21 Nov

Starred PW review for Fire Truck vs. Dragon: “Frustrated expectations have seldom been so funny”

There’s been another encouraging assessment of Fire Truck vs. Dragon, which I wrote and Shanda McCloskey illustrated, and which will be published March 10 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Behold, a starred review from Publishers Weekly!

This time, the joke is on readers: unlike the rivals in Shark vs. Train, Fire Truck and Dragon are besties (“We get along great!” says Fire Truck. “Why wouldn’t we?”). Each time there’s a possible confrontation involving Dragon’s incendiary talents and Fire Truck’s capacity to extinguish them, the result is comically companionable. … Frustrated expectations have seldom been so funny; Barton’s misdirections are beautifully timed, and McCloskey’s digitally enhanced pencil-and-watercolor drawings are bright and exuberant.

12 Nov

Fire Truck vs. Dragon review: “McCloskey’s daffy cartoons make a perfect complement to Barton’s high-wired hilarity”

Fire Truck vs. Dragon — written by me, illustrated by Shanda McCloskey, and coming next March 10 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers — just received its first review. And it’s a good one from Kirkus:

From the title, fans of Barton’s Shark vs. Train (illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, 2010) will be prepped for some major fire-and-water action. The three child protagonists certainly anticipate a humdinger of a battle, but unfortunately, antipathy is not on the menu. Turns out, Fire Truck and Dragon are the best of buds. Worse, they won’t even take advantage of their natural gifts. … Barton deftly upsets expectations, both for those familiar with his previous book and newcomers who know what “versus” means. Laughs come equally from the disappointed children in the book as well as readers’ thwarted guesses as to what is going to happen.

There’s more good stuff in there, too. In fact, this one review brings up pretty much everything I’d want anyone to say about the book. Just to be clear, though, that phrase in the excerpt above is “disappointed children in the book,” not “children disappointed in the book” — a key distinction!

26 Sep

Ernie vs. author shamelessness

Who will win?

It’s remarkable to me that, as uneasy as Ernie appears in his promotional role in the first photo, he somehow seems even less comfortable with it in the second one.

Not me, though. I’m an old hand at this, and I could not be more enthusiastic about sharing with the world Fire Truck vs. Dragon, illustrated by Shanda McCloskey, which will be published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers next March.

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!

11 Apr

2020 pub-date updates

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.

27 Feb

Thank you (again!), Pennsylvania school librarians


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.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

18 Jul

Coming in spring 2020: Fire Truck Vs. Dragon

There’s a newly published illustrator that you’re going to be hearing a lot about — and you’re especially going to be hearing a lot about her from me.

Her name is Shanda McCloskey, and we’re making a book together!

Shanda is the author and illustrator of Doll-E 1.0

— and its upcoming companion book, T-Bone the Drone, both published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Little, Brown has published one of my books, too —

— and I could not be happier that they’ve brought Shanda and me together to create Fire Truck vs. Dragon. Here’s the Official Announcement from Publishers Weekly:

I can’t wait to see the characters of Fire Truck and Dragon come to life — especially now that I’ve see a bit of Shanda’s own process behind creating Doll-E 1.0.

And you’ll all be able to meet them yourself in spring 2020! (Though maybe there will be a sneak peek or two in the meantime…)