05 Jan

A second starred review for All of a Sudden and Forever

Right before the new year, I learned that School Library Journal has awarded a starred review to 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 on February 4 from Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing:

Barton commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing with a tribute that uses spare text to explain the events, the immediate aftermath, and the longterm ways people helped others. … [T]he author emphasizes the vulnerability and humanity of the victims and their relatives, friends, and neighbors. … Debut picture book artist Xu [depicts people without] facial features or expressions, allowing readers to project their own anger, fear, sadness, love, or compassion onto the characters. … Books that help elementary-age children understand disasters are more necessary than ever, so it is helpful to find such a sensitively written and thoughtfully illustrated resource.

This follows a starred review from Kirkus a couple of months ago. I appreciate the attention both reviews have paid to the work done by Nicole in her picture book debut. What a challenging topic for her first children’s book, and how beautifully she rose to the occasion.

03 Jan

Booklist and SLJ on Fire Truck vs. Dragon

Over the holidays, two new reviews came in for my upcoming picture book Fire Truck vs. Dragon, which is illustrated by Shanda McCloskey and will be published on March 10 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Booklist says:

Barton’s energetic day-in-the-life story of an unlikely pair of friends, Fire Truck and Dragon, teaches young readers quite literally to look beyond a book’s cover. … McCloskey’s vibrant illustrations implement a striking primary color palette with expressive characters and fun, roughshod linework to match the liveliness of the plot. This book teaches readers to express and appreciate differences, value unlikely and unexpected friendships, and be proud of yourself and your loved ones for things you succeed at.

In its review, School Library Journal brings up those same themes:

Despite the two titular characters going head-to-head as depicted on the cover … [t]his companion to Barton’s Shark vs. Train is not only good fun, but also shows children that people with differences can still be friends.

Taken with the previous reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly (a star!), the welcome awaiting Fire Truck vs. Dragon sure feels like a warm one. I can’t wait for you to see it for yourself.

13 Feb

SLJ‘s recommendations for “Honoring African American Women and Girls, Past and Present”

School Library Journal has compiled a list of 20 recent nonfiction titles “celebrating African American women [that] highlight their important contributions to the arts, activism, literacy, politics, science,” etc.

Thanks to the magic of alphabetical ordering by author’s last name, the list features my book 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) at the very top.

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do in my own reading, and maybe you do, too. Check out the entire list.

26 Aug

Dazzle Ships: The Video

About a year ago, I mentioned that my book Dazzle Ships (Millbrook Press) had received a starred review from School Library Journal.

Well, I’m delighted to let you know that Dazzle Ships has now received a second star from SLJ — this time for the 25-minute DVD produced by Dreamscape.

From the review:

Victo Ngai’s illustrations are closely scanned and sometimes simply animated as Johnny Heller narrates the text set to taut, compelling music and appropriate sound effects. … This extraordinary, fascinating look into a little-known historical event has multiple curriculum connections, from history to art. It would be a valuable addition to any collection and inspire viewers to do further research.

For a visual sampling of the magic Dreamscape has worked, here’s the trailer for the DVD:

You can order the DVD — or watch it for free on Hoopla — by visiting the Dreamscape site.

10 Oct

School Library Journal weighs in (twice!) on Book or Bell?

One favorable writeup from School Library Journal would be a welcome thing for a soon-to-be-published book such as Book or Bell?, my upcoming (as in “due one week from today”) collaboration with Ashley Spires. So you can imagine how happy I am to see two such notices in SLJ.

First, there’s SLJ’s official review:

Designed to appeal to any child dreaming of the perfect read and a bit of control over their surrounding environment, this offering features plenty of action with a satisfying ending. A suggested general purchase for all libraries.

And while I love seeing the review quote my phrasing “mega-giga-decibel monstrosity illegal in seventeen states,” I especially love the reviewer’s description of the pivotal moment in the story as being the one when a boy’s teacher “discovers the call to his heart — a personal interest that builds and then surpasses his favorite book about bicycles.”

