21 Aug

In which I am interviewed by fourth graders from Graham Elementary

When I visited with the fourth graders at Graham Elementary here in Austin this past April, they followed up with many questions — and artwork. Such as this recreation of one of Don Tate’s illustrations in The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch:

cb-20160817-John Roy Lynch at desk cropped

That drawing of John Roy Lynch is just an example of the great stuff they sent. I believe I’m overdue in answering their questions. So…

Do you enjoy making children’s books?

Yes, I do. I think it’s the perfect job for me.

Do you like animals?

Not all of them, but I like a lot more animals than I dislike.

What inspired you to become an author?

My toddler son wanted me to tell him over and over the story of how I installed a smoke alarm in our house. I wrote that story down, and it was awful, but it got me going.

How long have you been writing?

Almost as long as I’ve been reading. The first story of mine that I know of is one that I wrote in second grade, “The Ozzie Bros. Meet the Monsters.”

Will you make chapter books?

I sure hope so. I’ve written a nonfiction book called Can I See Your I.D.? that had ten chapters, and I wrote a short story for a YA collection, and I hope that I will have more longer-than-a-picture-book fiction published.

How many books have you written?

88 Instruments, which was published just yesterday, is my tenth published book. I’ve written many more that have not been published.

Where do you get your ideas from?

All over. Things I see, things I read about, ideas that pop into my head while I’m running, suggestions from friends and editors — these are just some examples.

How old were you when you started to do books?

I was 29 when I realized I wanted to write books for kids, and almost 38 when my first book was published.

What inspired you to write the book “The Ozzie Bros. Meet the Monsters”?

Star Wars, the Muppets, and Abbott and Costello movies where they meet famous Hollywood monsters.

Do you have any books about your dog?

Not yet, but there are dogs in some of my manuscripts that sure remind me of Ernie.

Do you talk in a different language?

I’ve started relearning the Spanish that I began forgetting after my sophomore year in high school. Duolingo says I’m now 4% fluent.

Have you ever visited different countries?

I went to Mexico and Canada when I was growing up, and this past spring I traveled to Singapore to visit the Singapore American School. That trip included some time wandering around an airport in Qatar.

Have you been on tour?

Yes — to schools in Utah last December to celebrate my nonfiction book The Nutcracker Comes to America, and to cities in Texas and Oklahoma this past spring, in support of my book Mighty Truck.

Have you ever experienced difficult, frustrating times?

I sure have. I’ve been lucky to have family and friends to lean on during those times.

How many awards have you won?

I don’t know how many, but I can tell you the biggest: My first book, The Day-Glo Brothers, won a Sibert Honor from the American Library Association.

And that’s it! Thank you for the great questions, fourth graders — now FIFTH graders! — at Graham Elementary.

01 Feb

Bartography on Pinterest

Pinterest_Badge_RedJust a reminder, for those of you on Pinterest, that I’ve got pages there for each of my books:

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch
Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet
Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities
Shark Vs. Train
The Day-Glo Brothers

You can also see which books I’ll be giving away in coming months to Bartography Express subscribers (if you liked Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s One for the Murphys, you’ll love the February giveaway!), as well as images from my school visits and other appearances.

And you guys, the art I’ve seen from Cathy Gendron for our fall 2015 book, ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition, is flat-out gorgeous. I can’t wait to start pinning images from that, so keep an eye out, OK?

14 Oct

Why, yes — it has been a while…


It’s been three and a half years to the day since the publication of my previous book, Can I See Your I.D.?, and today also brings the release of my new book, Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet.

It was not my intention to go so long between books, and according to my publishing schedule I’ll be making up for lost time in the next year and a half. That said, you probably didn’t even notice the gap — heaven knows there’s lots else in the world more worthy of your attention.

But I noticed, and I appreciate the patience of my wife and family, my agent and editors and friends.

And I especially appreciate all you readers out there who let me know in the meantime how much joy you were getting out of Shark Vs. Train and The Day-Glo Brothers. I’m so glad to finally offer proof that there’s more where that came from.

