11 Nov

Shark, Train and me in San Antonio this Saturday!

Join me (and/or tell your S.A. friends), won’t you?

By the way, in between the two events announced in the link above, I’ll also be presenting to the Southwest Texas SCBWI:

November 13 – 1-3pm – Guest Author Event with author Chris Barton

You Better Believe It: How The Day-Glo Brothers Survived All the Things I Didn’t Know

Barnes & Noble at the San Pedro Crossing
321 NW Loop 410 #104, San Antonio, TX 78216

“I can tell you exactly where I got my idea from, how I knew that all those years of effort had been worthwhile, and what I learned about publishing, persistence, and fluorescence in the meantime.” – Chris Barton

Chris Barton is the author of the American Library Association Sibert Honor-winning THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS (Charlesbridge, 2009; illustrated by Tony Persiani), the biography of the inventors of those daylight-fluorescent oranges, yellows, and greens you see every day. It was named one of the best children’s books of 2009 by Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and The Washington Post.

His second book is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller SHARK VS. TRAIN (Little, Brown; 2010; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld). It has received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal and is a Junior Library Guild selection.

He will follow up these picture books with CAN I SEE YOUR I.D.? TRUE STORIES OF FALSE IDENTITIES, a young-adult collection of profiles of impostors and other masqueraders to be published by Dial Books for Young Readers in 2011.

For more information about Chris, his books, and his presentations to young readers and professional groups, visit him at http://www.chrisbarton.info.

09 Oct

Junior Library Guild would like to See Your I.D.!

Six months before its publication date, Can I See Your I.D.?, has gotten a big vote of confidence from Junior Library Guild, which as selected it as one of the books its members will receive next year. (Here’s a quick guide to how JLG works.)

That’s the week’s biggest news, but there’s been other good stuff as well:

Electronic versions of The Day-Glo Brothers are now available from Readeo and TumbleBooks as well as from Ripple Reader.

Speaking of The Day-Glo Brothers, Jill at Orange Marmalade included the book among her “list of five books about guys who wondered and discovered.”

Janelle at Brimful Curiosities has nominated Shark Vs. Train for the Cybils award for Fiction Picture Books. The nomination period closes this week — have you spoken up for your favorite books of 2010?

The book trailer for Shark Vs. Train is in the running for School Library Journal‘s first-ever Trailee Awards, and I sure would appreciate your vote. In case you haven’t seen the terrific job that Little, Brown did, here’s a look right now:

04 Oct

My essay in First Opinions, Second Reactions

The new issue of the Purdue University journal First Opinions, Second Reactions is out now, and it includes an essay by me as well as two pieces about The Day-Glo Brothers.

Here’s a taste of the essay:

One day during the revisions of my book The Day-Glo Brothers, I was reviewing a round of sketches while waiting in the dentist’s chair. The hygienist came in and asked what I was looking at. I gave her a quick spiel about how I had written but not illustrated a children’s book about Bob and Joe Switzer’s trial-and-error invention of daylight-fluorescent colors.

“They sound like nerds,” she said.

My next stop that morning was at the auto mechanic’s. When he handed me an invoice printed on what would commonly be described as neon-green paper, I pulled out the sketches and said, “I’ve written a book about the guys who invented this color.”

His reaction? “Wow!”

The story of how I turned the Switzers’ obscure, chemistry-intensive, entrepreneurial tale into an award-winning picture book has everything to do with those two reactions. It was all about my belief that, unlike the hygienist, the children I was writing for had the capacity to respond to the invention of Day-Glo with “Wow!” rather than with “They sound like nerds.”

22 Aug

Good news from Wisconsin… and New Mexico… and Maine

There’s been some great interstate news of late for both The Day-Glo Brothers and Shark Vs. Train.

Yesterday’s mail brought an envelope with a return address of “Executive Residence, State of Wisconsin.” I last visited the state for the wedding of a cousin who had both Metallica and Lou Reed played at his reception. A great time was had by all, but that was five years ago this weekend, so I was reasonably sure that the statute of limitations had expired.

Sure enough, the mail was entirely unrelated. It was a letter from First Lady of Wisconsin Jessica Doyle informing me that Shark Vs. Train has been picked as September’s featured Primary book for the Read On Wisconsin! online book club. (See this post from Rebecca Hogue Wojahn for more on this year’s selections.)

On its own, that would have been terrific enough, but it’s coupled with news that The Day-Glo Brothers is a nominee for the Land Of Enchantment Book Award (sponsored by the New Mexico Library Association and the New Mexico Council of the International Reading Association) and has also made the 2010-2011 Reading List for the Maine Student Book Award (sponsored by the Maine Library Association, the Maine Association of School Libraries, and the Maine Reading Association).

Many thanks to the folks in Wisconsin, New Mexico, and Maine for their recognition of Bob and Joe and Shark and Train!