Then there’s the magazine’s roundup, Smiles of Bibliophiles: Celebrating Books and Reading:

Ultimately, a “mega-giga-decibel monstrosity,” which is more deafening than “the Daytona 500, a squadron of Blue Angels, and an army of door-to-door jackhammer sellers,” has a vibration strong enough to “jitter” and “jutter” clothing off individuals and fling backpacks “willy-nilly,” but leaves Henry unscathed and still reading. … Told with uproarious humor and illustrated with energetic, detail packed illustrations featuring a multicultural cast, Chris Barton and Ashley Spires’s Book or Bell? (Bloomsbury, Oct. 2017; K-Gr 4) will entertain youngsters while celebrating the intoxicating contentment of connecting with that perfect book.

If Henry’s love of his bike book is anything compared to my appreciation of SLJ right about now, then no wonder he doesn’t want to stop reading.

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.

12 Sep

Elizabeth Bird on The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

bookcover-johnroylynch

Elizabeth Bird, librarian extraordinaire, had a lot to say this week about The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch on her School Library Journal blog.

This book has received some great attention, but there’s nothing quite as rewarding for an author as knowing without a doubt that someone has made a point of thinking deeply about your work.

Here’s a bit of what she said:

[Y]ou just have to stand in awe of Barton’s storytelling. Not making up dialogue is one thing. Drawing a natural link between a life and the world in which that life lived is another entirely. Take that moment when John Roy answers his master honestly. He’s banished to hard labor on a plantation after his master’s wife gets angry. Then Barton writes, “She was not alone in rage and spite and hurt and lashing out. The leaders of the South reacted the same way to the election of a president – Abraham Lincoln – who was opposed to slavery.” See how he did that? He managed to bring the greater context of the times in line with John Roy’s personal story. Many is the clunky picture book biography that shoehorns in the era or, worse, fails to mention it at all. I much preferred Barton’s methods. There’s an elegance to them.

She’s just as insightful about Don Tate’s illustrations, pointing out key aspects of them that I hadn’t noticed and am now kicking myself for having missed. I’m so glad that she set me straight.

Thank you, Betsy, for the attention you gave our book.

14 Apr

Encouraging words and recommended reading

I’m pausing just a moment to catch my breath between last week’s whirlwind (my first school visit for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

Reilly visit cropped

— the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, and the San Antonio Book Festival) and this week’s excitement of the Texas Library Association annual conference here in Austin.

While I’m pausing, I’m happy to share a few things published elsewhere recently either about my new book or written by me, starting with this generous review by Margie Myers-Culver at Librarian’s Quest:

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch written by Chris Barton with illustrations by Don Tate is a remarkable biography. This is a man with whom we should all be familiar. The blend of narrative and pictures is compelling from beginning to end. After the two pages of his speech a single page shows an older John Roy Lynch with a continuation of his beliefs about this country. There is a single page Historical Note about Reconstruction, a Timeline of important dates in John Roy Lynch’s life alongside historical dates, an Author’s Note, an Illustrator’s Note, sources For Further Reading and two maps. This is a back matter goldmine.

School Library Journal also has good things to say about The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch:

Tate’s illustrations, rendered in mixed media, ink, and gouache on watercolor paper, are extraordinary and carry the lengthy story well. The excellent cartoon-style paintings soften potentially disturbing details, such as the Ku Klux Klan burning a church. The book concludes with a thorough historical note. Teachers will find this remarkable story of hope and perseverance a valuable supplement to social studies lessons on the Civil War and Black History Month.

Meanwhile, I’ve been busy with a couple of guest posts. At The Little Crooked Cottage, I was asked to write about my favorite picture book biographies:

There are too many excellent picture book biographies — and too many excellent authors and illustrators working in this field — for me to narrow them down to my all-time favorite five. But there are a handful that have been especially meaningful to me at one time or another, so I’m going to limit my list to those.

And Austin Reading Mama asked for my reading recommendations for grown folks. I was happy to offer up a handful — all of them nonfiction, as it turned out. And the list doesn’t event include the book I’m in the midst of loving right now, Tomlinson Hill, Chris Tomlinson’s fascinating exploration of the histories of his white Texas family and of the African-American Tomlinsons whose ancestors had once been owned by the author’s forebears. It’s eye-opening and well worth your while.