28 Nov

What do they say about What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?

It’s been several weeks since I last compiled news about What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster).

Considering that the book has been out in the world for just over two months, that means I’ve essentially been neglecting my most recent book for more than half its life.

So, let’s correct that with this roundup.

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? has been named a 2019 Orbis Pictus Recommended Book by the National Council of Teachers of English.

The California Reading Association has listed it as a 2018 Eureka! Nonfiction Children’s Book Awards Honor Book.

Kirkus Reviews has named What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? among the best picture books of 2018, and at Waking Brain Cells, Tasha Saecker has compiled those books into a single, easy-to-read list.

Houston’s Blue Willow Bookshop has included the book in its list of the 25 best books of 2018 across all categories, recommending the book “For every school and library in Texas, as well as family bookshelves.”

The Nonfiction Detectives write:

In this age of partisan, negative politics, Barbara Jordan is a model of dignity, civility and justice. What Do You Do With a Voice Like That? is the perfect read aloud to inspire children to speak up and use their voices to help others and to make the world a better place.

The San Francisco Chronicle says:

Using her sonorous voice for good, she participates in the Watergate hearings, speaks out for equality and justice, and fights for the powerless. Bright mixed-media art, as strong and stately as Jordan herself, helps chronicle her setbacks and successes, both personal and political.

In The Christian Century, Baylor University theologian Beverly Roberts Gaventa writes:

[T]he book instructs its readers about an extraordinary woman, but it also invites them to find their own voices and put them to use to make the world a better place. I need to give myself a copy, since my grandson is tired of loaning me his.

(If you want to read only my favorite final line in any recent review, you can stop right there.)

The Horn Book writes:

This large book, with its lush, vivid, mixed-media illustrations, makes an artistic statement as bold as groundbreaking African American congresswoman Barbara Jordan’s own giant voice. Smart page-turns — often prompted by a series of questions and frequently repeating the titular one — lead readers to think about, rather than simply learn about, Jordan’s life.

The Austin American-Statesman says:

Barton’s “Voice” showcases Jordan as a trailblazer who always championed what was right, such as in her famous speech during President Richard Nixon’s impeachment hearings, when she vowed that she would not “sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.”

The New York Times includes the book in a roundup of

several immersive picture books about women leaders. The standout books of the bunch tell the stories of two remarkable women of color. In WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A VOICE LIKE THAT? (Beach Lane, 48 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8), a biography of Representative Barbara Jordan written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Ekua Holmes, we go from Jordan’s modest upbringing in Houston to her civil rights activism to the halls of Congress and back to Texas after a multiple sclerosis diagnosis takes her out of public life. All the way, Jordan’s distinct “big, bold, booming, crisp, clear, confident voice” guides us.

(I can’t wait to get my hands on Martha Brockenborough’s Unpresidented. I see her book and mine as complementary and equally necessary. Teens can benefit from both. And readers of all ages deserve truth and honesty.)

Barnes & Noble says of Barbara Jordan’s story:

The chronicle of her rise is thrilling, but the next chapter of her life is just as instructive: when diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she came home to Texas and kept giving to others, as a teacher.

The Alcalde — the alumni magazine for the University of Texas, where I got my degree and where Barbara Jordan taught — says:

Accompanied by brilliantly detailed collages from artist and illustrator Ekua Holmes, the book explores Jordan’s legacy in the realm of civil rights and equality. Meant to educate and inspire young readers, Barton showcases Jordan’s milestones as a lawyer and politician, as well as the obstacles she overcame on her path to success.

In PW Shelftalker, bookseller Cynthia Compton includes the book in her roundup of recent titles with themes of voice or voicelessness.

Ekua Holmes’ illustrations have landed What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? on Mock Caldecott lists overseen by Megan Dowd Lambert, Michele Knott, and John Schumacher and Colby Sharp.

And over at Kid Lit Frenzy, Alyson Beecher has added What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? to her Mock Sibert list.

Thank you, one and all, for your appreciation for this book, and for all the ways — public and otherwise — that you’ve expressed it. If you’re ever wondering if an author might like to hear kind words about their new (or old) book, the answer is always “Yes!”

18 Aug

Starred reviews and other good news for Dazzle Ships

I’ve already mentioned the coverage in Kirkus this review, and this interview — of Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion, written by me, illustrated by Victo Ngai, published by Millbrook Press, and available on September 1.

Now I’m happy as can be to point you toward what some of the other major review publications have had to say about the book.

Booklist calls the book “an inspiring story of creativity and adds:

Ngai’s swirling, art nouveau–style illustrations replicate some of the bold shapes and designs on the so-called “dazzle ships,” and the soft colors and stylized figures nicely soften the wartime theme and focus attention to the ships. Barton adds plenty of historical context, illuminating other naval defense schemes of the period, as well as the role of women in creating dazzle patterns.