05 Oct

My appearance on the Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum

This is a bit belated, but I appeared this past Friday night on an episode of Mysteries at the Museum on the Travel Channel. Here’s a taste:

Why me, and why this program? One of the subjects I profiled in Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities was serial impostor Ferdinand Waldo Demara Jr.

In my book, I focused on this Massachusetts-born high school dropout’s exploits as surgeon “Dr. Joseph Cyr” in the Canadian navy during the Korean War. But when Mysteries at the Museum needed someone to speak — on camera at the Texas Prison Museum — about Demara’s stint working for the Texas prison system under the name “Ben Jones,” they went for some guy in a purple shirt calling himself “Chris Barton.”

I’ll post a link to the full episode when it becomes available online.

03 Sep

“We had no idea what kind of person we were getting”

Today I saw the (R-rated) documentary The Imposter, which was disturbing, amazing, and entertaining in equal, ample measure. What it wasn’t, though — at least not for me — was surprising, since I knew so much of what to expect through my research into other stories of false identities for Can I See Your I.D.?

The Imposter lets out — bit by excruciating bit — the true story of a San Antonio family who, three years after the disappearance of their 13-year-old son and brother, was notified that he had turned up in Spain. The young man that they brought home to live with them was different from their lost loved one in crucial, obvious ways that couldn’t have been explained by whatever trauma he had been through in the intervening years, yet they allowed themselves to believe that the person lost and the person found were one and the same.

As the title gives away, they weren’t the same, but anyone who has read the “key lessons” I offer near the end of Can I See Your I.D.? should be able to pick up on the tricks and techniques employed by the imposter to convince the family otherwise.

He kept his mouth shut, saying little that would conflict with what known about the boy whose identity he had appropriated.

He did his best to look the part, and to explain away the ways in which he didn’t.

But rather than “let [his] would-be discoverers feel smart,” the imposter seized upon an impulse more primal than the craving for an ego boost: the desire for even a shred of hope to hang onto, the belief against all logic that someone given up for gone might still be alive. A better way to state that lesson in my book might have been “let your would-be discoverers feel what they most need to feel.”

The imposter’s behavior was reprehensible. His story, however, is grippingly and cleverly told and would make a terrific companion to Can I See Your I.D.? for upper YA readers.

29 Jan

Coming down from a conference is easier with good news like this

I spent last Sunday with authors and editors and agents and illustrators and — oh, yeah! — librarians at ALA Midwinter in Dallas. After an extraordinary day among some of my favorite people on the planet, readjusting to everyday life can be tough.

Two things have made it easier.

First, Can I See Your I.D.? has been named to the Young Adult Library Services Association’s 2012 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers. What’s that about? Well…

The Quick Picks list, presented annually at the ALA Midwinter Meeting suggests books that teens, ages 12-18, will pick up on their own and read for pleasure; it is geared to the teenager who, for whatever reason, does not like to read. The 2012 list features 117 titles; the committee also selected a top ten list, denoted here by an asterisk.

“There is something here for everyone, from our struggling readers in middle school to the overscheduled young adult looking for a really good read,” said Chair Heather Gruenthal. “I am really proud of this year’s committee for their work with teen groups from across the country and coming up with such a diverse list. Only on Quick Picks can you find zombies, superheroes, gangs, ghost hunters, murderers, monsters, goth girls, baby animals, gross facts, and sports heroes all in the same place.”

And then there’s this review of my book (combined with praise for Badass: The Birth of a Legend and The Oxford Companion to Beer):

In Can I See Your ID?, Barton cleverly places readers in the centre of the action by addressing them with the word “you,” as if they are the impostors. Whether writing about a slave posing as a slave owner to escape the Deep South or a penniless woman finding food and lodging by pretending to be an exotic foreigner, Barton captivates, in part because the stories allow him to explore the fascinating psychology of deceit. Each story ends with a sidebar explaining the fate of the impersonator or con artist. At about 120 pages, Can I See Your ID? is a slim but entertaining volume appropriate for middle schoolers and up.


