24 Oct

Jennifer Ziegler on #kidlitwomen*, Cynsations, and again on #kidlitwomen*

Jenny and me, literary nerds in love

This week, My Favorite Author in the Whole Wide World has been featured on two of my favorite sources for insights and information about the world of children’s literature.

For those of you who don’t know, Jennifer Ziegler — author of the Brewster Triplets series of middle-grade novels as well as YA novels including How Not to Be Popular — is also my wife, and I’ll admit to being a little bit biased in favor of every single thing she does.

But I’m also a loyal listener to the #kidlitwomen* podcast and a big fan of author Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations blog. Since very early in my career, I’ve craved a deeper understanding into the workings of the business and culture of books for young readers, and a deeper understanding of my fellow creators of those books.

#kidlitwomen* and Cynsations — a newcomer to the conversation and a leader in the conversation from way back, respectively — both satisfy that need.

So you can imagine how happy I’ve been to hear Jennifer on this week’s two episodes of #kidlitwomen*.

Monday brought Jennifer’s reading of her essay “It’s the Grown-ups with the Hang-Ups — Not the Readers,” in which she challenges adults’ assumptions that the boys in their lives won’t read books about girls.

“I’ve tried [to get boys to],” some might say, “and they still won’t read them.” To that I say, Shouldn’t you be worried about why they won’t? Isn’t this something you need to talk with them about?

And this morning I woke up to find a new episode of #kidlitwomen* in which Jennifer discusses her essay with Alvina Ling, VP and editor-in-chief of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

In between those two podcast episodes, Jennifer was featured on the newest edition of Cynsations’ Survivors Interview Series, which “offers in-depth reflections and earned wisdom from children’s-YA book authors who have successfully built long-term, actively-publishing careers.”

I especially love Jennifer’s response to the question, “What advice would you give to your beginner self, if that version of you was a debut author this year?”

She talks about the importance to authors of finding a writing community, learning as much about the industry as possible, and never being afraid to ask questions.

That advice all rings true to me, and the community and education offered through #kidlitwomen* (including but not limited to the podcast) and Cynsations are great places to start.

04 Sep

When boxes of bookmarks arrive, it must be school-visit season again

Lo and behold, look what showed up on Friday:

Just in time for the start of this year’s school visits, it was our first shipment of our newest two-sided, hers-and-his bookmarks, and I think they’re beautiful.

Jennifer and I will leave these bookmarks for the audiences at each campus where we give presentations, though some lucky students will receive bookmarks from before the publication of Jennifer’s Revenge of the Teacher’s Pets (this past June) and my own What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? (coming three weeks from today).

But those aren’t leftovers — they’re vintage!

30 Apr

Proud-husband alert: Revenge of the Happy Campers is out now!

Revenge of the Happy Campers, the third book in Jennifer’s Brewster Triplets series, was published this past Tuesday. In this follow-up to Revenge of the Flower Girls and Revenge of the Angels, her 11-year-old protagonists venture away from their home in Johnson City, Texas. The sisters go on a camping trip with their beloved Aunt Jane, during which they square off against a trio of similarly competitive boys.

Writing in yesterday’s Austin American-Statesman, reviewer Sharyn Vane says:

Ziegler’s young democratic-process aficionados are as appealing as ever, brimming with confidence and problem-solving savvy. They’re empathetic enough to notice that their aunt is saddened by the state of the campground she remembers visiting each summer with the triplets’ mother. And they’re also “almost 12,” which means there are hints of tween-appropriate realizations that these boys could be more than just foes to vanquish … “Campers” is very much like the triplets themselves — full of real-world adventures, both wise and witty.

And like its predecessors, this book is as funny, warm, and big-hearted as the woman I married — and that’s saying a lot. Congratulations, love of mine!

31 Dec

Recognition, celebration, validation

Here’s to the end of 2015, everybody. I hope you’ve had a satisfying year, and that no matter how well things have gone, it’s wrapping up for you on a positive note.

If you’re reading this, you’re one of the reasons I feel so fortunate to be doing what I do. Thank you for taking an interest in me and my books.

And if you’re someone who has taken the time to publicly recognize or celebrate or validate the work done by authors of books for kids, thank you especially for that. It makes a difference to us, and I know I’m not the only one who appreciates your efforts.

To close out the year here at Bartography, I want to recognize, celebrate, and validate those efforts by sharing with my readers a few of the kind gestures that folks have made toward my work recently.

If you follow these links, I hope you’ll look around a bit and see what other books have caught their eyes. Maybe you’ll discover your first favorite read of 2016…

Authors Chris Barton and Jennifer Ziegler. Photo by Sam Bond Photography.

Authors Chris Barton and Jennifer Ziegler. Photo by Sam Bond Photography.

