15 Feb

The stunning cover of ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America

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Sometimes my dog will be sitting in my lap, being hugged and petted on, and he will begin to whine and whimper as if there’s still not enough affection getting expressed, as if it’s impossible that there could ever be any demonstration that would measure up to the love he feels.

It has long seemed absurd to me, but I think I finally get it. I do.

Because, y’all, I just can’t love this enough:

Nutcracker_frontcover

This is what the front of my upcoming book with Millbrook Press, ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition, will look like. It’s illustrator Cathy Gendron‘s first picture book, and I think she’s done just an astounding job.

I love how Willam, Harold, and Lew Christensen pop right off the page even amid the terrific onstage action. I love the shade of blue that the scene is bathed in. I love the swords. I love everything about this cover.

The book will be out this coming fall, and I hope to be able to share with you some of the interior illustrations soon. (If you’re at the Texas Library Association conference in April, maybe you can even see an advance copy in person.)

But in the meantime, here’s what the entire jacket — front, back, and flaps — looks like:

Nutcracker_jacket

Whine. Whimper.

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14 Feb

Win a limited-edition poster for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

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…and a copy of the book! But you’ve got only a few days to enter. Get the details here.

AmazingAgePoster

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08 Feb

John Roy Lynch, and the 100th anniversary of The Birth of a Nation

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Rather than share the Klan-glorifying poster for The Birth of a Nation, here's a depiction from The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

Rather than share the Klan-glorifying poster for The Birth of a Nation, I thought I’d offer this depiction from The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

There’s been lots published this weekend about the 100th anniversary of D. W. Griffith’s film The Birth of a Nation — about how its technical greatness and unprecedented box-office success were at least matched and arguably surpassed by the vileness of its racist depictions of African Americans.

From Vulture:

By one way of reckoning, this week — February 8, to be exact — can be called the 100th birthday of the medium that many of us have spent our lives enthralled with: the feature film. But don’t expect any parades, fireworks, grand speeches, or other shows of celebration. That’s because the film that premiered at Clune’s Auditorium in Los Angeles on February 8, 1915, was D. W. Griffith’s The Clansman, soon to be retitled The Birth of a Nation — the most virulently racist major movie ever released in the U.S.

From A.V. Club:

Birth Of A Nation is the movie where many of the values associated with American filmmaking—complex intercutting, massed crowds of extras contrasted with close-ups of actors, carefully edited suspense and chase scenes—get their first really clear, fully formed expression. It’s also unquestionably white supremacist and racist. It represents a key point in the history of American art, and is animated by some of the ugliest rhetoric America ever produced.

From the BBC:

The film is credited with reviving the racist KKK, who adopted it as a recruitment tool. “The Ku Klux Klan had been kind of a dead organisation by 1915, but when the film [came out and became a hit] the KKK was refounded, capitalised on [the film’s success] and in the 1920s became a massive organisation at the peak of nativist fervour in the United States,” says Paul McEwan.

From The Record:

“The Birth of a Nation” was the last straw for [William Monroe] Trotter. A proud intellectual (Harvard’s first black Phi Beta Kappa student) and a proud “race man,” Trotter was appalled, like many African-Americans, by Griffith’s film. And he was appalled that President Woodrow Wilson, whom he had rallied black voters to support, had screened “The Birth of a Nation” in the White House — the first film to be shown there.

And from The New York Post:

What makes “Birth’’ most offensive is its depiction of its black characters — all of the prominent ones performed by white actors in blackface — during Reconstruction. Griffith depicts defeated Southerners being terrorized (and even disenfranchised from voting) by illiterate, corrupt and uncouth former slaves (seeking interracial marriage) under the influence of white Northern carpetbaggers. (A view still held by many 1915 historians, but long ago discredited).

“Long ago discredited,” yes, but still at least indirectly influential. Modern historians have given Reconstruction a bit of the attention that it deserves, but there’s been exactly one hugely commercially successful depiction of that period in the American story, and it’s Griffith’s movie.

Whether audiences at the time of The Birth of a Nation‘s release accepted Griffith’s vision, or whether they were repulsed by it and just wanted to forget the whole thing, it’s not hard to see how those attitudes could get passed along — through families, and through our schools, and through our culture in general. And with no competing mainstream force to counter the impressions left by such a film, what’s to stop them from lingering among us?

John Roy Lynch final coverWhich brings me to The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch. More specifically, it brings me to a period in Lynch’s long life not covered by the main text in my upcoming book with Don Tate.

Our book focuses on his early years — his rise from slavery to the U.S. House of Representatives in just ten years. But after his stints in Congress, and after his service as a major in the Army during the Spanish-American War, Lynch became a historian. He had a central goal in mind: “placing before the public accurate and trustworthy information relative to Reconstruction” in the wake of much misinformation about that period.

From the timeline in The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch:

1913 — Writes The Facts of Reconstruction to correct racist distortions put forth by white historians.