Dazzle Ships received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which said in part:

“Sometimes desperate times call for dazzling measures,” writes Barton in conclusion, underscoring the importance of creative problem solving. Reflective author and artist notes, a timeline with b&w photographs, and a reading list wrap up a conversational, compelling, and visually arresting story that coincides with the 100th anniversary of its subject.

And our book earned a second starred review, from School Library Journal:

The well-written, intriguing text is complemented by Ngai’s vibrant and surreal illustrations that skillfully recreate the glittering water and the striking camouflaged vessels. … With the commemoration of the centenary of World War I, this book is a fascinating selection that will captivate readers, especially war story enthusiasts.

I hope you’re intrigued enough to get the word out — and show up in person, if you can — for my September 7 reading, discussion, and signing of Dazzle Ships at Austin’s BookPeople.

17 Aug

My first extended conversation about Dazzle Ships*

*with someone not a) directly involved in its creation, or b) married to me

Julie Danielson recently interviewed me for Kirkus Reviews about my upcoming picture book Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion (Millbrook Press), illustrated by Victo Ngai. Here’s a taste:

Jules: So, what was it like for you to see Victo’s illustrations for the first time?

Chris: My reaction to the first cover sketch my editor shared was (and I have the email to prove it): “Oooooh!!!” And I was at least somewhat prepared for what Victo’s art in this book might look like, because I had seen samples of her work before she was selected as the illustrator. I knew it was going to be a visually fantastic book.

But even then, when I saw the first color art for Dazzle Ships — it was the two-page spread for “Britain, the United States, and their allies turned things around…” — my response was, “[H]oly moly, is that artwork astounding! I’m looking forward more than ever to seeing the rest.”

I had fun chatting with Julie, and I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.

If you like the sound of this book, here are a couple of dates to keep in mind:

September 1: Publication day! Buy Dazzle Ships from your most beloved independent bookseller.

September 7: If you’re in Austin, come hear me read and discuss Dazzle Ships that evening at my most beloved independent bookseller.

16 Jun

Good news from Kirkus — and from Kirkus!

Yesterday I went looking for the just-published Kirkus review of my next book, Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion, and to my surprise I also found a review of Book or Bell?, my other upcoming 2017 title.

To my delight, too, as both reviews have favorable things to say. Whew!

From the review of Book or Bell?:

[T]he text and artwork become silly to the point of laughter, as Henry’s refusal to leave his book causes a messy chain reaction… One elected official after another each demands louder bells, which cause increasingly more mayhem. … Finally, Ms. Sabio, who was rudely interrupted by the mayor when she tried to explain why Henry stayed put, saves the day with a simple solution. A zany, rollicking story with hilarious illustrations.

I’m glad to see that the reviewer loves Ashley Spires‘ art in Book or Bell? as much as I do, and the same goes for Victo Ngai‘s illustrations in Dazzle Ships.

From the Kirkus review of Dazzle Ships:

Ngai uses analog and digital media to great effect, from the dazzling cover (which will attract many readers all by itself) to the range of designs employed, applying an appropriate period aesthetic throughout. [I]t’s a fascinating volume about a little-known side of the war. An eye-catching title sure to dazzle.

Dazzle Ships will be published by Lerner Publishing/Millbrook Press September 1, and Book or Bell? is due out from Bloomsbury on October 17.

05 Mar

Heck, my mother should know…

…that I’ve been published in The Horn Book!

The absolutely stellar March/April special issue focusing on “Fact, Fiction, and In Between” includes contributions from Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Erica Zappy, Matt Tavares, Marc Aronson, Steve Jenkins, Elizabeth Partridge, Monica Edinger, Tanya Lee Stone, Laurie Halse Anderson, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Candace Fleming, Katerine Paterson, Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, Margarita Engle, Deborah Heiligman, James Cross Giblin, Viki Ash and Thom Barthelmess, Marthe Jocelyn, Steven Herb, Leonard S. Marcus, Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer … and me.

Here’s a bit of my short essay “Your Mother Should Know,” about a last-minute twist in my research for Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities:

By the time the U.S. Navy got around to fulfilling my Freedom of Information Act request, I’d forgotten that I had requested it. But even though my text for Can I See Your I.D.? was finished, I couldn’t help but take a look at the documents pertaining to one of my subjects, serial impostor Ferdinand Waldo Demara Jr.

One document referred to “a letter from [redacted] dated 14 August 1944, in which she requested information concerning the whereabouts of her brother, Ferdinand S. [sic] Demara, who had been A.W.O.L.”

This was trouble.

And as if that wasn’t enough to liven up my week, I received the First Big Review of Can I See Your I.D.? from Kirkus Reviews:

Barton’s use of the second-person point of view gives these stories dramatic tension and a sense of immediacy. Hoppe’s graphic panels enhance this effect. … Teens in the thick of creating identities themselves will find this riveting.

April 14 is the book’s official publication date. I’m starting to get a wee bit excited.