05 Aug

Introducing Fire Truck vs. Dragon


I’d like you to meet Fire Truck and Dragon!

I’m happy as can be to offer this first look at the cover of Fire Truck vs. Dragon, written by me and marvelously illustrated by Shanda McCloskey. (Shanda is also the author-illustrator of last year’s delightful Doll-E 1.0 and the soon-to-be-published T-Bone the Drone.)

Fire Truck vs. Dragon — a companion of sorts to my 2010 picture book Shark vs. Train — will be published next March by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

From the front jacket flap:

What’s something that dragons are really good at? And what’s something that fire trucks are really, really, really good at? Put the two of them together, and imagine what happens next!

05 Aug

“I’ve had to create my own education … I learned how to be subversive in picture books, to say more than meets a first read.” (2-question Q&A and giveaway for August 2019)

Welcome to the Q&A and giveaway for the August edition of my Bartography Express newsletter (which you can sign up for here).

My Q&A this month is with Las Vegas-based author and illustrator Daria Peoples-Riley, creator of the new picture book I Got Next. I Got Next was published last week by Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, which also published her ballet-focused 2018 debut, This Is It.

In one of several enthusiastic reviews that I Got Next has received, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books declared, “Peoples-Riley’s art is witty and superb … The sharp-edged, mixed-gender group of playground kids … are a highly individual, deeply plausible collection. Use this [book] to demonstrate how stories often have deeper meanings and to elicit discussion, but also just to revel in the city life made beautiful.”

I’m giving away a copy of I Got Next to a Bartography Express subscriber with a US mailing address. If you want that winner to be you, just let me know (in the comments below or by emailing me) before midnight on August 31, and I’ll enter you in the drawing.

In the meantime, please enjoy my two-question Q&A with Daria Peoples-Riley.

Chris: I’ve read that This Is It was inspired by your family’s first trip to New York City, but what about the setting of I Got Next? It seems so specific and genuine. Did you base it on a particular real-life neighborhood, or did you incorporate elements from various places, including your imagination?

Daria Peoples-Riley (photo by Kelsey Arrington)

Daria: When I wrote This Is It and placed it in NYC, I knew then I wanted I Got Next to take place in Brooklyn mainly because it is where I romanticize street ball and street ball legends, so the art is definitely inspired by Brooklyn’s outdoor basketball courts.

However, I didn’t get a chance to go back to NYC to visit Brooklyn before final sketches or final art for I Got Next, but I did visit Washington, DC, for the first time, and sat at an outdoor basketball court, and observed the kids, the parents, and the natural elements of what playing basketball in an outdoor urban setting might feel and look like through a child’s eyes.

So, essentially, the art is specifically inspired by that court in Washington, DC. It was important to me that the art in I Got Next came from that same sense of childlike wonder that I experienced when I visited NYC for the first time.

What I noticed, and what I hope is conveyed in I Got Next, is that a child’s environment is often their adversary. Instead of the universe conspiring on the hero’s behalf (like it does for the heroine in This Is It), the environment conspires against the hero, as it often does for young people who come from marginalized, under-resourced communities.

Chris: On the endpapers of I Got Next, readers will find the text, “in loving memory of Sonia Lynn Sadler,” the illustrator of the 2010 picture book Seeds of Change. How have her life and work shaped your own?

Daria: I learned of Seeds Of Change and Sonia Lynn Sadler when I was chosen to receive an illustration award in her honor through the Salisbury Children’s Book Festival. After receiving the award, Sonia’s art and life became a mentor text for me, which was very influential for my work.

Because I have no formal art training, I’ve had to create my own education, and from Sonia’s work, I learned how to be subversive in picture books, to say more than meets a first read. I also learned to approach each project as its own entity, which gives me permission to trust myself and change media and art processes according to the heart of the story.

Also, Sonia’s entry into children’s literature came later in life, as a second career, as it did for me, and within a few weeks of her passing, I took my first portfolio to a Illustrator’s Day in LA, which I thought was very symbolic in my journey. Her art and work allows me to see myself in this industry, thriving and contributing in a way I wouldn’t have been able to imagine without her legacy.