1915 — The Birth of a Nation, a Hollywood film misrepresenting Reconstruction and glorifying the Klan, becomes wildly popular and warps Americans’ views of history for generations to come.

His timing, you can see, wasn’t great. And, more crucially, and his medium was no match for Griffith’s.

But John Roy Lynch had — and has — history on his side. And I remain optimistic that his vision can ultimately win out.

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06 Feb

My conversation with Matthew Winner on the Let’s Get Busy! podcast

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Lets Get Busy logoI love Matthew Winner’s podcast to pieces. Listening to Let’s Get Busy! is a highlight of my week, every week, and I’m so honored to be the guest on his latest episode. If books for young readers play any significant role in your life, there’s a good chance you’ll love the conversations that elementary teacher librarian Matthew has with the creators of those books.

In this episode, we discuss how Tom Lichtenheld and I adapted Shark Vs. Train for “board-book-chewing enthusiasts,” finding a way in The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch to let some light shine through the dark legacy of Reconstruction, and why it’s important to write awful stories.

I also take a swing (a kick? a boot?) at Matthew’s traditional episode-ending stumper: In an all-star, dream-team, kidlit kickball tournament, what one figure from the world of children’s books would I want to make sure was on my team?

The whole experience has been lots of fun, and Matthew’s enthusiasm is infection. I hope you’ll give us a listen!

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03 Feb

Bibliography for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

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John Roy Lynch final coverThe back matter for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch includes a historical note, a two-page timeline, my author’s note, Don Tate’s illustrator’s note, suggestions for further reading, and a couple of maps.

With all that Eerdmans Books for Young Readers did squeeze into those final pages, it’s not surprising that there wasn’t room for us to include a bibliography of the sources I consulted for the book. So, I’m presenting them here (along with a shout-out for Douglas R. Egerton’s 2014 book The Wars of Reconstruction, which came out after my text was finished but which I’m currently reading and finding fascinating):

The American Experience: Reconstruction: The Second Civil War. Produced and directed by Llewellyn M. Smith and Elizabeth Deane. DVD, 2003.

Bell, Frank C. “The Life and Times of John R. Lynch: A Case Study 1847-1939.” Journal of Mississippi History, Volume 38, February 1976.

Campbell, Tracy. Deliver the Vote: A History of Election Fraud, an American Political Tradition — 1742-2004. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2005.

Carey, Charles W. Jr. African-American Political Leaders. New York: Facts on File, 2004.

Christopher, Maurine. Black Americans in Congress. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976.

Clay, William L. Just Permanent Interests: Black Americans in Congress: 1870-1992. New York: Amistad Press, 1992.

Davis, Jack E. Race Against Time: Culture and Separation in Natchez since 1930. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001.

Davis, Ronald L. F. The Black Experience in Natchez, 1720-1880. Mississippi: Natchez National Historical Park, 1993.

Dray, Philip. Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008.

Foner, Eric. A Short History of Reconstruction. New York: Harper Perrenial, 1990.

Foner, Eric. Freedom’s Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders During Reconstruction. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996.

Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.

Gerteis, Louis S. From Contraband to Freedman: Federal Policy Toward Southern Blacks 1861-1865. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1973.

Graham, Lawrence. The Senator and the Socialite: The True Story of America’s First Black Dynasty. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.

Holzer, Harold. Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.

“John R. Lynch and the Reconstruction,” The Chicago Defender, November 18, 1939.

Jordan, Winthrop D., editor. Slavery and the American South. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003.

Kennedy, Randall. Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003.

Knox, Thomas Wallace. Camp-Fire and Cotton-Field: Southern Adventure in Time of War. Life with the Union Armies, and Residence on a Louisiana Plantation. New York: Da Capo Press, 1969.

Lemann, Nicholas. Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.

Lemire, Elise. “Miscegenation”: Making Race in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.

Lynch, John Roy, “Speech on the Civil Rights Bill,” accessed at http://www.blackpast.org/?q=1875-john-r-lynch-speech-civil-rights-bill on May 3, 2013.

Lynch, John Roy, edited by John Hope Franklin. Reminiscences of an Active Life: The Autobiography of John Roy Lynch. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1970.

Lynch, John Roy. Letter to Dr. William R. Johnston, December 27, 1937. William T. Johnson and Family Memorial Papers, Mss. 529, 561, 597, 770, 926, 1093, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge.

Lynch, John Roy. Letter to Dr. William R. Johnston, September 16, 1934. William T. Johnson and Family Memorial Papers, Mss. 529, 561, 597, 770, 926, 1093, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge.

“Major Lynch Buried with Military Rites,” The Chicago Defender, November 11, 1939.

“Major Lynch Will Be 89 on Thursday,” The Chicago Defender, September 12, 1936.

Mann, Kenneth Eugene. “John Roy Lynch: U.S. Congressman from Mississippi.” Negro History Bulletin, Volume 37, April/May 1974.