A technical glitch kept this post from appearing for several days after it was written. In the meantime, another kind review of Can I See Your I.D.? popped up, so I’ll quote from that one, too. Many thanks to Kiss the Book!

Engaging and easy to read, Can I see Your ID? would be an excellent way to interest young readers in nonfiction or biographies.

21 Oct

Three chances to see me and my I.D.

If you’re in Austin this weekend for the Texas Book Festival, please join me Saturday night at the Texas State Cemetery and Sunday afternoon at the Capitol. (Customize your own festival calendar here.)

If you’re in the Dallas area on Tuesday, please join me at 7 p.m. at a Real Bookstore in Fairview as I read from, discuss, and sign Can I See Your I.D.? You can even ask if you can see my I.D. I promise you nobody else has ever done that.

And if you’re in Austin this weekend and in the Dallas area on Tuesday, please know that you’ve got an excellent chance to make me your best friend for life.

Here are the details on the Texas Book Festival events I’ll be participating in:

A Convergence of Souls
a collaboration with Austin Bat Cave featuring the Festival’s young adult writers

Date: Saturday, October 22, 2011
Time: 9:00 – 9:45
Location: Lit Crawl: Texas State Cemetery

What’s spookier than a slew of the nation’s finest young adult authors all gathered together in one place? Well, a lot actually – that sounds downright pleasant. But did we mention they’re gathering in the Texas State Cemetery, where the hallowed graves of countless former statesmen (and sometime ghosts) pass their grim vigil? OK, so it might be more than a little spooky, but terror aside, this collection of sheer talent should make for a rather fun evening. You’ll get to meet the writers (listed below), hear them talk about their newest books, and maybe even watch them compete for literary glory. And don’t worry, we promise to keep the prospect of your looming mortality to, you know, a minimum. Bring a blanket and flashlight!

Jennifer Ziegler
Margaret Stohl
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Joe Schreiber
Alex Sanchez
Louis Sachar
David Rice
Kathy Reichs
Shelia P. Moses
Barry Lyga
David Levithan
Joe R. Lansdale
Ellen Hopkins
Kami Garcia
Sarah Dessen
James Dashner
Rosemary Clement-Moore
Libba Bray
Chris Barton
Jay Asher
Jessica Lee Anderson
Jill S. Alexander
Emceed By: Kathleen Houlihan

Kids Read Nonfiction, Too!
Date: Sunday, October 23, 2011
Time: 2:00 – 3:00
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.012

We often recall childhood reading as the time when books we love took us to other worlds, times, and people. But those books aren’t always fiction – well-crafted nonfiction for kids and adolescents engage us in the actual world, without feeling like homework. Come listen to Chris Barton, Jeanette Larson, and Elaine Scott in conversation about how they connect with readers.

Moderator and children’s author Anne Bustard is a former children’s bookseller and teacher, avid listmaker, and fan of Kailua Beach.

12 Oct

A Texas Lone Star nomination and two new reviews for Can I See Your I.D.?

The full list of nominations for the Texas Library Association’s 2012 Lone Star award for YA books is out now, and I’m thrilled that Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities is on it. Anyone looking for recommendations for new books for young adult titles now has a terrific place to start.

Can I See Your I.D.? has also been nominated for the Cybils, and with that nomination have come a pair of thoughtful new reviews of the book. From Not Just for Kids:

One thing Barton does particularly well is to throw the reader directly into the deception. Along with the use of the second person narration, each fraud is already in full swing when the reader joins. … While the individuals involved might have had plenty of time to plan how they were going to carry out their impersonations, the reader does not and needs to be ready to run with the situation from the get-go. Barton does take a small step back to provide some background information, but then it is back to the business at hand, which is basically, ‘will you pull this off?’