I included a dedication in the endpapers, and Greenwillow added it to the jacket of the book to bring more awareness to Sonia’s work and hopefully more financial support for her award. Honestly, I was disappointed that I hadn’t known of her before receiving the honor, and I want young readers, librarians, parents, teachers, and aspiring artists to know her and celebrate her contribution to children’s literature.

New generations of writers and artists of color should know we are here because others paved the way, and began the breaking of barriers on our behalf long before we entered the arena.

01 Aug

Whoosh! subject Lonnie Johnson last month at Kennedy Library Forums

As I write this, I’m listening to the audio of Lonnie Johnson’s presentation this past July 20 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Even for someone who knows Lonnie Johnson’s story well, this telling of it is riveting.

For those not quite ready to consume an hour — even a fascinating hour — of the story of the NASA engineer who invented the Super Soaker water gun, might I recommend my picture book biography Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions?

illustrated by Don Tate, published by Charlesbridge

12 Jul

“What was Left Out, Powered by PechaKucha,” from TLA 2019

Twenty presentation slides, 20 seconds per slide, no stopping. Four hundred seconds long, period. That’s PechaKucha.

At the Texas Library Association conference this past April, I participated — alongside Christina Soontornvat, Susan Fletcher, Traci Sorell, and Varian Johnson — in what we believe to be the first-ever PechaKucha TLA session, orchestrated by our fellow author and friend Kathi Appelt.

Here’s the official description of our session, “What was Left Out, Powered by PechaKucha“:

This will be a panel of five children’s book authors who will discuss their revision process on their latest books, with special focus on “what was left out.” The panel will occur at the annual conference for the Texas Library Association, and is focused toward an audience of librarians and educators

And here’s what that looked like in my case, as I talked about aspects of Barbara Jordan’s story that I did not include in What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

Please take a look (it’s six minutes, 40 seconds!), and don’t miss Christina’s, Susan’s, Traci’s, or Varian’s. I loved this session as both presenter and audience member, and I hope we’ll see more of the PechaKucha format at TLA 2020.

08 Jul

The cover of my next book, All of a Sudden and Forever


My next book, All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing After the Oklahoma City Bombing, is a nonfiction picture book illustrated by Nicole Xu. It’s scheduled to be published on February 4, 2020, by Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing.

On June 27, I shared the book’s cover — and performed my first-ever public reading of All of a Sudden and Forever — at the Shenandoah University Children’s Literature Conference, in a presentation titled “Who Am I, and Why Did I Write This Book?” It was the most personal speech I’ve ever given, and I’m grateful to the conference organizers and attendees for the opportunity to do that.

Today, I’m pleased to share the cover with a wider audience for the first time. I think Nicole and the design team at Lerner did an absolutely beautiful job.

04 Jul

“In this story, it’s not that we’re uncovering a villain, we’re uncovering the helper, the one who connects us to our inner resources.” (2-question Q&A and giveaway for July 2019)

Welcome to the Q&A and giveaway for the July edition of my Bartography Express newsletter (which you can sign up for here).

My Q&A this month is with Katherena Vermette and Julie Flett, creators of the new picture book The Girl and the Wolf, published by Theytus Books, a First Nations-owned and operated publisher of Indigenous North American voices.

Katherena Vermette, a Métis writer from Treaty One territory in Manitoba, is also the author of novels for adults (The Break), poetry (North End Love Songs), and graphic novels (A Girl Called Echo) in addition to several other picture books.

Julie Flett is a Cree-Métis illustrator and author of children’s books whose previous titles include When We Were Alone, Little You, My Heart Fills with Happiness, and Wild Berries. She lives in British Columbia.

In a starred review of The Girl and the Wolf, Kirkus Reviews described the book as “A tale about knowledge, power, and trust that reminds readers we used to speak with animals and still do — it already feels like a classic.”

I’m giving away a copy of The Girl and the Wolf to a Bartography Express subscriber with a US mailing address. If you want to be the winner, just let me know (in the comments below or by emailing me) before midnight on July 31, and I’ll enter you in the drawing.