04 Jul

My ALA wrap-up, in which I give a civil rights pioneer a piece of gum

This time (early) last Sunday morning, I was on my way to Washington, D.C., for a quick visit to the conference of the American Library Association. My time in D.C. turned out to be not quite as brief as I’d expected (more on that in a minute), but it was every bit as jam-packed and enjoyable. Here are a few of the many highlights and otherwise memorable aspects of the experience:

The First Person I Ran Into at the Convention Center
My Austin friend Liz Scanlon. If you want to be easily spotted on a crowded show floor, it helps to have great hair. Liz has great hair.

The Complete Current, Recent, Long-Ago, or We’ll-Them-Anyway Austinite Wrap-Up
I saw Liz again at the banquet where Marla Frazee picked up the Caldecott Honor for illustrating Liz’s All the World. Jacqueline Kelly was there, too, to receive her Newbery Honor for The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. In the post-banquet receiving line, I met Thom Barthelmess, president of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), which sponsors the awards — I hadn’t known that he used to be the youth services manager at the Austin Public Library. Austin librarian extraordinaire Jeanette Larson was also there, and earlier in the day, I got to meet Vicky Smith, the children’s book review editor at Kirkus, which is now owned by an Austin company. On Monday, I was delighted to see Austin authors P.J. Hoover and Jessica Lee Anderson when they dropped by while I was signing Shark Vs. Train. And it would not be a legitimate publishing event if I hadn’t gotten to see former Austin bookseller Heather Scott.

Holy Moly, I Got to Go to the Caldecott/Newbery Banquet!
Eerdmans, the publisher of one of my forthcoming books, invited me to sit at their table and, in the process, made me want to never, ever, ever not be at one of these banquets. At the Eerdmans table alone, I got to meet Melissa Sweet, who received a Caldecott Honor last year for A River of Words, and also visit briefly with and/or holler across the tablecloth at Carole Boston Weatherford and Jen Bryant. Before, during, and after the dinner, the elbow-rubbing opportunities were off the charts — old friends, editors I’d been wanting to meet, freshly behobbled and temporarily tattooed Betsy Bird, John Green (whom I quickly gushed at over Will Grayson, Will Grayson as we were commanded to take our seats), Françoise Mouly (whom I gushed at in a more leisurely fashion over her Little Lit books adored by my sons), and many more folks, including my marvelous agent, Erin Murphy.

Plus, Those Speeches!
I’ve been reading the Newbery and Caldecott acceptance speeches in The Horn Book for years now, so to hear them as they were delivered — exceptionally well, I should add — by Rebecca Stead and Jerry Pinkney — was a thrill. It was a little disconcerting, though, to find a souvenir CD containing those very speeches at my place at the table before the banquet even started. So much for being able to procrastinate on those suckers.

Breakfast #1
Don’t be surprised, if you go to a restaurant called “Teaism,” to find that they don’t serve coffee. It’s kind of a thing with them.

Breakfast #2
The main reason I was at ALA this year was to attend the ALSC breakfast where the Sibert awards (along with the Batchelder and Geisel book awards, plus the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children’s Video) were handed out. The breakfast included coffee (which had become kind of a thing with me by that time), nifty speeches (including one by Mo Willems, for his Carnegie, that really ought to receive an award of its own next year), and the opportunity to say hello again to Sibert medalist Tanya Lee Stone and honoree Brian Floca, and to introduce myself to my other fellow honoree, Phillip Hoose.

Just to My Left…
At the Sibert ceremony, I got to sit next to Claudette Colvin, the subject of Phillip’s deservingly lauded book Twice Toward Justice. During one of the speeches, I surreptitiously (I thought) snuck a package of gum from my coat pocket and began to extract a piece. That’s when I felt an elbow in my side and from the corner of my eye saw Ms. Colvin smile. I gave her a piece of gum. I figured it was the very least I could do.

Books for the Trip Home
I managed to bring home only two new books from ALA, but I sure chose well (and exclusively from Charlesbridge, the publisher of The Day-Glo Brothers): Mitali PerkinsBamboo People and Karen C. Fox and Nancy Davis’ Older Than the Stars.

About That Trip Home…
Around 4 p.m. Monday, after a late lunch with Shark Vs. Train‘s editor, Alvina Ling, I took a cab to Union Station. From there, I took Amtrak to the Baltimore airport, then a shuttle bus from the train station to the terminal. At pretty much the same moment I arrived to check in for my flight, it was canceled (for reasons presumed to be weather-related but which were never actually explained by American Airlines). So, I hopped a bus back to D.C., and took the Metro to back to the hotel I’d checked out of that morning, arriving five hours after I’d begun trying to leave town. I decided to view the whole thing as an unplanned adventure, and in fact I did get to see some mighty pretty Maryland countryside from my seat on the bus. Andrea Spooner’s profile of Jerry Pinkney in the current Horn Book really helped me keep things in perspective:

Jerry would be the first to say that he’s been blessed in many ways, but luck is not always in his favor when it comes to traveling. Every time I speak to him after a trip, there is a story of wretched flight delays or other mishaps. And yet he always relays these tales with a bemused chuckle, in the spirit of “Such is life! Why complain?”

