New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment Book Award committee has unveiled its titles for 2021, and look what’s on the Coyote list (grades 3-5):
Thank you, New Mexican librarians!
New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment Book Award committee has unveiled its titles for 2021, and look what’s on the Coyote list (grades 3-5):
Thank you, New Mexican librarians!
I awoke this morning to the first review of my upcoming nonfiction picture book All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing After the Oklahoma City Bombing, illustrated by Nicole Xu and coming next February 4 from Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing.
It’s a starred review from Kirkus, which notes that “Grief knows no boundaries” and concludes by calling the book “An affecting story of loss rooted in one specific tragedy.” I’m so thankful to the people at Lerner who saw the same need for this book that I did.
This month my Q&A is with Texas illustrator and author Beth Mills. Beth’s debut picture book, Ella McKeen, Kickball Queen, was published last month by Carolrhoda Books. School Library Journal summed up its review of the book by saying, “Emotions ring true in this relatable story. A good read-aloud choice to spark discussion.”
I’m giving away a copy of Ella McKeen, Kickball Queen 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 October 31, and I’ll enter you in the drawing.
In the meantime, please enjoy my two-question Q&A with Beth Mills.
Chris: There’s an attention-getting, epic freakout at the center of Ella McKeen, Kickball Queen, but I think readers are also going be intrigued by something much lower-key: the ending, which has a sort of itchy, unresolved feeling, as things don’t get entirely squared away between Ella and her new kickball rival, Riya Patel.
Was that always how you envisioned concluding this story? Were you ever tempted — or pressured — to wrap things up a bit more neatly?
Part of my motivation was wanting Ella and Riya to stand out from the plethora of “enemies to friends” characters out there, but I also wanted to reflect real life. While there certainly are rivalries that grow into friendships, it generally takes more than one kickball game (and possibly more than one freakout) to get there. I wanted to leave some space for the reader to think about Ella and Riya’s relationship and imagine where they might go from there.
I was lucky enough that both my agent, Claire Easton, and my editor, Carol Hinz, liked my ending, so changing it was never brought up. I don’t think the story could end any other way — Ella and Rita are both way too competitive!
Chris: Readers of this Q&A may not know that in most picture books, typically on the copyright page, there’s a mention of the medium that the illustrator used. For Ella McKeen, Kickball Queen, it says, “The illustrations in this book were painted digitally.” What’s the appeal to you of working in digital media, and when do you prefer not to work digitally?
Beth: I work from home where I also have a two-year-old and a five-year-old, so I love the “pick it up and put it down easily” aspect of digital media; I don’t have to worry about dry times, mixing colors (and then matching that mix when I invariably run out of paint), cleaning brushes, or scanning and formatting final art. I can jump into a piece and do a little work in the small increments of time I might have during the day.
That said, I don’t like doing my preliminary sketches or character designs digitally. If I work on them digitally, I tend to get too locked into a concept too early. Honestly, I would love to go back to mostly traditional work – it’s what I did in art school, and I miss it a lot! I think there’s often something in my work that’s lost when I do everything digitally; the finished piece can look too slick to me. I am currently exploring a work process that combines digital and traditional tools and am excited with some of the effects I’m getting.
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.
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.
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
Three years ago, a book tour took me to Oklahoma City, and before I left town, I made my first visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. The experience — especially the storytelling achieved by both the Memorial and the Museum — made a big impression on me.
Among the many facets of the story that began with the bombing of Oklahoma City’s Murrah Building on April 19, 1995, is the Survivor Tree that stands between the Museum and the Memorial. Here’s a photo I took of the tree on the day I visited:
After my visit, I could not stop thinking about the bombing and the effect it had — and still has — on the lives of so many people. That’s always a pretty good sign, for me, that there’s a book I should write.
I began reading a lot about the bombing and the resulting Memorial. In June 2017 I returned to Oklahoma City to do more research, which included quite a bit of time in the Museum’s archives. That’s where I saw this photo showing the Survivor Tree soon after the bombing:
I also took some close-up photos of the tree itself, demonstrating just how carefully it is tended to —
— and how healthy and full of life it became in the two decades-plus after the bombing:
Not long after, Lerner Publishing agreed to publish my picture book, All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing After the Oklahoma City Bombing, with illustrations by Nicole Xu. The book is almost finished and will be published next February.Two weeks ago, for the 24th anniversary of the bombing, I returned to Oklahoma City again, along with the book’s editor, Carol Hinz; art director, Danielle Carnito; and my wife, Jennifer Ziegler. We attended the annual Remembrance Ceremony, after which Survivor Tree seedlings were distributed to attendees.
Though our book is not only about the Survivor Tree, the tree and its offspring definitely are integral parts. Yet this was the first time I had seen the seedlings, some of which were larger than I expected.