In the meantime, please enjoy my two-question Q&A with Katherena Vermette and Julie Flett.

Chris: Anyone accustomed to picture books where the wolf character is a villain from the get-go, or is revealed to be one by the end of the story, is in for something entirely different with The Girl and the Wolf.

What books or stories influenced — positively or negatively — the way you each portrayed the wolf in this book?

author Katherena Vermette

Katherena: Well, the most obvious influence is the Little Red Riding Hood stories — no matter what the version, the wolf is always the bad guy. Same with many Western faery tales, the wolf symbolizes the unknown and roams the shadowy, dangerous woods.

Conversely, in a lot of the traditional Indigenous stories — the ones I know from Inninew and Anishnaabe traditions, anyway — the wolf is a teacher, a helper, and like a friend/sidekick figure.

Julie: I was so happy to work with Katherena on The Girl and the Wolf. I’ve always loved folk and traditional stories, many from my own community, Cree and Métis stories, and other stories adapted from oral traditions, including western stories; Russian folk stories of Baba Yaga, Tsarevitch Ivan, the Firebird and the Gray Wolf; Grimm’s collections; Perrault’s Bluebeard and others. Some of those stories influenced the tension in the artwork.

That said, it’s a very different story. There is no villain, though the tension is connected to something just as real and scary: being lost. As Katherena points out, in a lot of our traditional stories, the wolf is a teacher, helper, friend, or sidekick. The text and pictures portray the wolf as just this, the helper.

In this story, it’s not that we’re uncovering a villain, we’re uncovering the helper, the one who connects us to our inner resources.

Chris: I know there will be librarians and other educators reading this who are going to be excited to connect The Girl and the Wolf to those traditional stories — or to set the stage so that kids can make those connections themselves.

As far as other contemporary stories, and contemporary storytellers, whose work have you loved lately? What authors, illustrators, or specific books for young readers have you been enthusiastically recommending recently, and why?

Julie: Focusing on illustrated books, all fairly current, here are a few that I recommend as a start:

illustrator Julie Flett

And here are a few great Indigenous children’s picture book resources:

Katherena: What a beautiful list, Julie! Thanks for putting that together. I wholeheartedly second all those recommendations.

Leaves my job pretty easy. My inspiration was from old faery stories from Europe but mostly, traditional stories from this place. Traditional storytellers are absolute treasures. I highly recommend seeking out (and paying honourably) local traditional storytellers. They will blow your minds!

03 Jul

Bibliography for All of a Sudden and Forever

The back matter for All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing After the Oklahoma City Bombing will include my author’s note, Nicole Xu’s illustrator’s note, biographical information about interviewees, and suggestions for further reading.

With all this material that Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing does include in those final pages, there wasn’t room to also include a bibliography of the sources I found most helpful in writing the text for the book.

So, I’m presenting them here, and the book includes the URL for the All of a Sudden and Forever page on my website, which in turn links to this post.

Abraham, Yvonne. “Letting go of the hate; As bomber’s execution nears, survivors concentrate on living,” The Boston Globe, March 12, 2001.

“Analysis: Death penalty’s effect on victims’ families,” Talk of the Nation, June 11, 2001.

Aspinwall, Cary. “At the OKC bombing memorial, the Survivor Tree endures, inspires,” Tulsa World, April 13, 2015.

Barrionuevo, Alexei. “How Oklahoma City Remembers; Survivors of Bombing Fought With Families of the Dead To Have Say in Memorial,” The Wall Street Journal, November 13, 2001.

Benke, Richard. “Bomb Relief Victim’s Kidney Transplanted to N.M. Woman,” The Associated Press, April 27, 1995.

“Bombing rescue effort may be halted today,” The Orange County Register, May 4, 1995.

Brandes, Heide, and Rich Schapiro. “Miracle Survivors; 6 day care kids pulled from Okla. City bombing rubble tell their tales,” New York Daily News, April 14, 2015.

Brown, Jennifer. “President Bush dedicates bombing memorial museum,” The
Associated Press, February 19, 2001.