Kate Hannigan interviewed me and also interviewed Jennifer for the Author Of… blog:

Attack Boss Cheat Code - May 2014

Michele Knott at Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook generously spotlighted all of my picture books and then named Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet to her list of My Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books from 2015

Mighty Truck

Public Libraries Online featured An Interview with Troy Cummings, illustrator of my text for our upcoming Mighty Truck series

bookcover-johnroylynch

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch was…

Nutcracker_frontcover

‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America was…

29 Nov

Join Jennifer and me in supporting the Giving Tree

But you're on your own for the Taco Cleanse.

But you’re on your own for the Taco Cleanse.

On Saturday, December 5, Jennifer and I will celebrate the release of our new holiday-themed books — her Revenge of the Angels and my ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America — with an open-to-the-public event at Austin’s BookPeople benefiting the store’s Giving Tree charity program.

Giving Tree provides a way for BookPeople customers to provide books for children in need who are served by three locally based charities. Instead of an author Q&A this month, I’ve invited leaders of each organization to share with you a little bit about the work they do. Just follow these links to read about the Women’s Storybook Project of Texas, Saint Louise House, and BookSpring.

Guests at our December 5 event who buy any hardcover children’s book to donate to Giving Tree will be in the running for the giveaway of signed sets of Revenge of the Angels and ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America.

Two subscribers to my Bartography Express will also be winners. In addition to the BookPeople event, Jennifer and I are giving away a signed copy of each book. If you’d like one of those winners to be you, just 1) subscribe to Bartography Express, if you haven’t already, and 2) say so in the comments to this post, and we’ll enter you in the drawing.

20 Nov

Giving Back for the Holidays, Part 3: BookSpring

When Jennifer and I celebrate our new holiday-themed books with an event at Austin’s BookPeople on December 5, we’re going to spotlight the store’s annual Giving Tree charity program.

Guests buying any hardcover children’s book to donate to Giving Tree will be in the running for the giveaway of signed sets of Jennifer’s Revenge of the Angels and my own ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America.

Giving Tree is benefiting three local nonprofit organizations this year, and this week I’m telling you a little bit about each of them.

BookSpring

As stated in its mission, “BookSpring provides reading experiences, tools, and books to children and their families so they can develop a desire to read and succeed in school and life.”

BookSpring executive director Emily Cicchini elaborates:

BookSpring aims to reach 300,000 infants, toddlers, and young children in Central Texas. We want to influence the reading habits, not only of children, but also of whole families. Parents who have books get to read to their kids, creating a love for reading and a critical skill for future success. Those kids will read more and want more books—a perpetual circle of literacy.

We primarily serve children in low-income families, so we hope our influence will provide the advantage they may lack without sufficient reading resources at home. We want to reduce the number of high school drop-outs, welfare dependents, and even the number of prisoners. Our endeavors will help the children of today earn higher paying jobs and be contributing members of society in the future.

BookSpring is equipping children, families, and communities with the tools and skills required for long-term life success.

I truly appreciate Emily and all the BookSpring staff and volunteers for the vital work they do. And thank you, Bartography readers, for anything you can do to spread the word about BookSpring, the Giving Tree, or the BookPeople event on December 5.

18 Nov

Giving Back for the Holidays, Part 2: Saint Louise House

When Jennifer and I celebrate our new holiday-themed books with an event at Austin’s BookPeople on December 5, we’re going to spotlight the store’s annual Giving Tree charity program.

Guests buying any hardcover children’s book to donate to Giving Tree will be in the running for the giveaway of signed sets of Jennifer’s Revenge of the Angels and my own ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America.

Giving Tree is benefiting three local nonprofit organizations this year, and this week I’m telling you a little bit about each of them.

SLH_Logo_Landscape

The mission of Saint Louise House is “Empowering women with children to overcome homelessness in Central Texas.” But, says executive director Laura Ward, “it may be the children who live at Saint Louise House who gain the most.”

Here’s more of what Laura has to say about the organization she leads.

Children talk about their home at Saint Louise House with wonder of the most basic things: “I have a bed,” “I feel safe,” and “I get to go to school”.

Homelessness has a profound impact on children’s health and education, as well as mothers’ abilities to find a job and stay employed. Homeless children are hungry and sick more often. They are highly anxious. They wonder if they will have a roof over their heads at night and what will happen to their families. Many homeless children struggle in school, missing days, repeating grades, and some drop out entirely. The stress of being homeless leads to chronic and acute health problems, and has a profound negative effect on a child’s development and ability to learn. This uncertainty affects more children in our city than you might think.

The women living at Saint Louise House are determined to build better futures, especially for their children. Each of their journeys is unique, each goal and milestone exclusive, and it begins with the goodness that comes from having a place to call home.