It was also my first opportunity to meet some of the people I had interviewed by phone, including Mark Bays, an urban forestry coordinator with Oklahoma Forestry Services.
Mark has helped lead efforts to revive, preserve, and propagate the Survivor Tree since shortly after the Murrah bombing, and he was stationed at the entrance to the Museum to distribute seedlings.
By the time I got there, only a few seedlings remained, but the line of recipients had dwindled down to nothing, and I took a seedling for myself.
Later that day I visited the Memorial at night for the first time — by the light of a full moon, as it happened — and got a view of the Survivor Tree that I’d never had before:
Early the next morning, Jennifer and I got on a flight home. I heeded the advice I received from her — and from Carol, and from Danielle — not to try to pack my Survivor Tree seedling inside my carry-on suitcase. (No, I was told, not even if I tried to do so carefully.)
So, from Oklahoma City to Dallas to Austin, my seedling poked out of my leather messenger bag that I kept between my feet.
When we got home, I bought a new blue pot and planted the seedling. That won’t be where it stays permanently, but I don’t know that our pecan trees leave enough room for an American elm to grow and thrive. There’s a good chance that I’ll offer to plant the my Survivor Tree seedling — by then, perhaps, a sapling — next spring, sometime close to the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.
In the meantime, I’ll appreciate seeing it outside my front door — and remembering all that it represents — each time I come and go.
For a while, my next two picture books had the easy-to-remember tentative publication dates of 1/1/2020 and 5/5/2020. Now, they have new dates that are closer together and less tentative, and if these two dates together no longer seem quite as memorable, well, that’s why we have calendars.
If you’re so inclined, you can mark yours for:
February 4, 2020: That’s the planned publication date for my next nonfiction picture book, All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing After the Oklahoma City Bombing, illustrated by Nicole Xu and published by Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing.
March 10, 2020: Five weeks later is when you can expect my next fiction picture book, Fire Truck vs. Dragon, illustrated by Shanda McCloskey and published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
This terrific news comes on the heels of Dazzle Ships being added to state lists in Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you, AISLE, VSRA, and VAASL!
Earlier this month, my nonfiction picture book Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion (Millbrook Press/Lerner Publishing), illustrated by Victo Ngai, was named to the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards Program Master List for Grades 3-6 for 2019-2020.
All by itself, that was great news, and immediately I was tremendously thankful for the efforts of the PYCRA committee and for the award’s sponsor, the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association.
And then I thought, “PYCRA — that sounds familiar. Wasn’t Whoosh! on one of those lists?”
I did a little digging, and sure enough, it was. Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions (Charlesbridge), illustrated by Don Tate, was on the 2017-2018 PYCRA Master List for Grades 3-6.
But that’s not all I found when I searched my own website for references to the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award.
It had slipped my mind that both The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors (Charlesbridge), illustrated by Tony Persiani, and Shark vs. Train (Little, Brown), illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, were on PYCRA Master Lists (in two different categories) in 2011-2012. Shark vs. Train, in fact, had been the Kindergarten-Grade 3 winner that year.
I felt like a dope for those honors having slipped my mind, though I’d certainly appreciated them at the time. I’m going to chalk that memory lapse up to the fact that my knowledge and understanding of the children’s literature world have grown continually during the 18-plus years I’ve been pursuing this work, and that one aspect that it took me a while to grasp was the significance of state awards such as the PYRCA.
I fully appreciate now just how vital state award lists are for getting new books in front of young readers and their librarians. And that appreciation is multiplied by four for the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association.
Not long ago, the Texas Library Association created the Texas Topaz Reading List “to provide children and adults with recommended nonfiction titles that stimulate reading for pleasure and personal learning.”
I love that this list spans all ages and isn’t tied to any sort of curriculum — heck, it’s not even Texas-specific. The Texas Topaz list recognizes that nonfiction reading can be a joy, and it suggests that anyone not on board with that notion perhaps just hasn’t yet found the right book.
Well, the new Texas Topaz list just came out, and I’m thrilled to see that it includes not only two of the adult titles I’ve most enjoyed this past year or so — Michael Hurd’s Thursday Night Lights: The Story of Black High School Football in Texas and Lawrence Wright’s God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State — but also two of my own books.
Hooray for Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion, illustrated by Victo Ngai and published by Millbrook Press/Lerner Publishing…
…and for What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, illustrated by Ekua Holmes and published by Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster.
And thank you many times over to the Topaz committee, and not just for including my books among this terrific bunch. I know a lot of work goes into reading books for these lists and making hard choices between what to include and what to almost include. I want y’all to know that nonfiction readers like me surely appreciate it.