Brus, Brian. “Life-or-death lessons: United Way executive influenced by memories of Murrah bombing in downtown OKC,” The Journal Record, February 4, 2011.

Campbell, W. Joseph. 1995: The Year the Future Began. Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2015.

Canfield, Owen. “Familiar faces moving on with their lives,” The Journal Record, April 19, 2000.

Cantacuzino, Marina. The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016.

Casey, Patrick. “Sells moving on after Murrah Building bombing,” The Associated Press, May 1, 1998.

Cavanaugh, Linda. “Woman who survived Oklahoma City bombing talks about new challenges she faces.” Broadcast. April 15, 2015. KFOR. Available at http://kfor.com/2015/04/15/woman-who-survived-oklahoma-city-bombing-talks-about-new-challenges-she-faces/. Accessed July 3, 2019.

Cohen, Sharon. “Pain, Pride and Haunting Dreams: Rescuers Live With Bombing Memories,” The Associated Press, October 14, 1995.

Cole, Patrick. “A Town of Walking Wounded,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 19, 2000.

Crow, Kelly. “On a Site of Terror and Death, Survivors Find a Role,” The New York Times, May 2, 2001.

Culver, Galen. “Propagating the Survivor.” Broadcast. April 22, 2013. KFOR. Available at http://kfor.com/2013/04/22/propagating-the-survivor/. Accessed July 3, 2019.

Dozier, Ray. “Workers make final preparations for Symbolic Memorial,” The Journal Record, March 30, 2000.

Duggan, Paul. “Rebuilding Blocks; In Oklahoma City, the Heartbreak Lingers but the Future Is Taking Shape,” The Washington Post, May 15, 1995.

Gamino, Denise. “‘It’s not a cemetery. It’s a memorial’; A moment of horror in Oklahoma City inspires two Austin architects’ tribute to the dead, the living and those forever changed,” Austin American-Statesman, April 16, 2000.

Gamino, Denise. “Oklahoma’s heartache: Legacy of bombing is unending grief; Victims’ families try to move ahead,” Austin American-Statesman, December 27, 1995.

Graham, Tim. “Strangers linked by iconic Desert Storm photo finally meet 24 years later,” The Buffalo News, May 30, 2015.

Greer, Kate Carlton. “20 Years Later, Oklahoma City Bombing Victims Fight Stigmas,” Weekend Edition Saturday, April 18, 2015.

Gresko, Jessica. “Oklahoma City a defining moment in Merrick Garland’s career,” The Associated Press, April 18, 2016.

Hall, Mimi. “Bush thanks Oklahoma City for its courage; New museum honors the victims of 1995 bombing,” USA Today, February 20, 2001.

Jones, Charisse. “The blast’s fallout; Rescuers, survivors still nursing emotional wounds,” USA Today, August 4, 1998.

Jonnes, Jill. Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscape. New York: Viking, 2016.

“Just another day, then disaster,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 30, 1995.

Kabel, Marcus, and Mike Clancy. “Sobs, curses and applause in Oklahoma City,” Reuters News, June 11, 2001.

Katz, Ian. “Shattered,” The Guardian, April 18, 1996.

Kifner, John. “In Oklahoma City, a Day Of Sorrow, Unity and Hope,” The New York Times, April 20, 2005.

Knickerbocker, Brad. “Oklahoma City bombing: Hope and resolve amidst the mourning,” The Christian Science Monitor, April 19, 2015.

Linenthal, Edward T. “A Sisterhood of Grief,” The New York Times, December 23, 2001.

Linenthal, Edward T. The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Madeira, Jody Lyneé. Killing McVeigh: The Death Penalty and the Myth of Closure. New York: New York University Press, 2012.

McCleland, Jacob. “Do Troops Killed In Oklahoma City Bombing Deserve A Combat Medal?” All Things Considered, August 17, 2015.

McNamara, Bob. “Profile: Oklahoma City National Memorial,” CBS News: Sunday Morning, June 10, 2001.

McRoberts, Flynn. “One Mother’s Response to the McVeigh Debate,” Newsweek, February 16, 2001.