Breakfast #3
This one wasn’t supposed to happen, and I’m not entirely convinced that it did. Surely I didn’t have my most important meal of the day at a Fuddrucker’s in the Ronald Reagan airport at 5:30 a.m. when I was supposed to be asleep in my bed back home…

One Last Reminder from ALA
Thursday afternoon, back at the office, I was starving. I had only a $5 bill, so couldn’t use the snack machine. Then I remembered the Luna bar that Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich gave me on Monday between my back-to-back book signings. It was still in my messenger bag, and it was delicious.

06 Jun

Join me (and Bob and Joe and Shark and Train) this Thursday!

I’ve cooked up a new presentation combining elements from both Shark Vs. Train and The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors.

If you want to see it, and you’re in Austin this week, you’re in luck. I’ll be debuting the Shark and Train and Bob and Joe Show this Thursday afternoon at a “Meet the Author” event put on by the Writers’ League of Texas and the Austin Public Library.

The details:

Thursday, June 10th @ 2PM
Ruiz Branch
Austin Public Library
1600 Grove Blvd., 78741
FREE and open to the public!

14 Mar

Two thoughtful takes on The Day-Glo Brothers

When I visit schools for a presentation on The Day-Glo Brothers, I wear a daylight-fluorescent green tie, just to make sure there’s visual example right up front of what the book is about. Well, imagine my surprise and delight this week at Barton Hills Elementary when the “Guest” sticker I received in the school office matched my tie exactly. (I’m glad I didn’t go with the Fire Orange tie.)

I enjoyed more of those same feelings this week when I saw two new blog posts about the book. I’m so grateful that this book resonates with folks enough for them to take the time to write about it. It truly is an honor.

From Margaret Perry at Little Lamb Books:

The Switzers created something that drastically changed the way we live all because of natural curiosity and experimentation. If that’s not a story we want to tell our children, then I don’t know what is.

And from Cybils judge J.L. Bell at Oz and Ends:

One reason I thought The Day-Glo Brothers stood out even more from other good nonfiction picture books is that it’s the first popular book on its subject. It required original research from private sources and old articles. It had to explain unfamiliar science about “daylight fluorescence.”

Thanks, Margaret and John!

07 Mar

Another star, and some fresh perspective

I was already happy to hear that Kirkus Reviews would be sticking around, thanks in large part to a fellow Austinite, but now I’m even happier: The resurrected Kirkus has given Shark Vs. Train its second starred review:

Lichtenheld’s snarling shark and grimacing train are definitely ready for a fight, and his scenarios gleefully play up the absurdity. The combatants’ expressions are priceless when they lose. A glum train in smoky dejection, or a bewildered, crestfallen shark? It’s hard to choose; both are winners.

The side of my brain that doesn’t deal in absurdity was intrigued this week by David Elzey’s post bio-diversity

Though my voice caries little weight in this world, I’d like to see a ten-year moratorium on biographies for children on any subject for whom there is already adequate coverage in print. More books like The Day Glo Brothers [thanks, David!] and Mermaid Queen, stories of people readers never heard of, and fewer books about the usual faces that populate history. Fewer “brand” names and more obscure ones. I know that children’s authors are doing what they can to bring more obscure characters to light, what I’d like to see is more of a push by publishers to get these stories out there.

— which was followed in short order by Joe D’Agnese’s account of his new picture book biography, Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci, which was 14 years in the making. That’s six years longer than it took The Day-Glo Brothers to make it out into the world, which is pretty sobering. Yet D’Agnese manages to put even his wait into perspective as he considers the personal story of one of his sources, mathematics professor Herta Taussig Freitag:

How can I complain about a book’s long genesis? Imagine leaving your home forever, and putting your career on hold for six years while you worked as a chambermaid. How many of us would have given up? Yet she clung to her passion.

21 Feb

That book, this book, and the next book

A neat piece of news about The Day-Glo Brothers came my way yesterday: Korean publisher Munhakdongne has bought translation rights. I don’t know how long it typically takes for a translated version to become available, but it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll get to have a look at it here just as soon as I get my hands on a copy.

Shark Vs. Train had some great news of its own this week, in the form of its first review — and a starred one, no less, from Publishers Weekly:

This is a genius concept … Just when readers will think the scenarios can’t get more absurd, the book moves into even funnier territory. … Lichtenheld’s watercolor cartoons have a fluidity and goofy intensity that recalls Mad magazine, while Barton gives the characters snappy dialogue throughout.

(You should know that Tom Lichtenheld supplied lots of snappy dialogue himself.)

Finally — and I do mean “finally!” — it looks like my young-adult nonfiction project with Dial has a title that will stick, after having had several that turned out not to be so sticky. Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities is scheduled to publish in spring 2011. I’ve spent the past week responding to final edits, and soon I’ll get to see sketches from illustrator Paul Hoppe.

But it’s Paul Hoppe, so really my only question is just how terrific they’re going to be…