I’m an author of more than 20 published books for young readers.
My books — both fiction and nonfiction — have been named to more than two dozen U.S. state lists and received national honors.
I have visited hundreds of schools across the country and internationally and spoken at conferences and festivals in several states.
How did I get here?
The Early Years
I grew up about 80 miles east of Dallas, in the small town of Sulphur Springs, Texas. And it was there, at Lamar Elementary, that I wrote the first story that I remember sharing with the public: The Ozzie Bros. Meet The Monsters (you can see and read the whole thing!). It was inspired in equal parts by Star Wars (recurring dialogue: “Let’s get out of here!”), the Muppets, Abbott & Costello, and the movie-monster books I loved to check out from the school library.
I grew up with one older brother. Our mom taught high school French and Spanish, and our dad was an optometrist who died when I was eight. When I was a teenager, I loved writing with my friends, whether it was making up parodies of superheroes and soap operas or putting out an award-winning student newspaper.
It was that love of being part of a writing community that led me to the University of Texas at Austin, where I immediately joined the staff of The Daily Texan (and eventually graduated with a degree in history).
A few years later, I stumbled into another group of Austin writers — children’s writers.
How I Became an Author
When I was 29, my toddler son began asking me again and again to tell him over and over the story of how I had installed a smoke detector. The story had drill sounds and alarm sounds and a captivating plot, and he couldn’t get enough.
One morning, it struck me: If I could make him happy with that story, I could come up with other stories, and maybe other kids would like them, too. That day I not only realized I wanted to create books for children but also discovered a community of other writers and artists pursuing the same thing.
Soon after, I remembered a newspaper article I’d read about the brothers who invented daylight fluorescent colors — those oranges and yellows and pinks and greens so bright that they glowed in ordinary daylight. That would make a cool story for children, I thought.
Eight years later, it became my first book — the Sibert Honor-winning nonfiction picture book The Day-Glo Brothers, illustrated by Tony Persiani. My second book, Shark vs. Train, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, became a bestseller. I was off to a good start.
Where I Am Now
I love my job. I work hard at it and have been very fortunate. As someone has enjoyed some success in my profession, as someone who has been nurtured in this work by a supportive community, and as someone who has benefited from a lot of privilege along the way, I strive to be an advocate for others — for other authors who may not have the odds stacked in their favor as I have had.
And I strive to be an advocate for the endlessly diverse array of young people whose futures might be shaped more by the books that these other authors create than by my own.
And I strive to be an advocate for these young people who themselves have stories to tell, and who have the potential to themselves shape the lives of those who come after them.
Today, I have more books on the way and lots of ideas for other stories I’d like to tell. When I’m not writing, reading, researching, or revising or talking about all of that with audiences of all ages, I love to cook, listen to music and podcasts, gather with friends, and find out where my thoughts will take me while I go for long walks and runs.
I still live in Austin — now with my wife, author Jennifer Ziegler. We have a dog named Ernie, occasionally catch glimpses of our four young-adult children, and regularly co-host our “This One’s Dedicated to…” video series in which we talk with other authors and illustrators about the dedication pages in their books.
Essays, Interviews and Profiles
- Cynsations: Chris Barton & Jennifer Ziegler on the “This One’s Dedicated to…” Video Series (2021)
- Nerdy Book Club: Dedicating ourselves to “This One’s Dedicated to…” by Chris Barton and Jennifer Ziegler (2021)
- School Library Journal: Chris Barton Explains How To Discuss Tough Topics with Children (2020)
- Lone Star Literary Life: Lone Star Listens (2018)
- The Frederick News-Post: Best-selling children’s author to visit New Market, Deer Crossing Elementary Schools (2018)
- Nerdy Book Club: Two (or More) of Us: How Writing Communities Shaped the Authors We’ve Become (2017)
- SCBWI – Texas – Austin Member Interview: Chris Barton (2016)
- PW KidsCast: A Conversation with Chris Barton (2016)
- PTO Today: Author Interview With Chris Barton (2016)
- Nerdy Book Club: Write What You Know? Try Writing What You’d Love to Learn (2015)
- Austin American-Statesman: Local authors leading campaign for more diverse children’s books (2015)
- Let’s Get Busy podcast: Chris Barton (Ep. 122) (2015)
- Picture Book Month: Why Picture Books Are Important (2014)
- Cynsations: Chris Barton on Modern First Library (2014)
- Cynsations: Jennifer Ziegler on How to Live Happily Ever After With Another Writer (2014)
- Life & Letters: Q&A with Chris Barton (2014)
- Bartography: Big doings in Austin, San Antonio, and — next! — Fort Worth (2013)
- Cynsations: Chris Barton on Unbridled Silliness & Carefully Researched Truth-telling (2011)
- Dear Teen Me: from Chris Barton (2011)
- Sulphur Springs News-Telegram: Chris Barton: Stringing words together seemed like the thing to do (2009)
- Cynsations: Chris Barton on The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors (2009)
- Charlesbridge: From “Huh?” to “Wow!” – and Beyond (2009)
- ShelfLife@Texas: Alumnus Offers “Color” Commentary on Writing for Kids (2009)
Chris Barton is the author of picture books including bestseller Shark vs. Train, Sibert Honor-winning The Day-Glo Brothers, and Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, which has been included on 21 state reading lists. His new books in 2021 and 2022 include How to Make a Book (About My Dog), Moving Forward: From Space-Age Rides to Civil Rights Sit-Ins with Airman Alton Yates, and Glitter Everywhere: Where It Came From, Where It’s Found (See Above!) & Where It’s Going. Chris and his wife, YA/middle-grade novelist Jennifer Ziegler, live in Austin, Texas, and co-host the children’s literature video series “This One’s Dedicated to…” For more information about him, please visit www.chrisbarton.info.
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