McRoberts, Flynn, and Andrew Murr. “‘I Thought I Was Going to Die’; Tim McVeigh’s victims tell their stories of survival as he heads to the death chamber,” Newsweek, June 18, 2001.

Michel, Lou, and Dan Herbeck. “20 years after Oklahoma City bombing: ‘We choose to remember’,” The Buffalo News, April 18, 2015.

Michel, Lou, and Dan Herbeck. American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & the Tragedy at Oklahoma City. New York: Avon Books, 2002.

Michel, Lou, and Dan Herbeck. “McVeigh’s father says friendships helped him live with son’s dark history,” The Buffalo News, April 18, 2015.

Mozo, Jessica. “If This Tree Could Talk,” Oklahoma Agriculture, 2015.

Murphy, Doyle. “Oklahoma City bombing pain lingers for victims’ kin 20 years later, including mom who wanted to kill Timothy McVeigh herself,” New York Daily News, April 19, 2015.

Owen, Penny. “Oklahoma victims find New York role,” The Oklahoman, September 8, 2002.

Painter, Bryan. “17 years later, Oklahoma City bombing story is still alive,” The Oklahoman, April 20, 2012.

Painter, Bryan. “Survivors hope Oklahoma City bombing museum updates will tell story to a new generation, The Oklahoman, November 13, 2012.

Painter, Bryan. “Thousands gather to mark 15th anniversary of Oklahoma City bombing,” The Oklahoman, April 20, 2010.

“Parents Mark Their Baby’s Birthday at Murrah Building,” All Things Considered, April 19, 1996.

Pertman, Adam. “Oklahomans draw strength from faith; Solace found in embrace of religion,” The Boston Globe, April 30, 1995.

Pilkington, Ed. “Merrick Garland: bridge-building judge thrust into the middle of a political war,” The Guardian, May 11, 2016.

Prodis, Julia. “Four lives, frozen in time; One year after the Oklahoma City bombing, four people remain bound by the split-second image of a firefighter and dead baby,” Austin American-Statesman, April 14, 1996.

Quaid, Libby. “Site draws visitors as trial begins,” The Associated Press, March 31 1997.

Queary, Paul. “A Year Later, 168 Seconds of Silence, Then 168 Names,” Associated Press, April 19, 1996.

Resilience. Broadcast. 2015. Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Educational Television Authority. Archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20170628051950/http://www.oklahoman.com/resilience. Accessed July 3, 2019.

Rhodes, Tom. “Desperate search for life amid the rubble,” The Times, April 21, 1995.

Rodriguez, Alex. “Some survivors don’t need to watch McVeigh die,” The Charleston Gazette, April 23, 2001.

Romano, Lois. “Oklahoma City’s Enduring Spirit Praised; Bush Dedicates Museum Honoring 168 Killed in Federal Building Bombing,” The Washington Post, February 20, 2001.

Romano, Lois. “Oklahoma City’s Measure of Grief; Blast Survivors, Victims’ Families Feud Over Planned Memorial,” The Washington Post, March 12, 1996.

Romano, Lois. “Small Wonders; A Year Later, Oklahoma City’s Tiniest Survivors Struggle in a World Torn Asunder,” The Washington Post, April 15, 1996.

Romano, Lois, and Dan Eggen. “For McVeigh’s Victims, Different Paths to Peace,” The Washington Post, April 15, 2001.

Ruble, Renee. “Journal Record building gets ready for thousands,” The Associated Press, June 18, 1999.

Sacchetti, Maria. “In rush to aid in disaster, unforeseen risk; Mass. man’s arrest underscores perils,” The Boston Globe, January 3, 2011.

Scaperlanda, Maria Ruiz. “Book tells redeeming stories from Oklahoma City tragedy,” National Catholic Reporter, December 12, 1997.

Serrano, Richard A. “Oklahoma City bombing leaves trail of suicides,” Buffalo News, April 28, 1999.

Singh, Fran. “How an Oklahoma bombing victim’s dad made friends with Timothy McVeigh’s father,” The Guardian, April 18, 2015.

“The Survivor Tree.” Video. 2011. Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8A-ICA3YE3I. Accessed July 3, 2019.

