870 and 1877, there were 16 African Americans who served in the US Congress from former Confederate states.

But there were only six more who served between 1878 and 1901. And between 1902 and 1972, there were zero.

What happened?

In The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, illustrator Don Tate and I have done our best to explain while telling the inspiring story of this one young man.

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29 Mar

Eric Foner on Reconstruction and The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

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“Citizenship, rights, democracy — as long as these remain contested, so will the necessity of an accurate understanding of Reconstruction.”

That quote comes from “Why Reconstruction Matters,” a new, short essay by Eric Foner, author of Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877 and the Pulitzer-prize-winning DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University. I can’t recommend enough taking a few minutes to read it.

While Don Tate was working on the illustrations for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, our publisher asked Professor Foner to have a look at the text. Here’s what he had to say about our picture book biography of this young man who went from teenage slave to U.S. congressman in ten years:

Like adults, young readers should know about the era of Reconstruction and the remarkable individuals who struggled to give real meaning to the freedoms blacks achieved during the Civil War. John Roy Lynch was one of them and he is brought vividly to life in this book.

I’m thankful to Foner not only for those kind words about our book, but especially for all the work he’s done to shape our modern understanding of the Reconstruction era.

“Preoccupied with the challenges of our own time,” he writes in this New York Times essay, “Americans will probably devote little attention to the sesquicentennial of Reconstruction, the turbulent era that followed the conflict.”

Not if I can help it.

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26 Mar

Bartography Express for March 2015, featuring The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

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This month, at least one subscriber to my Bartography Express newsletter — maybe more! — will win a copy of my new brand-new book.

To celebrate next week’s publication of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (illustrated by Don Tate, and published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers), the children’s department staffers at Austin’s BookPeople came up with several questions for me to answer. I hope you enjoy my answers as much as I appreciate their questions.

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 next week. Good luck!

20150326 Bartography Express

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15 Mar

What we do for fun around here

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Three of us, anyway — my 11-year-old human boy, our terrier-dachshund mix, Ernie, and yours truly.

We’ve been attending agility classes every week or two for the past year. Some days are more agile than others, though. The above video was from two weeks ago. The photo below is from this morning, when Ernie misjudged the dimensions of the pottery he was gratuitously leaping over.

Not so agile after all

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