Martis, Kenneth C. The Historical Atlas of United States Congressional Districts, 1789-1983. New York: Free Press, 1982.

McLaughlin, James Harold. “John Roy Lynch, the Reconstruction Politician: A Historical Perspective (Thesis).” Muncie, Indiana: Ball State University, 1981.

Menn, Joseph Karl. The Large Slaveholders of Louisiana, 1860. New Orleans: Pelican Publishing, 1964.

Middleton, Stephen, editor. Black Congressmen During Reconstruction: A Documentary Sourcebook. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Montgomery, Frank A. Reminiscences of a Mississippian in Peace and War. Cincinnati: The Robert Clarke Company Press, 1901.

Morris, Robert C. Reading, ’Riting, and Reconstruction: The Education of Freedmen in the South, 1861-1870. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1976.

Nelson, Stanley. “Black, 15 & free in 1863: John Roy Lynch & Mary Reynolds,” Concordia Sentinel, May 4, 2011.

Nelson, Stanley. “Civil War in Vidalia: Views of 1863 battle from Rosalie mansion, Tacony quarters,” Concordia Sentinel, April 27, 2011.

Nelson, Stanley. “Despite deathbed promise, Lynch & family return to slavery,” Concordia Sentinel, April 6, 2011.

Nelson, Stanley. “John Roy Lynch: Love at Tacony, heartbreak at Whitehall,” Concordia Sentinel, March 30, 2011.

Nelson, Stanley. “Natchez in Union hands; John Roy Lynch leaves Vidalia to reunite with mother,” Concordia Sentinel, April 13, 2011.

Nelson, Stanley. “Plantation life, burning cotton and slavery’s end in 1863,” Concordia Sentinel, May 11, 2011.

Nelson, Stanley. “The Greshams come to Natchez; Lynch is free at 15,” Concordia Sentinel, April 22, 2011.

Newton, Michael. The Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi: A History. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2010.

Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008.

Oliver, Nola Nance. This Too Is Natchez. New York: Hastings House, 1953.

Power, Steve. The Memento: Old and New Natchez, 1700-1897. Natchez, Mississippi: Myrtle Bank Publishers, 1984.

Rabinowitz, Howard N., editor. Southern Black Leaders of the Reconstruction Era. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982.

Roberts, Evangeline. “Major Lynch Tells of Days in Congress,” The Chicago Defender, May 12, 1928.

Rose, Willie Lee. A Documentary History of Slavery in North America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.

Scarborough, William Kauffman. The Overseer: Plantation Management in the Old South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1966.

Schafer, Judith Kelleher. Becoming Free, Remaining Free: Manumission and Enslavement in New Orleans, 1846-1862. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003.

Schafer, Judith Kelleher. Slavery, the Civil Law, and the Supreme Court of Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994.

Sewell, George Alexander. Mississippi Black History Makers. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1984.

Townsley, Luther. “Major John R. Lynch,” The Chicago Defender, April 29, 1939.

Turkel, Stanley. Heroes of the American Reconstruction: Profiles of Sixteen Educators, Politicians and Activists. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005.

Wayne, Michael. Death of an Overseer: Reopening a Murder Investigation from the Plantation South. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Wayne, Michael. The Reshaping of Plantation Society: The Natchez District, 1860-1880. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1983

Winters, John D. The Civil War in Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963.

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01 Feb

Bartography on Pinterest

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Pinterest_Badge_RedJust a reminder, for those of you on Pinterest, that I’ve got pages there for each of my books:

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch
Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet
Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities
Shark Vs. Train
The Day-Glo Brothers

You can also see which books I’ll be giving away in coming months to Bartography Express subscribers (if you liked Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s One for the Murphys, you’ll love the February giveaway!), as well as images from my school visits and other appearances.

And you guys, the art I’ve seen from Cathy Gendron for our fall 2015 book, ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition, is flat-out gorgeous. I can’t wait to start pinning images from that, so keep an eye out, OK?

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26 Jan

A little John Roy Lynch, and a lot of Poet

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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.

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25 Jan

Presentations come, and presentations go

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The presentation that yielded these thank-you notes went over well. I think I'll keep it.

The presentation that yielded these notes went over well. I think I’ll keep it.

I’ve updated the list of presentations I offer when I visit professional conferences, schools and libraries, writing workshops, book festivals, etc.

So, if you’ve seen me in action before and now wonder “Does he still offer that one?” or “Does he have anything new?” or “Good heavens, is he STILL talking about that?” — well, now you’ve got your answer.

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22 Jan

Bartography Express for January 2015, featuring Trent Reedy’s Burning Nation

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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.

20150122 Bartography Express

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21 Jan

Five answers about The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

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John Roy Lynch final cover

Eerdlings, the nifty new blog from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, asked me to answer a few questions about my upcoming book with Don Tate, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

So, if you want to know the two reasons why January 16, 2007 was a momentous day for this project, have a look!

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