And from Wrapped in Foil:

Starting with a young man who manages to trick the New York City Transit Authority into letting him operate the A Train, to a high school dropout who serves as a navy surgeon, to a woman who passes herself off as a male soldier during the Civil War, it is truly amazing what these imposters are able to carry out. In fact, reading the book might entice someone to give it a try if Barton hadn’t included so much information about how stressful it was to pretend to be someone else. In many of the examples the deception was not voluntary, but a response to a desperate situation.

25 Sep

In which I identify a bunch of YA titles about identity…

I spent this past Friday in San Antonio at the regional Library Resource Roundup. Highlights of my day included:

Meeting Adam Gidwitz, the Brooklyn-based author of A Tale Dark & Grimm. Adam not only gave the keynote address — he also gave me a lot to think about (starting with, “How can I make the audience laugh as much as he did?”) as I prepare for my own keynote at a similar event in Waco in November. During an informal Q&A (as opposed, I guess, to the rigidly formal Q&A sessions the librarians have come to expect from children’s authors), Adam discussed the eye-opening usefulness of a certain screenwriting guide. Well, that same guide — Save the Cat! — happens to be the very one I’ve been using to help me out in rewrites of my current manuscript, so I knew he was good people, even if he did set an unwelcomely high bar for keynotes.

Hearing Viki Ash of the San Antonio Public Library — and chair of the 2012 Newbery Award Selection Committee — explain the process for choosing the medal winner. Understanding better how it all works makes me all the more hopeful that I can be in the room in Dallas this coming January when the latest crop of ALA winners is announced.

Debuting my new presentation, “Can You See Their I.D.’s?”

When we’re teenagers, we’re all trying on new identities, we’re all on an adventure, and we’re all at least a little bit off. Author Chris Barton brings those three elements together in his YA nonfiction thriller Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities. In this presentation, he’ll discuss how books — from the comic to the tragic — with characters in the throes of identity crises can better equip teen readers to deal with their own.

As part of the presentation, I provided a couple of reading lists. Why, here they are now:

A Pretty Thorough List of Books for Young Readers Written in Second Person
Barton, Chris – Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities
Benoit, Charles – You
Jenkins, A. M. – Damage
Lynch, Chris – Freewill
Montgomery, R. A. – Choose Your Own Adventure 1: The Abominable Snowman

A Highly Selective List of Books for Young Readers With Identity As a Major Theme
Barton, Chris – Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities
Bjorkman, Laura – My Invented Life
Cannon, A. E. – The Loser’s Guide to Life and Love
Cottrell Boyce, Frank – Cosmic
Fletcher, Ralph – Also Known As Rowan Pohi
Larbalestier, Justine – Liar
Perkins, Mitali – First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover
Sonnenblick, Jordan – Zen and the Art of Faking It
Tashjian, Janet – The Gospel According to Larry
Ziegler, Jennifer – How Not to Be Popular

Which titles would you add to either list?

08 Sep

2011 Texas Book Festival Q&A

Q: Did they announce the lineup today for the 2011 Texas Book Festival, to be held in Austin on October 22-23?

A: Yes

Q: Am I on it?

A: Yes

Q: Am I at least as excited about the other authors who will be appearing as I am about my own participation?

A: Well, let’s see — the lineup includes Jay Asher, Mac Barnett, Libba Bray, Doreen Cronin… And those are just some of the children’s and YA authors up through “C” in last-name alphabetical order, at which point I start to get the vapors. So, you tell me.

Q: How might one go about seeing the entire list?

A: By clicking here.

Q: What if someone wanted to see a Marc Burckhardt-designed Texas Book Festival poster with a flaming horse?

A: In that case, they would click here.

Q: Could I have been any more delighted by the writeup you received, including a description of Can I See Your I.D.? that says it “acutely captures the breathless suspense of the long-con,” praises “the fun of I.D.‘s unconventional storytelling,” and concludes that “After a while, you can’t imagine telling the tales of deception and white-knuckled suspense any other way”?

A: Nope.