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.

07 Nov

Hear me on the Picturebooking podcast

image

Nick Patton hosted me this week for an interview on the newest edition of his Picturebooking podcast.

I loved talking with Nick about ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America and The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch and about being married to my favorite author in the whole world, as well as answering his curveballier questions. Such as:

What was my life like right before the moment I got inspired to write children’s books?

And if neither time nor money was a limitation, what would my ultimate project be?

I had to really think about those, and I’m so glad to have had the opportunity. Thank you, Nick!

23 Sep

Writing what I’d love to learn

A post I wrote for the Nerdy Book Club has gone online, and I think you’ll like it. It’s titled “Write What You Know? Try Writing What You’d Love to Learn,” and it expands on a theme I discuss a lot in my school visits.

Here’s a taste:

As I write, I also discover more holes in what I know. My progress so far, however, gives me confidence that I’ll be able to fill those gaps, too. Students can fill those gaps as well. What I do, they can do — or learn to do. And I believe they can love it just as much.

If that doesn’t interest you, how about if you just come check out the 80-year-old footage of a pirouetting gas station attendant?

16 Sep

A 2nd starred review (from Booklist) for the Christensen brothers!

Christensens at barre

Things are shaping up nicely for Willam, Harold, and Lew Christensen, the subjects of my new book with Cathy Gendron, ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition (Millbook Press).

Here’s some of what ALA Booklist had to say in the starred review that it published this week:

Barton offers a lively, colorful text and follows up with a very informative time line, illustrated with period photos, in the back matter. In her picture-book debut, Gendron turns in a virtuoso performance. Her handsome illustrations capture the distinctive posture and poise of ballet dancers, while portraying even minor characters as individuals. Suffused with light and warmth, the varied, imaginative paintings include dynamic textured effects as well as an inventively used ribbon to tie pages together. Even readers familiar with The Nutcracker will probably learn a good deal from this engaging picture book. Bravo! Brava!

14 Sep

A star for Nutcracker from Publishers Weekly!

Nutcracker_jacket

I couldn’t be happier with this starred review from Publishers Weekly for ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition.

Here’s an excerpt:

Balancing evocative turns of phrase with a crisp, forthright narrative, Barton delivers an involving account of how watching The Nutcracker ballet, which originated in Russia, became an American holiday tradition. … [A] fascinating bit of artistic investigation, one with year-round appeal.

Read the whole thing for the apt praise for illustrator Cathy Gendron’s work. Congratulations and thank you to her and the team at Lerner Publishing/Millbrook Press!

09 Sep

“Music, dance, a holiday tradition”

Thank you, Teresa Rolfe Kravtin, for this appreciation of ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition. It cites a book I adore, but whose connection to my own I had never considered:

Every year, The Nutcracker is staged in communities across America, and with this book, author Chris Barton tells the history behind how it came to be. More than just that, the story unfolds and explores how three brothers made their way through life pursuing their passion of dance, and creatively found ways of making money and becoming entertainers. In some ways, this reminds me of Melissa Sweet’s Balloons Over Broadway, another tale of a creative artist, Tony Sarg, a puppeteer who made something no one had quite ever made before, upside-down helium balloon puppets for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and it became a part of our national holiday tradition.

Nutcracker_frontcover

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

25 Jul

Bartography Express for July 2015, featuring Lindsey Lane’s Evidence of Things Not Seen

This month, one subscriber to my Bartography Express newsletter will win a copy of Evidence of Things Not Seen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Lindsey Lane.

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 at the end of next week.

20150723 Bartography Express

19 Jul

Huffington Post review of ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America

Vaudeville

Those of us who write for kids don’t write only for kids. We want our books to be shared and enjoyed widely. That’s why it’s so gratifying to me when one of my books for young readers gets acknowledged and appreciated by folks outside of the children’s literature world.

It doesn’t happen all that often, but it does happen: Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet got some splashy coverage on Boing Boing last year, and The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch has recently been included in the Charleston Syllabus.

And now, this review from the Huffington Post of my upcoming book ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition:

This is much more than the story of the transplanting of a famous Russian ballet. And not just a book for little girls who dream of dancing in tutus and pink satin pointe shoes. This is a real-life adventure story about “a trio of small-town Utah boys” with grit and talent, who bucked stereotypes, endured failures and persevered, and who individually and together enriched the cultural life of America.

Thank you, Carla Escoda, for this review, for your insight as a dancer, and for seeing all that illustrator Cathy Gendron, publisher Millbrook Press, and I tried to put into our book.