Saint Louise House is a home where families can set goals, work together to achieve them, and kids can be kids. As we help moms with access to nutritious food, needed transportation and healthcare, we also help their children. This year, 85 children called Saint Louise House home. No longer feeling scared about the uncertainty of where they might sleep, these kids are busy doing all the things every mother wants for her children as they grow. They are attending school, learning, eating healthy, regular meals, getting good sleep, and following their interests. Children at Saint Louise House are playing outside on scooters and trikes; they are playing music – the bassoon, clarinet, oboe, flute, guitar and even saxophone; they are playing sports – football, basketball and tennis, they are dancing and cheerleading; they are creating art and even participating in chess club.

Perhaps most importantly, children at Saint Louise House are developing the confidence to overcome the adversity of their past, the resiliency to find joy in the present, and the courage to believe in a better future.

Thank you for sharing that, Laura, and for all the work that Saint Louise House does. And thank you, Bartography readers, for anything you can do to spread the word about Saint Louise House, the Giving Tree, or the BookPeople event on December 5.

16 Nov

Giving Back for the Holidays, Part 1: Women’s Storybook Project of Texas

When Jennifer and I celebrate our new holiday-themed books with an event at Austin’s BookPeople on December 5, we’re going to spotlight the store’s annual Giving Tree charity program.

Guests buying any hardcover children’s book to donate to Giving Tree will be in the running for the giveaway of signed sets of Jennifer’s Revenge of the Angels and my own ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America.

Giving Tree is benefiting three local nonprofit organizations this year, and this week I’m going to tell you a little bit about each of them.

WSP

The mission of the Women’s Storybook Project (WSP) of Texas is “Connecting children with their incarcerated moms through the joy of literature.”

Volunteers travel to women’s prisons in Texas to record mothers as they read books for their children. Judith Dullnig, director of WSP, explained to me how it works.

“The moms give a short message, read the book or a chapter of a book, give another message, then we mail the recording and book to their child,” Judith says. “This way the children have a chance to hear their moms read a story while she is away.”

Judith emphasizes the importance of the child hearing his mother’s voice, and she has shared some comments from some of these mothers:

“My child takes the book and recording to bed with him.”

“My child talks back to the tape recorder.” [WSP recorded on tapes then.]

“My child took the tape and book to ‘Show and Tell.'”

Just last week, WSP received this note from a child:

Dear Storybook Project,

I love the books and I want to read MORE, I enjoy it very much.

Thank you for bring me and my mom close together. When are the next books coming?

Senserliy,

[Child’s signature]

P.S. -I read my books with the C.D. all the time!

Thank U! [a heart around “thank you”]

Partners of these incarcerated mothers benefit from the program as well. Judith passed along these remarks from a husband:

Hello and Thanks Women’s Storybook Project,

My name is Jack and my wife is serving sentence and away from our daughter. We received the CD and book package from you. Our daughter was so excited when we received the brown package with her name on it. And when she saw that it was the story from her mommy she was even more excited. It was she and mommy had come together.

The timing of the package was so perfect because it was at her birthday and this was such a special gift because it was from mommy whom she loves so much. She has shown it to everyone who has been at our home. She cherishes this special gift and even wants to sleep with it. Thanks so much and I hope that the Project touches every as it has touched our lives.

And thank you, Bartography readers, for anything you can do to spread the word about WSP, the Giving Tree, or the BookPeople event on December 5.

01 Sep

‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America is out today!

A mere 12 years, 6 months, and 23 days after I saved my first file on the topic of Utah-born Willam, Harold, and Lew Christensen, today marks the launch of my newest book, ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition.

Nutcracker_frontcover

It’s published by Lerner Books/Millbrook Press and gorgeously illustrated by Cathy Gendron, making what I think is a stellar picture-book debut. I’ve already shared the Huffington Post’s enthusiastic review of the book, but not yet these glowing notes from Margie Myers-Culver:

As surely as this ballet is a part of the Christmas season, you are going to want The Nutcracker Comes To America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created A Holiday Tradition written by Chris Barton with illustrations by Cathy Gendron to become a favorite read aloud with your students, children, family and friends. The story of these three brothers continuing to follow their passion despite life’s trials is truly inspirational. … This is nonfiction at its finest for all ages. At the close of the book the Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, Timeline, The Whole Shebang, In A Nutshell: A Summary Of The Nutcracker and Suggestions For Further Reading are must reads.

(Thanks, Margie!)

And if you’re looking to pair ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America with another new holiday-themed book featuring three siblings — bonus points if it, too, features a stage curtain on the cover — might I suggest the latest effort from my favorite author in the whole wide world? (That would be my wife, Jennifer Ziegler, of course!)

Revenge of the Angels

29 Aug

Bartography Express for August 2015, featuring Tamara Ellis Smith’s Another Kind of Hurricane

This month, one subscriber to my Bartography Express newsletter will win a copy of Another Kind of Hurricane (Schwartz & Wade) by Tamara Ellis Smith.

If you’re not already receiving Bartography Express, click the image below for a look. If you like what you see, click “Join” in the bottom right corner, and you’ll be in the running for the giveaway next Tuesday.

20150825 Bartography Express