Talley, Tim. “For some relatives of Oklahoma City victims, time and distance necessary to find peace again,” U.S. News & World Report, April 18, 2015.

Talley, Tim. “Memorial: Some survivors find relief at a ceremony five years after the
bombing that killed 168. For others, the agony continues,” The Orange County Register, April 20, 2000.

Talley, Tim. “Service held to mark 20 years since Oklahoma City bombing,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 20, 2015.

Talley, Tim. “Split verdict met by anger, surprise, relief,” Associated Press, December 23, 1997.

Tapestry. Broadcast. 1996. Des Moines, Iowa: Palmer Communications, 1996. DVD. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLf_B32jY0A&list=PL39CCD3C784D45177. Accessed July 3, 2019.

Tierney, Michael. “The Forgiving,” The Herald, March 19, 2005.

Turk, Michele. Blood, Sweat and Tears: An Oral History of the American Red Cross. Robbinsville, New Jersey: E Street Press, 2006.

Tuttle, D. Ray. “Oklahoma City’s Survivor Tree has many caretakers,” The Journal Record, April 16, 2010.

Warlick, Heather. “Good from Evil: Oklahoma Standard a positive outcome of Murrah bombing,” The Oklahoman, April 17, 2015.

Welch, Bud. “Where Healing Begins,” Guideposts, May 1999.

Willing, Richard. “Survivors’ dilemma: To watch him die, or not; McVeigh execution poses hard choice,” USA Today, February 15, 2001.

Witt, Howard. “Susan Walton: Getting well and moving on,” Chicago Tribune, April 17, 2005.

Yardley, Jim. “5 Years After Terrorist Act, a Memorial to the 168 Victims,” The New York Times, April 20, 2000.

Yardley, Jim. “A City Changed Forever Pauses Today to Reflect,” The New York Times, April 19, 2000.

Interviews
Catherine Alaniz-Simonds, July 27, 2017
Mark Bays, July 20, 2017
G. Keith Bryant, July 31, 2017
John Cole, August 17, 2017
Constance Favorite, August 1, 2017
Deb Ferrell-Lynn, August 10, 2017
Dot Hill, August 18, 2017
Gary Knight, August 17, 2017
Keith Simonds, August 24, 2017
Ken Thompson, July 27, 2017
Susan Walton, August 23, 2017
Richard Williams, August 24, 2017

Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum Staff
Kari Watkins, Executive Director, June 7, 2017
Mary Ann Eckstein, Director of Media, June 7, 2017
Lynne Porter, Director of Educational Experience, June 7, 2017
Helen Stiefmiller, Collections Manager, June 7, 2017

28 Jun

In which I discuss Barbara Jordan with a shaggy blue puppet

Hey, it’s me on The Van Show!

Talking about What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? with the Austin Public Library’s spokespuppet was truly a highlight of my experiences at this spring’s Texas Library Association conference.

And a highlight of that highlight was being able to show Van the Barbara Jordan statue that he’s been missing from inside the box he’s usually in when passing through the Austin airport.

20 Jun

Come say hey at the Shenandoah University Children’s Literature Conference!

Librarians and other educators in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., I’m looking forward to seeing many of you next week at the Shenandoah University Children’s Literature Conference in Winchester, Virginia.

I’m excited about not only delivering a brand-new presentation — “Who Am I, and Why Did I Write This Book?” — but also participating in a pair of Q&A sessions with attendees and also talking with local elementary students attending a summer enrichment program.

This year’s CLC lineup includes 15 other authors and illustrators. Here’s who and when —

Monday 6/24/19
Kwame Alexander
Kevin Henkes
Bob Shea

Tuesday 6/25/19
Leslie Connor
Scott Magoon
Yuyi Morales

Wednesday 6/26/19
Denise Fleming
Brian Lies
Adam Rex
Aisha Saeed

Thursday 6/27/19
Chris Barton
Ben Hatke
Kevin Lewis
Dashka Slater

Friday 6/28/19
Adam Gidwitz
Colby Sharp

— and the all-important how-to-register-to-attend.

Hope to see you there!